La Jolla Athlete of the Week: Tara Jessen puts heart and soul into soccer and academics

La Jolla Country Day School soccer captain Tara Jessen
“I really value putting your heart into something and letting your passion breed hard work,” says La Jolla Country Day School soccer captain Tara Jessen.
(Courtesy of Tara Jessen)

With most things, especially soccer, La Jolla Country Day School soccer captain Tara Jessen believes in giving it — whatever it is — her all.

“I really value putting your heart into something and letting your passion breed hard work,” said Tara, 17. “I tell people to try their hardest and keep trying even if something doesn’t work out. You can try again the next day and have fun with it.”

That attitude recently helped her achieve hat tricks (three goals scored) in two consecutive games.

In the first game, Tara’s three goals helped lead the Torreys to a 10-0 victory over Clairemont High School on Nov. 18. Two weeks later, on Dec. 2, all three of the Torreys’ goals were scored by Tara in a 4-3 loss to Christian High School.

“My mindset that first game was about working hard for a team that quickly became so close,” she said. “I wanted to do my best for them and for myself. When I got one, I got pumped up and I tried even harder to get another one. Scoring once makes you want to score more. But I didn’t realize [I had scored three] until afterward, because three goals is crazy for me.”

She said she never expected it to happen again — especially not in the next game. Even though the Torreys lost, she said “I was happy with how my team was playing” and that having another hat trick “made the game a lot of fun.”

Tara has been playing soccer since she was 7 and said she likes the team chemistry and camaraderie, the competitiveness and the lessons soccer teaches.

“I learn patience with myself and others through soccer,” she said. “I learn hard work and not giving up and how hard work pays off. I learn that relationships are key, and the importance of taking care of yourself and your body.”

Tara takes those lessons to the weekly soccer skills clinic she coaches for children, where she offers drills and exercises to players as young as 4.

“I get better myself because I get to analyze movements and how players play,” she said. “I see more and it helps me analyze my own team better. It also helped me get out of my shell and be less intrusive. I’m a leader on most of my teams, so this helped me be a better captain. It made me more fluid in how I help people.”

Tara’s coach, Briana Benson, said “all the captains have different personalities, [but] she’s the most grounded. She brings that cheery, smiley but more mellow approach. She’s a rock star. She’s focused and very coachable. She listens and asks questions.”

Tara brings her driven, hard-working attitude to the classroom and has a weighted 4.47 grade point average (a weighted GPA accounts for Advanced Placement classes and can go above 4.0).

“I want to go to college for biomedical engineering, which is a tough major, so I have been prepping for it and taking a lot of hard classes throughout my years,” Tara said. “I put a lot of time into my academics, just like soccer. But I’m kind to myself; I don’t stay up late if it’s not necessary. I want there to be balance, so I use soccer as an outlet, and the schoolwork is where I buckle down.”

La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at