Natalya Kolin spent the last year of her life in hyperdrive.
“It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” she said before adding, “It was a dream come true.”
A year ago, Colleen was a sophomore at Streamwood and became one of the best high school soccer players in Illinois.
She scored 25 goals and added 10 assists in a shortened season.
Colin is now a forward playing for Deportivo Toluca FC Femenil in the Liga MX Femenil, the highest level women’s professional league in Mexico.
“Ever since I left Streamwood, it’s been a tough process,” she said. “There are many obstacles to go through, especially when traveling.
“It’s been amazing so far.”
Just as importantly, Colin is a member of the Mexico Under-17 team that has qualified for the World Cup, which opens in October in India. She is leaving next week for a 10 day tournament in Italy.
Colin’s father, Luis, was born in Mexico City. Her mother, Norma, was born in Chicago but has family roots in Michoacán.
Natalia is one of several Mexico Under 17 players of American origin.
The middle of three daughters, she lived in Mexico for a year as a child. This marked the beginning of her football career.
“She did ballet, dance,” Norma said of her daughter. “She has always been involved in different sports.
“She was only 3 years old and I enrolled her in a beginner class during the year we lived in Mexico. It was a program for 5 year old boys.”
Norma remembers how Natalia posed with her first soccer ball at the age of 3.
“I talked to the coach,” Norma said. “He said that he saw in Natalia something that he did not see in 5-year-old boys. She played her first game at the age of 4. Since then, she has not stopped playing.
After her first season at Streamwood was canceled due to the pandemic, Natalya scored nine goals in her first eight games for the Sabres.
Streamwood coach Matt Polovin was immediately impressed with her presence, vision and playing talent.
Half coaches programs for boys and girls at Streamwood. Natalia was already on another level.
“Sometimes I felt like I was watching Magic Johnson,” Polovin said. “She did these passes without looking, which were just amazing. She did things that I didn’t see a lot of guys do.
“She was so comfortable with the ball. She beat people with ease.”
Polovin immediately realized that Natalya is a special talent that is simply too good for the school level. She needed more outlet for her abilities.
Natalia also had big ambitions for the next phase of her career.
“My daughter has always been so grown up,” Norma said. “She knows what she wants. She knows where she’s going. She is very passionate and works hard for it. She’s different.”
Natalia lives in a special hostel in the stadium complex in Toluca. As the second youngest player on the team, she remains under adult supervision.
Natalia, who completes school requirements online, reflects on the profound changes in her life over the past 13 months.
“My game has changed since I left Streamwood,” she said. “I have grown physically and mentally.
“Learning from the locals, having professional coaches and watching the men’s and women’s national teams was really rewarding.”
Natalia’s success only gave her courage, justifying the decision to make a professional leap.
“It’s hard to be here alone,” she said. “I miss my family and my dogs. Birthdays and holidays are hard, but I’ve learned to live with it.
“I call my parents and sisters every day and it helped me learn how to deal with problems.”
So far, Natalia has scored two goals in her professional career.
“The maturity of my game is just different,” she said. “I see the game in a completely different way. Being here, traveling, acting on TV and living your dream is amazing.”
Natalya said that with changes in compensation rights and deal approval, college remains a top priority after her participation in the World Cup.
“I’m working on getting to a higher level,” she said. “I want to become an even better player, the kind of player that other girls look up to.”
Patrick Z. McGavin is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.