At 8 a.m. Monday morning at Indian Creek’s Upper School, Sarah Sample will shout out a series of instructions. She will be prepared and organized and focused on providing the best experience she can.
All of this is for a group of young girls and women trying to take the next step in their soccer development. That could be moving up on a travel team or competing for a spot on a high school team. And, for someone just starting out, it could mean simply learning to love the game and play it the right way.
“I love the sport and I love coaching and I love being able to work with players of all abilities,” said Sample, who was a key member of IAAM A Conference title teams at St. Mary’s and a Class 4A state championship club at Severna Park. She went on to earn All-Rookie and All-Atlantic 10 Conference recognition at George Washington University.
Sample played alongside Megan Rapinoe as part of the United States National Team Under-19 pool and finished her college career as a two-year starter appearing in every match for the University of Maryland women’s soccer squad.
Sample played eight years and coached 13 with the Bethesda Soccer Club, and previously played for the Ottawa Fury FC and D.C. United women as well as the Washington Spirit and Washington Freedom reserves. She created her soccer camp, known as seleção futebol: for Girls, by Women, over several years while working countless jobs both in and out of sports.
“This was a journey for me. I did not see the need for it early on in my 20s, but when I did work with girls, I kept hearing from parents that they were so excited that their daughter was excited to have a female coach,” Sample said. “Even male coaches would come to me and talk about how hard it could be to get through at times.
“I researched this thoroughly and saw the drop-out rates for girls in sports, around the ages of 11, 12 and 13, are much higher compared to boys − basically two-to-one," Sample added. "Some of the consistent reasons I read as factors for this included a lack of role models/representation and that they did not see a future for themselves. I know how valuable sports are in developing and preparing you for a future off the field, and I wanted to impact that in some positive way.”
Seleção is Portuguese for selection, and is also the nickname for the Brazilian national team. It’s a reference to the impeccable ball control of Brazilian players. The more control each player has, the greater their vision and overall game IQ.
“This enables us to teach them how to assess options and make decisions effectively rather than producing robots,” Sample said. “We want to develop players who can think critically and use those tools beyond their time with us.”
Sample’s first camp took place in August 2018, and while the turnout was not impressive, the results were. Only three girls signed up for the initial week-long session of the camp that Sample runs with her sister Kerie and wife − Key School girls soccer coach Vicky Brunt. Sarah Sample was initially skeptical of the impact this veteran and talented soccer triumvirate could have on such a small audience.
“It was not what I thought it was going to be,” she said. “I thought, ‘We have these great resumes and a great curriculum, how are we not reaching people?’ Vicky did not care. She told me that what I had produced was so good and we already had these three girls. Once we started working with them, they totally got what we were trying to do. At the end of the first day, I was so thankful for being told to get over myself. This is so valuable and so important.”
All three girls are returning for this year’s second camp. As are many more. At last count, 30 girls were signed up − a 900 percent increase.
“Last year, we got in late and, although we did a decent amount of marketing, the learning curve was interesting,” Sarah Sample said. “The success we are having this year is coming from grassroots, word-of-mouth stuff, and we have reached out to so many coaches. We know the content and the experience was important for these girls. And the proof is that all three of them are coming back this year.”
Having Brunt, who provides immediate and constant encouragement, helps. She is going into her fourth year at Key and Sarah is joining her this fall as coach of the middle school girls team.
Brunt was accomplished on the field – an All-Metro pick while at Centennial in 1992 after totaling 16 goals and 11 assists for Class 4A-3A state champions – and now also on the sideline. She was named the Washington Post’s 2013 Spring All-Met Girls Soccer Coach of the Year after leading Yorktown High in Arlington, Virginia to a district title and state championship appearance.
“When Sarah and I discussed it, we talked about what the camp should and shouldn’t be about,” said Brunt, who has instructed at numerous soccer camps and clinics over the years. “We asked relevant questions like, ‘How much is too much? How do we split them up based on the different skill levels? Where are they psychologically and mentally as it relates to soccer?’ That is a good challenge for us.”
Having Kerie Sample on staff is an integral component of the camp’s success as well. The older sister by a year, Kerie is the attacking specialist. She carved out a successful offensive career in high school and was a regular U.S. National Pool selection as well.
“She was so good and it came so easily for her; it drove me crazy when I was younger,” Sarah Sample said. “Her style blends perfectly with mine as I know I can be intense.”
“I played soccer, I was very good at it and I went far with it. And I have a lot to share with it, but I have a lighter approach,” Kerie Sample said. “Sarah is very excited and passionate about bringing a high-level camp to the area for girls and, yes, she is intense about it.”
Sarah Sample feels fortunate to have these two on her staff. With the larger group of girls this summer combined with her desire to keep the ratio at 4-to-6 players per instructor, she has brought on more help: Archbishop Spalding girls soccer coach and long-time teammate Ashly Kennedy along with Michelle Rodriguez-Smith, a college scout with U.S. Soccer as well.
“Vicky is like Yoda out there. She makes everything so fun for the girls while instilling in them everything they need to know,” Sarah Sample said. “She is so passionate and so fun loving and is always joking around. And Kerie is great around the girls because she is so good and she has a completely different approach. There is a lot of collaboration between us, and having those extra eyes and the trust between each other is critical.”
The camp’s stated focus is on execution and decision making. Sarah Sample noted that a single player in a game has the ball for about one minute, less than one-tenth of a percent of the time.
At seleção futebol, the instructors will demonstrate what to do with those seconds. The curriculum drills down to the mechanics of ankle strength, flexibility and mobility so that players are empowered to look up and read the game. That covers everything from close control to striking and all the isolated tactics within those moments.
“I can see the game and where you might be lacking experience-wise,” Kerie Sample said. “As coaches, they are much better at breaking everything down. I am good with the execution. As someone up top, I can, for example, come right out and show the girls how to take the ball and open yourself up to the rest of the field.”
It all comes back to making a positive impact and giving girls a positive representation to aspire to.
“The reason why girls are dropping out can be partially solved by seeing more women at the top,” Sarah Sample said. “I always knew I wanted to do a camp in my hometown. I wanted to give back to Anne Arundel County. Now is the time for us to put our brand and philosophy out there and see what happens.”
As the camp grows, Sarah Sample sees opportunities for more weeks, at more locations, and even incorporating boys into the mix. She already assists Christos FC with Arden’s youth program for boys and girls. For now, Kerie sees this as a tremendous opportunity to have a positive influence on young girls.