Sam Cooper

Written by Baritsa on . Posted in Coaches

Voodoo, #5

 

Biography info 

  • Date of birth: 08/05/1987
  • Place of birth: Big Stone Gap, Virginia, USA
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 185lbs
  • School: Virginia High School (no ultimate team)
  • University: Clemson University

My first experience with Frisbee was definitely not the same as my first with Ultimate. I started tossing a Frisbee around after class in high school with a couple of friends in 2004. We had teams that varied between 5 and 14 people and played on a terribly kept slanted field. Needless to say, it wasn’t very competitive and we didn’t exactly learn the ins and outs of the game proper. It was more of an after school hang out than a sport at that point.

I started learning/playing “real” ultimate when I went off to college. I didn’t even know it existed as a sport until then. I went to a university far from home where I didn’t know a soul, and sought out club sports as a way to meet people. Upon meeting the Ultimate team I knew the sport was for me.

Laid back attitudes and clever personalities combined with a drive to succeed athletically really drew me in. I started playing as a way to meet people, but kept playing because I loved the athletic challenge and the great group of people it attracted. 

In college I played for the Kent State Golden Flashes before transferring to Clemson University to play with the Joint Chiefs. Our program, though being old, wasn’t very big at the time. While I was there we finished each year top 10 in the region, never quite earning a big to college nationals. After graduation I took a year off due to injury & surgery before returning to play with El Diablo, based out of Charleston, SC. 

What can I do best on the field? Backhand huck! 

My favorite throw is off-hand backhand break for short yardage.  

My athletic beginnings were in soccer, so I love the number 10. It has so much history behind it with great players like Pele, Messi, and Zidane. Unfortunately I’ve moved quite a bit in the past few years, leaving me at a disadvantage in choosing numbers when joining new teams (returners always get first choice!), so I’ve been wearing 5, 6, or 7 lately. 

During my time at Clemson University, we grew the Club Ultimate team from approximately 12 – 15 people to well over 50 (solid A & B teams, with many more trying out and over 100 in our fall league). I’m very proud to have been part of the leadership team that made this happen. It was awesome seeing the club grow in size and quality, as well as noticing that in the few years after graduation the changes we put in place have continued. We lifted the competitiveness of the team during this time also. It’s a great thing to accomplish - especially considering we didn’t have any players who were exposed to ultimate before college. I found it very rewarding to be part of building so much on top of a program that already had a great history.

I’ve gotten MVP (Most Valuable Player) after a few games, but nothing significant such as Callahan, etc. 

I play Voodoo since 2012. 

I relocated to Seattle, WA from the east coast (Charleston, SC) for work and had to play ultimate! Seattle has an incredible ultimate scene – it was a bit overwhelming at first. I remember walking up to my first tryout weekend and seeing kids as young as 6 or 7 playing full field ultimate and it blew me away. I knew there were some great high school programs around the country, but I never imagined there’d be so many players picking it up under 10 years old. It simply doesn’t exist where I grew up.

 

I’ve played against nearly the full spectrum of U.S. National’s level teams, east coast and west.  

This past year Seattle Voodoo had the honor of hosting the Australian men’s national team here in Seattle, WA on their way to compete at Worlds. The event was spectacular. We had a lot of fans come out to support us, which was awesome. It was a great experience playing with and meeting the Australian guys.

 

My most memorable Open tournament happened with Seattle Voodoo this past year at Emerald City Classic. In 2012 we had less than 10 returners, so nearly the entire squad was new to both playing with each other and playing under the Ben Wiggins system. Regardless, we put forth a great showing and pushed nearly every team we faced. I love and thrive under high levels of competition and feeling like an underdog so the experience of playing nothing but top 16 teams for every game the entire weekend was fantastic. I’d been working for the past year to test myself against players of this caliber and saw a great mixture of success and opportunities for improvement.  

Outside of Club Open, I’d have to say Potlatch 2012. I’d just undergone an ~8-week try out process with Seattle Voodoo, which was incredibly draining. I was attempting to be in peak shape before the competitive season even started, which took up a ton of time and energy. Potlatch really solidified a few things for me. First, it let me see, all in one place, just how awesome the Seattle ultimate community could be. Additionally, I got to meet many international players which was a great experience. Since I was still new to Seattle and had been trying out for Seattle Voodoo for the 8 weeks prior, it was the first chance to spend a significant amount of time building connections with my new community. On top of all that, I got to see many old friends from the east coast. 

 

With Voodoo my primary role is on the defensive line, usually as a handler.

My background before joining Voodoo was always as an offensive handler, so my throws and decision making were honed enough to keep up in that respect. For the past year or so before joining Voodoo I focused very heavily on getting in to the best shape of my life. I had a job that was incredibly flexible and really let me put as much time in to Ultimate as I wanted. On top of practices I was hitting the gym 4 – 5 times a week, doing track workouts, running 2 disc skills/strategy pods, and drastically changed my diet to be as healthy as possible. This put me in a great position to not only keep up with some of the best offensive players while playing defense, but also being in good enough shape to be explosive on offensive if we got a turn. Although I was primarily a handler, I found myself cutting deep quite often because I could tell the guy guarding me was just too gassed to keep up. 

Defensively, I really like to figure out what an offensive player wants and put them outside of their comfort zone. Most often this means guarding under someone so that they have to go deep – a situation which lends itself to more turn overs than easy underneath passes.

I still play soccer sometimes, as well as goaltimate. I love a good game of 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 sand volleyball. I play guitar and just started learning to snowboard – something I hope to be doing a lot more of in the future. 

I’m a Web Analytics & Marketing Consultant – currently working with Microsoft. Basically I help people use data to make decisions about their business. 

Everyone I work with will frequently hear me talking about ultimate since I play tournaments at least once a month and practice/pick up/league 3 – 5 times per week, not to mention gym workouts.

Most say, “Oh, that’s cool, I tried to throw a Frisbee once and man I’m bad!”.

Others are quite impressed with the athleticism involved and the intensity of the sport.

Regardless of initial impressions, it usually takes about 1 minute in to a highlight video for them to be wowed. Ultimate is a sport that really lends itself to big, highlight plays.

 

Ultimate has definitely taught me a lot about team work. Sometimes you have to work – in ultimate and in life – with people you’d rather not.

Sometimes you have to give up a bit of pride and pass on leadership, while also knowing when to pick up leadership when it’s needed.

It’s taught me about building a team of role players to achieve a common goal.

It’s also taught me how to be flexible and dynamic enough to change roles at any moment.

It’s taught me the importance of an entire team buying in to a system, even if it’s not one that you would personally choose.

Most importantly, though, it’s taught me that no matter how hard you work or how good you are a few specific skills, it isn’t worth it doing unless you’re having fun and surrounding yourself with great people.

Ultimate does a great job of this, and is really what makes playing the sport such a unique experience.

I’ve had a lot of great mentors throughout my development as an ultimate player and I want the chance to do the same for eager young players. I think about the game constantly and love entering discussions about strategy, skills development, and training. Most of all, I know that I’ll learn at least as much as I’ll teach – hearing other points of view on the game and meeting other players is always such a humbling and great learning experience.

I’ve found that you can learn from people no matter what their skill level is at the game. I’ve met so many people that are struggling like crazy to throw a forehand, but are really adept at other skills like seeing and understanding the usage of space on the field. Everyone has something to contribute that can broaden your horizons, both as a coach and a player.  

My coaching experience:  

  • Vice President, Clemson Ultimate (2 years)
  • Tournament Director, Clemson Ultimate (3 years)
  • Youth Soccer Coach, ages 4 - 12 (3 years)
  • Youth Ultimate Coach, University Prep (1 year)
  • Guest Coach for College of Charleston Women’s Ultimate
  • Captain of multiple league teams (4+ years) 

I wouldn’t mind finding a nice mountain to snowboard on, if the season is still going strong.

Besides that I want to meet as many people as possible – especially in the ultimate crowd!

Oh, and I want to stay warm.

What i know about Russia? That it’s really, really big!

I’m incredibly excited to help represent the U.S. ultimate community internationally, and absolutely can’t wait to play with and teach some of Russia’s best and brightest! I’m incredibly humbled that I have this opportunity, and definitely want to say thank you to everyone that is making this happen.  

And ... Throw every day!