There are thousands of young American goalkeepers who dreamed of being Hope Solo when the U.S. Women’s National Team hoisted the World Cup in 2015. But very few of them have had the opportunity to begin realizing their dream and such was the case for young Long Island Rough Riders’ keeper, Stephanie Sparkowski. The Riders’ U14 net minder recently attended the first U14 national camp of the year (March 19-26th) at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California. Now that Sparkowski is back training on Long Island, she is even more motivated to share her knowledge with other Rough Riders and push to become the next great American keeper.
“It was a different experience with the training and meeting people from all over the country”, said Sparkowski of the experience. She said that Head Coach, April Kater, really fostered a sense of togetherness despite being a group of true strangers. “Everyone was at such a high level and nobody really knew each other, but within a day or two, you get really connected.”
The goalkeeper, who trains under Meghan Frey in the Long Island Rough Riders’ youth system, was one of three players from New York State to be invited to California. The training included work with two specialist goalkeeper coaches, as well as constant meetings and briefings with Coach Kater. The professional environment featured two training sessions a day, group work and a variety of daily meetings. Although super intense, the young Rough Rider was keen to discuss how the experience gave her even further motivation to get to the next step in her career.
“Getting called in for the first time was a surreal experience. When I came back, it gave me the mentality, even if I’m not at camp, to keep pushing myself and keep playing so I get called back into camp”, added the Rider keeper. She has already shared some of the mental skills acquired during her trip with her Long Island teammates. “I brought back to my team that anything is possible and keep working hard to push yourself. Don’t try to compete against anybody else; you have to be better than yourself and the way you were yesterday.”
Sparkowski can clearly walk the walk and talk the talk. With an impressive attitude at such a tender age, we can expect her to certainly make a challenge for her dreams of going further with national team, inspiring other Rough Riders around her in the process.