Tanner Popella Balances Life with Athletics, Academics, and Work

Wake up. Go to school. Go to soccer practice or football practice, sometimes both. Throw in a few games during the week too. Repeat that for an entire fall sports season (August to November). In the winter, it’s time for the diving season. Meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays and practice on most other days of the week. On top of that, Tanner works at Texas Roadhouse three nights a week. That’s been Tanner Popella’s senior year so far.

“It’s my senior year, so I wanted to try new things,” Tanner stated. “I just really like to stay active and always be doing something.”

Tanner started playing football for the first time his senior year purely for fun. The team had no other kickers and because of his life-long soccer career, he knows how to kick a ball. He used his experience as a six-year soccer player to help him adapt to kicking a football. “The football team didn’t have a kicker, and I had kicked for fun for three months before, so I thought I’d give it a try. I ended up really enjoying it,” Tanner said.

Not afraid to take risks, Tanner accepted the challenge of playing two sports at once, balancing both simultaneously in time, skills, and teamwork. 

Western PA Sports

On some days, he would practice for both sports on the same day by going to special teams kicking drills for football and then moving to the soccer field to work on his goalie skills. Other times, he’d have games days back-to-back while always dedicating preparation and practice to multiple games per week. 

During the fall sports season, he felt much accomplishment. Popella went 27/31 on extra points during the football season and had four shutouts for the soccer team.  Tanner lettered as the starting kicker for the football team and goalie for the soccer team.

Western PA Sports

Popella never allowed sports to get in the way of his schoolwork. He hardly missed school or any of his assignments and attacked it with the same enthusiasm and time management as he did soccer and football. “I use my free set last period to get done any homework I have,” Popella said. “Normally, I try to get everything done in class so I can focus on my other activities outside of school.”

In the winter, Tanner didn’t choose to rest and recover. He stayed committed to a heavy workload. Tanner picked up diving last year as another way to stay active with a different sport. “I decided to dive last year to experiment with something new. It was difficult at first, but I’m starting to get into the groove now,” Popella noted. 

Western PA Sports

As a member of the swimming and diving team, he has two meets per week and has practices before and after school on most other days. He. placed top three in boy’s diving in every one of Latrobe’s meets, with all but four being first-place finishes. On January 28, 2022, Tanner placed third in the county diving championships. Since then, he has qualified for the WPIAL diving championships on February 26.

Adding to his busy schedule, Tanner still maintains his commitment to Texas Roadhouse as a dishwasher, where his brother Jake works as well. As a dishwasher at a busy restaurant, there can be nights of constant scrubbing and cleaning. 

Tanner’s willingness to try something new and work at it has paid off. Taking on multiple activities has not affected Tanner’s ability to find success. 

As for the rest of senior year, Tanner hasn’t decided if he will try new sports for the spring season, but he will keep working at Texas Roadhouse. After high school, he wants to pursue a sports management degree and play soccer. Currently, he is in talks with Seton Hill University and Penn State-Fayette to further his goalie skills for their programs. 

As a three-sport student-athlete, Tanner has learned how to be organized and take ownership of work, which will help him succeed at Greater Latrobe, college, and beyond.