From Sierra Leone to ASA, Sam’s Journey

For Bai Sam Kamara—born in Sierra Leone, then an immigrant in a new country, and then a college student finding his way—soccer has always been a part of his life. He arrived in Alexandria in 2013, a 12 year old in a new country where everything was different. He was thrilled to be joining his mom and siblings in the United States but quickly learned the culture was different, the language was different, school was different.

During PE classes his first semester at Hammond Middle School he made friends with a few classmates who were quickly impressed with his soccer skills and his speed. Dennis Mensah, who happened to live in the same apartment complex and had also moved to the U.S. from a different country, invited Sam out to an ASA practice at Brenman Field.

Sam remembers showing up at the practice not sure what to expect. His grandma had purchased him cleats from Ross before the session but when he arrived he realized that soccer cleats were different from the American football cleats she had bought for him. An ASA player loaned him a pair for practice, the coach assigned him to play as an outside defender during the scrimmage that day, and the rest is history! He joined the ASA team that season and quickly found community through soccer.

Sam, on the far left in his orange soccer cleats, poses at Witter with his ASA teammates!

By eighth grade Sam was a well loved and well known member of the ASA soccer family. Coach Rick  Wilcox, ASA’s goalkeeper coach at the time, helped Sam apply to attend Episcopal High School where he worked. Sam was hesitant about the boarding school experience after so recently moving to the United States but ultimately decided to attend. It was a rigorous environment with the combination of academics, school soccer, and ASA soccer. He was the only freshman on varsity that season and by his sophomore year he had been recruited to join the track team as well.

As college approached Sam looked at schools and put together his application. He wrote his college essay on the ways that soccer changed his life. He described the amazing opportunities he had access to because of soccer and the community of coaches that surrounded him. He can trace much of his Alexandria opportunities back to that day in PE class at Hammond when a friendly student invited him to an ASA practice session.

After considering which sport to play in college he ended up at a small division 1 school, Wilford College, on the track team. While he enjoyed track and continued to play soccer in his free time he ultimately decided to transfer to the University of Connecticut his sophomore year. The track coach at UConn was impressed with the track times Sam had sent him and offered him a tryout….. Unfortunately, he had aggravated an old quad injury while trying out for the club soccer team and took that as a sign to focus on school and academics.

Sam graduated last May with a Bachelor of Science in Allied Healtch Sciences and is currently working towards an accelerated Bachelor of Nursing degree. After that he plans to attend nurse practitioner school. When considering the ways in which soccer and sport continue to impact his life Sam said, “every time I have needed support or need help, I know I have a community of people a phone call away.”

Thank you for sharing your story with us Sam! Good luck at school, we can’t wait to continue following your journey and hope to see you…. Perhaps coaching soccer(?!), sometime in the future!

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