She became the second freshman in team history to start a season opener. Her record of 100 saves in that first season alone tied her as making the fifth most saves in team history. Her performance put her in a starting position in every game since she joined the team. Meet UNLV women’s soccer goalkeeper Emberly Sevilla.
Her accomplishments on the field have earned her the respect of fans throughout Las Vegas, but most don’t know about her leadership off the field.
Sevilla has lived with Tourette Syndrome (TS) most of her life but wasn’t officially diagnosed until she was 17. The neuro-developmental disorder can lead to involuntary movements or vocal tics.
“When I was younger, I was just confused as to why I couldn’t control my body,” Sevilla says. “I was able to control a lot of things, but not being able to keep my head still and not having a reason behind it was sort of scary.”
Even with a diagnosis, the Green Valley High School graduate found trouble accessing resources for dealing with its effect on her academic and social life.
“The closest thing I had to look up to was Tim Howard,” she says, referring to the U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper, who has the syndrome, “and he doesn’t live here, so it was hard.”
The Tourette Association of America, a research and advocacy group, lacks a chapter in Nevada, making it more difficult for young people to find resources to build coping skills and support systems or get through the process of attaining classroom accommodations through an Individualized Education Plan. It also means there are fewer activities to raise overall awareness of the disorder.
These experiences drove her to take part in the association’s rising leader program. This program trains members on how to mentor other youth and raise awareness about TS within their own communities.
Sevilla plans on leveraging the platform she has as a Division 1 athlete. Her top goal now is to help other young adults with TS have an easier transition into college by providing resources for gaining the educational accommodations they need.
She’ll also work to dispel some of the negative and inaccurate portrayals she sees in media. Tourette Syndrome can be different for everyone; from frequent head movements to only having one rare full-body tic, she notes.
Sevilla’s experience in the rising leader program taught her an important lesson that can apply to everyone in life:
“Everyone is going through something and you might not be able to see it,” she says. “So the best thing to do is just be a good person to others.”
You can cheer for Emberly and the rest of the UNLV Women’s Soccer team through their fall season. Learn more about the Tourette Association of America.