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 Basketball League).
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 team.
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 chain.
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.
�The provincial 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.
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