Freshman BYU goalkeeper rises above dyslexia

Goalkeeper Sabrina Macias punches the ball out in a game before coming to play for BYU. Sabrina is an accomplished goalkeeper, but continually deals with dyslexia. (Trista Macias)

Sabrina Macias was in elementary school when her third-grade teacher told her, “You’ll never go far.” Sabrina said she remembers sitting down with her mother, Trista Macias, after it happened and talking about why school was so hard and what led her teacher to say what she said. They determined that if there’s a will, there’s a way. This mantra would soon catapult Sabrina into spending the rest of her life proving that teacher wrong.

The freshman goalkeeper from Littleton, Colorado, plays for the BYU women’s soccer team and has been out for the season after her third shoulder surgery. Sabrina has received various soccer awards and recognition, but what you may not know is she has dyslexia.

“I don’t let (dyslexia) define me,” Sabrina said. “Yes, I know that I struggle. But I just work hard.”

Sabrina credits much of who she is today to her mother. She has felt her mother’s powerful influence through challenges of dyslexia as well as various soccer injuries.

“I try to teach them that you can do whatever you want,” Trista said, speaking of her children. “(If) you put your whole heart into it, doors will open, I think.“

Reading, writing and math challenged Sabrina but she found solace in soccer outside of the classroom. She was the top goalkeeper recruit of 2015 coming out of high school. Sabrina won the 2010 Gothia World Youth Cup in Sweden as a 13-year-old playing with 15-year-old girls. She has also played for the U.S. Women’s National Team since age 14.

“I think Heavenly Father has blessed her with the talent that she can do on the field even though she struggles in areas, but I think to make her a balanced person,” Trista said.

Learning tools and techniques

Sabrina attended the Havern School, located in a suburb of Denver, as a sixth- and seventh-grader. The Havern School is a private school of 80 students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade that specializes in helping children with learning disabilities. Sabrina was in class sizes of about 15 students and three teachers, resulting in a 5:1 ratio of students to teachers.

Havern taught Sabrina tools and strategies to help her better comprehend what she reads, including breaking down big reading passages. When tackling a math problem, Sabrina has learned to focus better, take her time, make sure her numbers aren’t mixed up and carefully check her work.

Sabrina said she owes a lot to the two years she spent at Havern.

“They gave me not only hope to be a better student, but they gave me back my confidence,” Sabrina said. “(Going there) developed me as a person.”

Macias family members Trista, Victoria, Sabrina, Elena and Aruto supported Sabrina’s “Run to Learn” fundraiser for the Havern School (Art Jr. not pictured). Sabrina is grateful for the tools and confidence Havern gave her. (Trista Macias)

The Havern School is near and dear to Sabrina’s heart; she loves being an example for the students there. After writing a six-page research paper on equality in the classroom for those with learning disabilities, she decided to organize a fundraiser for the school in Spring 2015. Sabrina designed t-shirts that said “Run to Learn” and publicized sponsors’ logos on the back of the shirt. T-shirt sales and participant registration fees went towards the $2,000 she raised.

“I love going back (to Havern) and being like, ‘No, you can do it,’” Sabrina said. “‘Don’t let this define you.’”

Applying lessons to BYU

Sabrina graduated high school with a 3.6 GPA and continues to build on the foundation Havern gave her, applying the lessons learned there to her BYU coursework.

She knows she needs to read chapters two or three times to comprehend the content and plans time accordingly. Sabrina credits having dyslexia to helping her learn how to manage her time effectively.

Sabrina said she learns visually and likes to take notes by drawing a picture and making a web. She circles main topics and then writes connecting details on lines extending from the circle. Recording professors’ lectures enables her to focus on taking notes and listen to their words later.

She also color codes the content she reads using pink, yellow, green and blue colors, each representing something different, such as facts or things she likes.

Sabrina works with her class TAs as well as tutors in BYU’s Student Athlete Academic Center. 

Trevor Wilson, director of the Student Athlete Academic Center, said the center works closely with the University Accessibility Center to help meet the needs of student athletes. He said their mission statement is to provide supplemental resources to the university’s students and lead them to graduation. 

“Our focus isn’t on winning or losing games; it’s on getting them to graduation and to use those resources that are available,” Wilson said. “It’s not about playing time.”

Injured freshman BYU goalkeeper Sabrina Macias is grateful for the friendship and support of junior Michele Murphy Vasconelos as Macias recovers from multiple shoulder surgeries. (Sabrina Macias)

Future aspirations

Sabrina loves to make goals and has big plans for the future. One option is to earn a degree in communications and then return to the Havern School to do their marketing. Another goal of hers is to study sports medicine and one day take over a friend’s physical therapy business. 

As for her soccer goals, Sabrina has two dreams. She wants to play professional soccer in Sweden where she won the World Youth Cup five years ago. Additionally, she dreams of playing in the World Cup or Olympics some day. Sabrina is Hispanic and said she could work on getting dual-citizenship, which would allow her to play for either the Mexico or U.S. national teams.

Two years ago, Sabrina ran into that third-grade elementary school teacher. When Sabrina said she was playing Division I soccer at BYU, her former teacher was shocked.

That teacher’s reaction has been a source of satisfaction ever since.

“I always tell people, ‘Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t,’” Sabrina said. “’Look where I am. It takes hard work, but it’ll pay off in the end.’”

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