Samantha Kerr signed a professional soccer contract four years after she first touched a ball. Not by choice; by default.
Growing up, as far as Sam was concerned, she was an Aussie rules football player. Her dad played professionally, her brothers and cousins latched onto the sport, and Sam followed suit. She joined the local boys team. But at age 12, the boys grew stronger, and a league rule mandated that Sam join the girl’s team.
Sam’s a competitor, and even though she loved the sport, she knew playing with the girls was a drastic drop in athletic ability. She didn’t want to sacrifice competing with the boys, so she elected to switch to the sport that most closely resembled Aussie rules football: soccer.
At first, Sam played goalkeeper so she could use her hands. She hated it, so she tried a field position. She disliked that too.For nearly two years, Sam struggled to enjoy soccer. But with time, formed new friendships and started to dominate on the field and. She discovered there was more opportunity for women in soccer and gained a greater appreciation for the game.
Just 3 years after picking up the sport, Sam debuted in her first professional match with her hometown team, Perth Glory. One year later, she was called-up to the Australian National team. At 16, Sam appeared in her first major tournament, the Asian Cup. Her team won, and then she went on to play in a World Cup.
Sam’s lightening fast transition to the top, left her with little time to understand the enormity of what it means to represent her country and compete at the highest level.
But then injuries, a torn ACL, followed by a 9 month foot injury, changed Sam’s perspective entirely.
At her lowest, Sam was ready to hang up her cleats. Friends and family slowly pulled Sam out of her slump, and Sam realized that she wouldn’t be the same without soccer.
Sam recovered in time for the 2016 Olympic. Since then, her appreciation for the game is at an all time high. And you can tell. With Sam, what you see is what you get. Self-proclaimed “a little bit crazy and a little bit weird,” Sam has deep Facetime conversations with her dog, she freaks out on flight take-offs, and has heavy Bieber Fever. Sam’s fearlessness to be herself, is evident in her dangerous forays at goal and backflip goal celebrations.
Sam’a a competitor. She’s weird. A little bit crazy. She may not be an Aussie Rules football player, but she is one of the most dominate strikers in the world.
Sam is an Arrow Liver.
Name: Samantha (Sam) Kerr
Hometown: Perth, Australia
Occupation: professional soccer player
Years at profession: 15 years, 6 professionally
You made the national team at age 16, just four years after starting playing soccer…were you just naturally very athletic?
I come form a big sporting family. I was playing sports since I can remember. Always playing with the boys and never with the girls. I played with my brothers and cousins so I had to be a little bit stronger and faster than a normal girl would be, otherwise they would smash me.
How many brothers do you have?
I have two brothers, but I have a massive family. My mom is 1 of 10 and my dad is 1 of 8, so I have cousins galore. My dad and my brother both played professional Aussie Rules.
Did your family know anything bout soccer before you joined?
They still don’t know anything about soccer. The other day, there was an article that said “Sam Kerr played the number 9.” My mom called and said “but you’re number 20…” I said “ya don’t worry about that.” They watch, but they don’t understand it. My dad knows you need to kick the ball in goal, but he could not tell you what offsides is. They are really supportive though. My dad probably wishes I could play AFL (Australian Football League), but being a girl it’s pretty hard. They encourage me to do what I want to do.
What did it feel like being on the national team at such young age?
I was very lucky, I went from playing on a club team to the national team. Then that next year I I went to the Asian Cup. And it was the only time Australia has ever won. I also went to the Euro Cup. But at that time I was only 17, I was so young. I was feeling cool and just kind of going with it.
When did you realize how special it was?
After the World Cup, I had my ACL injury and that’s when I started realizing what I was doing. That if I couldn’t play soccer, I’d be a completely different person.
So it wasn’t until 2 years later, even after playing in my first world cup, that I started setting goals and wanting to be the best I could be.
What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?
This morning I was really angry about last nights game. We lost. I am really bad at letting games go. I was frustrated because it didn’t go our way. I cursed, I don’t know what at. I was just like “ughhh…” and didn’t stop.
What is your morning routine?
I like to sleep in. That’s one of my favorite things to do, not that I do it much. I usually wake up and have just one piece of Vegemite toast, like a typical Aussie. And then maybe a shake. Then on the way to training I grab a coffee. Coffee is a MUST for me. Then that’s it. I’m pretty simple. The only other thing I do if I’m training is I tape my foot. I can’t really do any exercise without taping it.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
My favorite one is really simple; “don’t be bitter, be better.” I try to live by that, because theres a lot of things that happen not only in football, but in life that you can be bitter about, but the only way to get past it is to be better. I’m someone who holds myself to very high standards, so if I’m getting caught up on little things that don’t matter, then I find myself not playing well and being unhappy in general. So don’t be bitter, be better.
Just like you did this morning, right?
Yep haha still angry.
Who is your definition of successful?
I’m not really someone who has role models, but I look at my Naan and she came from India, moved her whole family over to Australia and started a whole new life. Now every single one of them is married, has kids, and has a good life. I look at her and am like “wow, what a lady.” She is successful because she is a good person.
Your family is Indian?
My dad was born in India. My mom was born in Australia.
Did that that influence your outlook on life or how you were raised?
My dad didn’t come from a privileged family so he’s always taught me to be grateful for everything in life.
Do you like Australia or the U.S better?
As in countries, of course Australia. The U.S comes close, but homes is home for me.
Do you surf?
No. Perth is infested with great white sharks. We have the most deadliest coastline in the world after South Africa.
Do you have any other fears?
I am terrified of flying. It’s weird because I fly all of the time. I also read articles and watch all the videos about planes falling down. I find it really interesting, but I hate flying.
It’s mostly the take off when I’m a mess. The turbulence is fine. People laugh at me, but, I literally feel like I feel every single bump, it’s the most scariest thing ever.
And I am a little bit scared of the dark.
Why do you do what you do?
I love competing. I love trying to be the best at what I’m doing. Most people say I’m a bit of jerk when I lose and I’m obnoxious when I win. But I just love winning. I also love football because it’s allowed me to travel around the world and meet people. I have so many good friends through football.
How are you different than the average?
Off the field, I think I’m a little bit weird in that I just am weird. I like different things. I am very happy with who I am. Some people find that weird because I don’t care what other people think. I just do whatever I’m feeling or say whatever I’m thinking. So, I’m a little bit crazier but I like it that way. It’s entertaining.
On the field, I kind of do the same thing. I do what I see. Maybe I’m drawn out of position, but I just play how I am feeling. I think it shows in my game. You can really tell when I am having a bad day. It’s so evident in my body language. What you see its what you get. When I am thinking of other things or just woke up not feeling the best…like last weekend, in our game, I woke up under the weather. Every step felt like I had a creature on my back. I scored, but other than that, I had a terrible day.
How do you spend your free time?
Finding good coffee shops. One of my favorite things to do is get brunch with friends and chat about anything and everything. When I am at home, I’m always at the beach with my dog.
You love your dog a lot ya?
Yes. I love her. I had one previously to her. She died of kidney failure at 3 years old. It was the most heartbreaking thing ever. Billie is the complete opposite, but I love her just as much. I’m a little bit obsessed with my dog, I talk to her, I Facetime her all the time. I just saw a study that shows dogs actually understand what you are saying. Even if you say to the dog “you are bad dog” in a good voice, the dog wasn’t fooled. They know what you are saying. I tell Billie I love her all the time.
What has been your biggest setback?
I have had a lot of injuries, but my foot recently. I was 8 months out from my knee operation, I was fit and everything was going right. I was three games into a new season and 8 months out of the Olympics game and I snapped my foot. I literally couldn’t walk for 3 months. I was walking on the side of my foot. It wasn’t just soccer it was affecting, it was my whole life.
It was hard physically, but mentally I wasn’t prepared for it at all. I was a mess for 3 to 4 months.
It was really difficult. I was angry and in a really bad place with football. A month before the Olympics, I was like I can’t do this anymore. I can’t come home from training every day and feel like this.
Did you think about quitting?
Ya. For awhile, I thought my foot was never getting better. I had one day it felt good, then the next day I couldn’t walk. I had multiple conversation with people about quitting. It wasn’t what I wanted anymore. It was causing me to be more sad than happy, and I don’t do it for money, obviously. So I was getting my foot right to not play soccer, because I didn’t want to go through this again.
How did you put yourself in the right mindset to be able to overcome it?
The way my foot responded to training, if it felt good after, it would give me a little confidence. But it was mostly from people being so supportive. People could see I was in this slump. My mom, friends, national team… I had people calling me 3 times a day. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. It was too much for me at that point, but then things started turning around. It was literally other people slowly pulling me out of that space. It took ages for them to get through to me. But people were so supportive of me giving up that it was kind of like reverse psychology. I didn’t want to disappoint them. They were so okay with me quitting I was like “no I can’t be done like that….
So now you are back and motivated to keep playing?
Ya my foot feels great now, I’m loving it again, and I think that shows in the way I’m playing lately. I’m playing with a smile on my face. I’m loving what I do and am happy I stuck with it.
What is your most rewarding accomplishment?
Getting over this injury. I have played in big games, but for me, this is the biggest challenge I have ever faced. I feel like no one can understand it until they go threw it. I was out 9 months. I went through an ACL injury, but it was different because the next step was always reachable, whereas with this, it was so uncertain. My physio said “you are going to be back running by Wednesday” And I wasn’t. Then they would say “next Wednesday” And I didn’t make it.
Everyone would always ask “how is your body?” My body was fine. I could do injuries 20 times over. Injury isn’t the hard part. It’s the mental part that is so difficult. As much as people are like I’m here for you? It’s just hard to know what it’s like unless you’ve been through it.
I am usually a very dependent person and hate doing anything on my own. I feel like injuries are very lonely. So to get through this was amazing for me. On top of that, scoring in Olympics game against Germany was the biggest relief. I was so happy it came off, and to score a goal like that after being out for so long, and for team to have so much faith in me, that was awesome.
From a year ago, I am a completely different person. In the way I think and the way I do things. My perspective is so different.
What was it like playing at the World Cups and Olympics? Was there one you liked better?
On a football level, playing at the World Cup was unbelievable. Obviously, it’s the pinnacle of football. We had a really good team last year and they were all girls I have grown up with so that was an amazing experience. But going to the Olympics was like we were a little drop in the ocean. We would all walk down to our team headquarter, see the gymnasts and the kind of people you watch as a kid and think they are not real people. To be standing 2 feet away from them and know we are on the same team was a special moment.
I always watched the Olympics as a kid…the world stops for the Olympics. It was insane knowing I was actually there, but it didn’t feel like what I expected it to feel like. I thought I would feel like “oh my god you are olympian!”, but it didn’t. I expected Michael Phelps to be walking around with a big head…but he was just a normal dude. It was like we are all real people and are just competing in our sport. That was kind of cool.
Is there any athlete in particular you were excited to meet?
One of the girls on Sky Blue, Shawna Gordon, loves Kevin Durant. Whenever she throws something in the trash or slams a drawer shut, she’ll be like “KD Baby!” So one day, I was walking downstairs, came around the corner, and there were 4 massive guys. One of them was Kevin Durant. And I don’t know why, it just came out, but I said “KD Baby!” I fist pumped him and he was like “what’s up baby!” And that was it, we just walked off. I always watch those guys and play with them on playstation, so to see how big they were they were was pretty cool. I liked seeing Simone Biles and that French gymnast that broke his leg. I saw him getting wheeled by and his leg was black. It was crazy because I was just watching him on tv with a snapped leg, and now three days later he was just in the Olympic Village.
Does everyone eat at the same spot in the Village?
Ya it’s probably like your college cafeteria, but 20 times the size. I couldn’t see the other end of the cafeteria. They had Japanese, Asian, Italian, every food you could think of they had it. The lines were like 45 minutes, so sometimes I’d go outside to McDonalds. I hadn’t eating anything bad in forever and we were hanging out in the village since we got there, so I wanted to get out more than anything.
What do you wish you knew as a kid?
People always talk about there being highs and lows, but I wish knew that there are more lows than highs, but the lows make the highs more worth it.
Everyone thinks that as a kid that your career is going to be all happy. I was doing really well when I got called into the national team, but then in my first World Cup, I struggled. I played like 75 minutes, and I couldn’t tell you what happened. I was like a zombie. I couldn’t deal with the pressure and not playing well. I wasn’t myself. But I wish I knew to ride the punches, and it’s okay to have disappointment, that doesn’t mean your career is over.
What’s your dream meal?
Probably nachos. Good ground beef nachos. I’m pretty plain, so ground beef, sour and cream and guac obviously, cheese, and I love onions. Maybe little bit of beans. And that’s about it. Good nachos are hard to come by.
Who are three people you’d ask to dine with you?
Where are we dining?
Where would you like to dine?
I would probably be in the Greek Islands. Right now, I would probably go with Nikki [Stanton] , my sister, and…. I’m not one to want to dine with famous people. I’d probably just have people I’m close to. I’d say my dog, but probably not, maybe a school friend…ahh no, my Naan right now because i miss her..
If you could trade live with one person for an entire day who would it be?
Justin Bieber. Oh I’ve got the Bieber Fever. I just think he is cool. I just love him. I am one of those crazy 23 year-olds that follows him on Instagram and Twitter for hours and then go to bed. Every time Justin Bieber goes on at a club, I’ll get a snapchat from my friends saying “Sammy this reminds me of you!”
If you could only keep five possessions what would they be?
My passport, my hair brush because I hate when I can’t brush my hair, my wallet, my car, and my phone.
What skill would you like to learn and why?
I’d love to be able to play the guitar. Again, I love Justin Bieber and watching him play the guitar.
What is your favorite mobile app?
Snapchat. Actually I’ve gone off snapchat lately. When I went to Rio my phone stopped working and I realized it takes up a lot of time so I just stopped. I would say Instagram.
What question have you always wanted someone to ask you?
Do you want to go have lunch with Justin Bieber?
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