The Long Island Junior Rough Riders Academy consistently develops quality talent that goes on to play at the highest levels of soccer in the U.S. Stephanie Sparkowski is no exception to that.
The former Rough Riders net minder spent nearly seven years polishing her skills between the sticks with the blue and white. She was rewarded for her sensational goalkeeping skills with a call up to the U-14 U.S. Women’s National Team. Sparkowski was one of just two goalkeepers to participate in the team’s training camp in Sunrise, Florida. The team also participated in the U.S. Youth Soccer ODP Girls’ Thanksgiving Interregional tournament.
Although Sparkowski was excited for the opportunity to represent her country, she was equally as humble about the call up.
“The team U.S. call up means so much to me,” Sparkowski told me. “It’s amazing getting the chance to play at the highest level after all these years of hard work. It’s truly an honor to be able to represent the U.S. and wear the crest.”
Sparkowski possesses great technique and skill between the pipes. She views her height as a clear advantage when it comes to getting to the floor and diving to prevent the ball from sneaking past them. She uses her lengthy 5-foot-11 frame not only to control the box, but to diminish the area in which a player has the opportunity to place the ball.
“Of course my size is a big advantage for my position. I use my height to cover the frame of the goal quickly and cut down the angles of the shooter,” said Sparkowski. “I also use my height advantage to control my box and win balls in the air.”
Sparkowski attributes much of her progression as a player to Junior Rough Riders coach and Vice President Meghan Frey. She stated that the former professional goalkeeper was vital in not only helping her physical aspect of the game, but also the mental side of soccer and understanding how to handle tough situations.
“She was my coach ever since I started out at Rough Riders and she’s been with me ever since,” Sparkowski stated about her former trainer. “She always pushed me to be better and she taught me so many key points throughout my journey. She really helped me become the goalkeeper I am today.”
Frey echoed a similar sentiment regarding Sparkowski’s style of play, saying “Stephanie is an extremely talented player. In addition to her technical ability, her understanding of the game and instincts really set her apart. Stephanie commands the field and does a great job coming off her line, playing with her feet, and organizing the defense. Watching Stephanie develop as a player and a person for the 7 seasons she was with the Jr. Rough Riders program was truly a pleasure as a coach.”
Sparkowski will look to continue her impressive play with the U.S. National Team going forward and will look to further her development physically and mentally as a brick wall in net in the future. We wish Stephanie nothing but the best in her future endeavors as a player going forward.
– Jackson Heil, Contributing Writer