RIDGEFIELD — Natalie Brassinga’s life resembles a tool for one of her favorite activities: an empty sketchbook with no boundaries and unlimited possibilities.
To the sports world, Brassinga is the starting center midfielder for the Ridgefield High School girls soccer team, which is coming off an FCIAC championship season and memorable trip to the Class LL title game. Brassinga’s performance was more noteworthy because she is not a 24/7 player — she is not going to play travel ball this offseason because, as we shall see, there are too many interests for confinement.
To her teachers, Brassinga is the student with the 3.8 grade point average, a high achiever because of both natural intelligence and curiosity.
And on Saturday, many of Brassinga’s friends and teammates will discover another talent: she was an accepted artist chosen to have her work displayed at the 5th Annual Ridgefield High School Exhibition at the Ridgefield Guild of Artists. Brassinga’s exhibit is a piece of fumage, where impressions are made by the smoke of a candle or kerosene lamp on a piece of paper or canvas. She said she started experimenting with it last summer.
“I’ve been interested in art since I was little, but mainly in high school,” Brassinga said. “Freshman year I took ceramics and photography and that’s when I really realized that I wanted to get into it. The teachers were so helpful and passionate about it and encouraged students to do better. I’ve always had that eye for design. I always rearranged my room when I was little. I still do.”
Brassinga’s outlook is a refreshing throwback to simpler days, a way of thinking that has been diminished in an era of short attention spans and instant gratification. Her favorite activity is always the one she happens to be engaged in at the time.
Some coaches would be upset with a player who spends more hours in the offseason with a paintbrush or in front of a computer experimenting with graphics than a ball at her feet. But Ridgefield coach Alex Harrison said he appreciates Brassinga’s personality. She is the third-oldest of four sisters; one, Maggie, played for Harrison.
“It’s a big wonderful family with kids having different interests,” Harrison said. “Natalie definitely has a wide variety of things she’s into. She has gone and played some spring ball but not full-time. She’s been juggling a lot of different things throughout the whole year. Having a successful life is not just focusing on soccer year-round. She has her head screwed on academically and she has a path laid out for her which will be just as big in her adult life. She has a very good balance and having that balance is a good thing for kids at this age.”
Harrison might feel differently if Brassinga, who was a part-time starter as a sophomore, didn’t have a breakout season for the Tigers. An attacking midfielder, she set up Katie Jasminski for the first goal in a 2-0 win over top-seeded St. Joseph in the FCIAC championship game. In the state final, after Ridgefield quickly fell behind unbeaten Glastonbury, 2-0, Brassinga answered with a goal in what would become a hard-fought 5-3 loss.
“It was a really fun season,” Brassinga said. “We were all kind of iffy at the beginning, we lost some good players, but the outcome was amazing. That FCIAC championship game was insane. It was one of our best games. We just all really clicked. Everyone played their part. It was perfect. We were all so mentally prepared for it. It was really intense.”
Harrison admitted he had high hopes for Brassinga but was not completely certain how they would translate onto the field.
“This year was when she really had a huge impact for us,” Harrison said. “We didn’t know what to expect other than we were going to give her some time like the year before and see what she does with it. After a handful of games she was starting at center midfield right behind Jasminski. She played a pivotal role in the season.”
Brassinga said she loves the sport and spends considerable time in the winter training indoors with her father, a former player and coach in town. She has also decided she is going to run track this spring for the first time.
But Brassinga also knows her future will be in the arts. She currently would like to do graphic design for an ad agency, but dabbles in a number of areas, including some modeling for one of her friends’ class projects.
“It’s my way of expressing my worldview, how I see things,” Brassinga said. “I want people to understand my view on things. Also in my free time I love to do it. It is something if I am ever bored I will go to my sketchbook and jot down something.”
Just like with the goals she scores, Brassinga said she was equally excited when her work was chosen for the art exhibit, which starts Saturday and will run for three weeks.
“I’m going to it so I will see all the other artwork that was chosen,” she said. “It will be interesting. I’m really happy.”
Brassinga said she hopes to take art classes this summer and continue her college search. Not surprisingly, she is staying true to her life philosophy.
“From here I am hoping to go into a really good art program for college but I don’t want to go just to an art school,” Brassinga said. “I was thinking in New York, but that was a few years ago and I don’t want to anymore. It’s too limited and it’s very competitive there. I don’t want to just focus on that. I want the full college experience. I also want to do something I’m very passionate about. Graphic design is something I’d really enjoy doing. I want to love my job.”
Brassinga said she is already looking forward to her final competitive season of soccer and helping the Tigers defend one title and hopefully add another.
“It’s going to be a big year,” she said. “I think there is going to be a lot more pressure than there was this year. I’m always excited to play during the season. It is my favorite time.”