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Q&A: UNC women's soccer assistant coach Alex Kimball discusses Peruvian heritage

wo soccer championship
UNC midfielder Alex Kimball (47) dribbles the ball past FSU defender Natalia Kuikka (14) and gets ready to pass it down the field. Kimball scored a goal against FSU during the ACC Women's Soccer Championship at WakeMed in Cary Nov. 4, 2018. UNC Lost 2-3 against FSU.

Alexandra Kimball, an assistant coach for UNC women’s soccer and a former four-year letterman for head coach Anson Dorrance, helped the Tar Heels to two College Cups in 2016 and 2018. Kimball, who is half-Peruvian, represented Peru in the Copa America tournament in Cali, Colombia in 2022. 

The Daily Tar Heel Sports Editor Shelby Swanson called Kimball on Wednesday morning to discuss what Hispanic Heritage Month means to her. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily Tar Heel: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

Alex Kimball: “I think it’s evolved because, growing up, I don’t remember this being a thing. I don’t remember Latin people being celebrated in any way, shape or form. So the fact that that’s evolved within itself … to be an event where people with our cultural background are recognized and appreciated says a lot about the growth of society.”

DTH: You represented Peru in the 2022 Copa America tournament; tell me about that and what that experience meant to you.

Kimball: Growing up, my number one coach was my grandfather — my mom’s dad. And if there’s two things he loves in life, it’s soccer and his country [Peru]. My grandpa, around Thanksgiving of 2021, got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his liver and colon. I was coming off of an ACL reconstruction and I wasn’t sure if was going to be healthy in time to try to make this run to make the team for that event … Doctors put him on a timeline, so that’s really what drove me through the entire process, was just the thought of him being able to see me in a Peruvian jersey and representing Peru.

Being raised in here in the States, there was a lot I had to learn about what it meant to be Peruvian and what it looks like and how patriotic our supporters are. It was a very cool experience to interact with other Latinx female footballers. It was a very, very cool process and I think circles back to the fact that the women’s game is growing and it’s better. I’m excited about where soccer in women’s culture is headed. 

I got to see the game in different perspectives and different aspects. Overall, it was an awesome thing. The feeling I got being able to give my grandpa a hug after matches was, probably, top 5.

DTH: Do you find that you are able to relate to some of your players more because of [your shared Latino heritage]?

Kimball: One thousand percent … The really cool thing about sharing heritage with someone is, there’s the umbrella of the Latinx community and then you get into the niches of each branch off — there’s Peruvian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan — there’s a whole bunch of little branches you can break off into. I want to say that within the Latinx heritage, the foundation and principles of how we think, how we act and how we treat each other, the basic principles pretty much stay the same. So when you have someone who comes from something so similar of how you were raised or what you went through, there’s an unsaid understanding between you and that individual because you know the things they had to endure, you know the challenges. You know the good and the bad.

There’s just something different about what we [Latinx women] have had to endure throughout our upbringing that brings us closer together. Me and [Sam Meza], I call her a sister from another mister. We were friends prior to my joining staff, and now that I’m on staff I give her a correction on the field and she’s ready to rip my head off. But that just goes to show how bonded we are and how much my feedback impacts her, good or bad, given the day. We’re very bonded. I have [Melina Rebimbas], she’s Portuguese and Puerto Rican, and I understand the pressures she’s undergoing. Same thing with [Makenna Dominguez], she’s Asian American as well as Hispanic. I can really relate with my players because I understand the stressors and the pressures they’re going through.

The Latin family is very tight. We’re very close … We’re probably as hard-working as they come. That’s ingrained in who you are and what you do. You never give up. You never take no for an answer. What’s really cool within the Latin culture is there’s typically a very strong matriarch … When we say jump, people jump. All my girls come from a very strong lineage of women that has helped them in areas of competition, and I love that. I love that we’re getting more and more girls in our squad that represent the Latinx heritage.

@shelbymswanson

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.