Few who have seen
Samantha Cooper on the soccer pitch or the hardcourt would question
her ability to excel athletically. This gifted Grade 8 student at St
Francis School has drawn attention almost from her earliest days of
competition within Sudburnia Soccer and the SYBL (Sudbury Youth
But for this
soft-spoken teen, who would describe herself as more naturally timid
by nature, the transition to elite athletics has definitely taken
some work, in more ways than one.
“In basketball, it
didn’t start out feeling natural…it took a lot of work. In soccer,
it was much more natural early on than in basketball”, Cooper
explained after a recent practice with her Jr Vees club basketball
Perhaps even more
important than the gradual development of her skill set in both
venues however came the need to alter, ever so slightly, the mental
approach she would take when she steps into competition.
“I was a little
timid when I first started in sports”, says Cooper. “Soccer is a
little easier to play timid when you’re young…basketball is harder.”
Having started in both sports at roughly the same age (four or
five), the eldest of two children in the family (younger brother
Tyler also plays “AAA” hockey) admits that enjoyment came quite
nauturally on the athletic pitch.
“When I first
started, I liked both sports a lot…and still do” admits Cooper, who
also dabbled a little in swimming and volleyball. Yet despite her
father’s keen interest in hockey (he has coached at the “AA” and
“AAA” levels for the past few years), Samantha suggests that one
just wasn’t in the cards.
“I can skate, but I
really can’t play the game”, she states with a laugh. On the other
hand, her potential in her two favourite sports was not that
difficult to spot at all. “I had a really good leg to kick far when
I was young and I was pretty fast, which helped out a lot.” That
said, Cooper has noted an increasing emphasis on physical
conditioning as she continues to work her way up the sporting food
She has been
identified on the talent identification radar screen in both sports,
having taken part in provincial level camps for both soccer and
basketball. And that process moves forward, even as we speak, with
upcoming tryouts in both.
camps are a big goal for me in both sports. If I don’t make one, I
really hope to make the other”, she states with a comforting
self-assuredness. Heading to Lockerby Composite next year, Cooper
knows the day will come when one of her two passions will likely
need to leap-frog the other on the athletic priority list.
“It used to be
really hard to say (which sport is more important) – now, I would
have to say basketball…but I’m leaning towards soccer again….maybe
both”, she summarizes with an indecisive smile.
Oh, the challenges
of being talented in more than one sport. Samantha Cooper handles it
all with a smile.