From surfing to advocating for justice, Maggie Lena does it all

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Senior forward Maggie Lena ready for camp at Surf Academy. (Photo courtesy from Maggie Lena.)

While everybody was locked up in their houses during quarantine, some may have dreamt of going to the beach. For California natives like senior midfielder/forward Maggie Lena, that dream was a reality.

“So at the beginning of quarantine, the beaches were closed. But when the beaches opened up, it was a great time for me to have a job (surf camp counselor) that was outdoors, doing what I love and just getting out of the house in general,” Lena said.

Lena specifically loves surfing, something that she has been doing since she was a little girl. Being from Santa Monica, California, Lena always had the ability to go to the beach, and that is where her love for surfing began.

“When I was younger, I went to a surf camp called Surf Academy, and I went there all throughout middle school,” Lena said.

After all those summers spent in the water, Lena developed a love for the sport, but never had the aspirations to go pro. For her, it was more of a fun activity to get away from the world and be one with the water.

“For me, just being in the ocean and being in that safe place and having that individualistic aspect of surfing was amazing,” Lena said. “I took that time to think and reflect, but also to have a good time in the water.”

Although she loved her time in the water, soccer was still a big part of her life. Balancing both sports was something Lena had to adapt to, but she would always find time to go surfing, even if it was right before she went on the road for tournaments.

“For me, soccer was always my priority, and surfing was more of a way that I got to experience the ocean, and being with friends and family and just being at the beach in general,” Lena said. “But there were definitely times that it would be a Saturday game and I would get up early and go surfing in the morning, and then get on the road and go straight to the game.”

Being far from home can be tough, but for Lena it is a way to bond with her teammates who also live on the West Coast. Redshirt first-year Katie Smith is from Phoenix, Arizona and the two have built a close relationship. 

“We like to joke about it all the time,” Lena said. “I think it’s something to break tensions, especially if you just met the person. Sometimes we’re on the same flight back home, so that’s always nice.”

For Smith, having someone who knows how to adjust to being far away from home was very helpful coming into Marquette, but Lena’s compassion off the field was also huge for a young player like herself. 

“Maggie is someone who genuinely cares about other people’s well-being,” Smith said. “She just cares on a deeper level than most people and is a really good resource to have in general, because you always knew if you were having a rough day, you could always go to her and she would tell you a joke or pick you up.”

Sophomore defender Addie Shock loves being around Lena as well.

“She’s super compassionate, super happy and super live,” Shock said. “You can always count on her to just make you smile.” 

Not only is she a super compassionate teammate, but off the field she strives to serve the community. 

Lena has been a part of the Student Athletes Advocating for Change program at Marquette for two years. Serving as the vice president of the program, she has been able to coordinate many events and workshops, including one on allyship in August. 

Lena mentioned that her love for surfing has helped her use her voice and platform to raise awareness for diversity and inclusion. She is a camp counselor at the surfing camp she went to as a kid and she has been able to use that opportunity to bring all types of people together. 

“Working at the surf camp, I was helping kids throughout L.A.,” Lena said. “So for me, that was also a contribution of giving that person a little taste of the ocean, and surfing. And surfing brings all types of people together.”

Although she was not able to attend protests and marches due to COVID-19, that did not keep Lena from using her platform to stand up against the issues in the United States today. 

“I was trying to do things outside … posting on social media,” Lena said.I was trying to prepare for school and started planning events and making sure my subcommittee through SAAC was organized.”

With over 1,400 followers on Instagram, Lena has a platform that other people might not have. She has made sure that this platform is used for change. 

“Being able to educate others on how they can just be better members of the community and how they can support and respect and learn more about their peers, and people in general, is really big,” Lena said. “I’m really grateful that I got to fill this position and set the precedent for Marquette moving forward.” 

Lena said she owes the platform she has to her soccer career because without it, her voice might not be as big. 

“I wouldn’t have this platform if I wasn’t playing soccer and I wouldn’t have the same relationships and knowledge of the things I have now,” Lena said. “We have the eyes and the platform to be able to get out our voice, but also amplify other voices and to make sure that all student athletes feel supported and respected by both their peers and staff.

Lena was the Baird Blue & Gold Student Athlete of the Month in August. The award is given to a student-athlete that has been selected by Marquette Athletics’ Academics and Student Programs staff. Lena said that getting the award meant everything to her and that this is only the beginning of her journey. 

“For me, it was like a big high-five, you know?” Lena said. “I keep up the good work knowing that I’m not finished and I have this whole year, and then hopefully after I graduate, continuing this fight for justice.”

Although the season is set to start in the spring, Lena said she will not let herself get distracted by soccer and will use the sport to help continue the fight against racial injustice in the United States. 

This story was written by Kristin Parisi. She can be reached at kristin.parisi@marquette.edu or on Twitter @kristinparisimu.