At an early age, Samantha Sam Fried was dressing her Barbies in soccer uniforms and running scrimmages with them.
By Judith Stiles
Almost every athlete grapples with pregame jitters, a nervousness that can begin hours before a game and often peaks with a heart-fluttering crescendo seconds before the competition begins. Yes, nervousness means the blood is pumping and the adrenaline is rushing, which are all good ingredients for game performance. But what advice should a coach give players to cut down on the anxiety factor?
Relax, everything will be fine in the first couple of minutes when you settle into the game, advises Samantha Fried, who speaks like a veteran, yet is only 14 years old. Known in the Greenwich Village youth sports world as Sam, Fried plays basketball on the Debra Kameros team named after the sponsor in the older division of the Greenwich Village Youth Councils ever-popular Girls Basketball League at P.S. 41. She also is a budding assistant to Beth Grys, who coaches her younger sister Madelaines team.
Fried has been praised by all her coaches for having an amazing ability to help new players acclimatize to basketball and answer the questions that newcomers are too shy to ask the head coach. For example, What is a lay-up? is a question often asked in a whisper, which she readily answers with a demonstration and a pithy explanation.
At the tender age of 6, Fried got hooked on sports when she attended her first Yankees game with her parents, Alan and Laurie, who were born and raised in the Bronx, and are diehard fans of the men in pinstripes. In second grade, she remembers a game at Yankee Stadium with such a long rain delay that most of the fans bailed out after midnight. However, Fried refused to leave and insisted on taking a little nap on the floor until the game resumed, earning her and her family free tickets to the next game.
When Fried was still too young to join a Little League team, she would visit J.J. Walker Park to toss the ball around with her dad, and at the end of the day, when she had thoroughly exhausted him, she would have fun running the bases by herself, until it was time to go home. Soon she joined a co-ed baseball team within Greenwich Village Little League that played on the old dirt field at J.J. Walker before it was resurfaced.
Although Fried was already devoted to sports, like most little girls, she played dolls, but she purposefully dressed her Barbie in sports uniforms to act out games and plays. By age 9 Fried discovered soccer along with basketball and baseball, which just about carried her through the school year, until she went off to sleep-away camp to play all three sports.
In the past five years Fried and her peers have enjoyed the fruits of the new youth sports programs and fields that have sprung up in Greenwich Village. Not only has she learned how to play different games, but she has learned about cooperation, good sportsmanship, teamwork, setting goals, hard work and many other important lessons in life, including how not to crumble under pressure before a big game. Because of the excellent Greenwich Village sports programs, Fried has taken what she has learned from her coaches Downtown and brought her knowledge and experience Uptown, to share with the other students at the Churchill School where she is an eighth grader.
Sam is an inspired leader, says Jim Scotto, her soccer coach at Churchill. As a blossoming coach herself Fried likes to give her teammates her top five pearls of wisdom that she learned Downtown:
1. Dont cry over spilt milk if you lose. You have many more fun games to look forward to.
2. Although it is fun to win, winning is not the only point.
3. Tell your parents to stop coaching from the sidelines.
4. Dont be afraid to ask questions.
5. If you are nervous taking a foul shot in basketball, take a deep breath. And if that doesnt work, picture the face of someone you really dont like above the basket and give em a shot.
What does the future hold for Fried? She loves science and is interested in sports medicine. She knows wherever life takes her she will always find time to be a mentor and coach. In a little more than a decade, if Greenwich Village families get lucky, she just might bring her wisdom back Downtown to coach the next generation of kids in the neighborhood.