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Posted by Team, 25th October 2019
What’s continues to motivate us are stories that show players learning and growing within and outside of our system. This past year, Sam Clark from West Virginia FC is a true testament to that. Sam attended the 2018 West Ham National Camp and was invited to the West Ham Training Experience Trip in spring 2019. A few months after this trip, Sam attended the 2019 West Ham National Camp and earned an invitation to the West Ham Elite Trip for the spring of 2020! We reached out to Sam to get some insights into how he made this jump in just 1 year and how the West Ham program has also helped him back at his home club.
Sam Clark at the 2019 West Ham Training Experience Trip
Last year you qualified for the West Ham United Experience Trip. What were some of the things you learned at the 2018 West Ham National Camp that you worked on to prepare for the Experience Trip?
The 2018 West Ham National Camp was very eye-opening to what it takes to play at the academy level. I took away a lot of different perspectives and smarter ways to play from the West Ham coaches that I had never heard before. Some of the key things I took in are scanning the field, playing in the future, how to communicate and organize faster, and that a good attitude is crucial if you want to perform well. Preparing for the Experience Trip, I tried to take as many of these tips back to my club and embrace them in practices and games every day. Repetition of the things I learned extremely improved my ability overall and gave me a great boost going into the Experience Trip.
How did the Experience Trip differ from the National Camp?
The Experience Trip was very different from National Camp because you get a different feeling when playing in England with West Ham coaches at their training facility then you do playing here in the U.S. The excitement you get when your arriving and London and hearing everyone talk in an accent and drive in the other side of the road is awesome. Not even including touring London, riding the London Eye, going to a West Ham game, and seeing a Chelsea game, just being there was amazing.
What was it like to train at West Ham’s Academy?
Training at West Ham’s Academy was amazing. Where I live there’s no soccer field as well taken care of and as well respected as their training ground is. Stepping onto the perfectly cut field in a West Ham training kit really gives you a cool feeling, knowing that this is what West Ham’s academy and professional players do on a daily basis. There’s also the stun of walking into the locker room and seeing pictures on the wall of players who have come up through West Ham’s academy like Mark Noble and Declan Rice.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
My favorite part of the trip was being so surrounded by an amazing soccer environment. Whenever we went to the Chelsea game it was like everyone in a mile radius was wearing a blue jersey. The atmosphere around and inside the stadium was something I’ve never seen before and something I hope I get to experience again. Even as a Man U fan being at the game was awesome.
This year you qualified for the West Ham Elite Trip. Congratulations! How did the Experience Trip help you perform better at the 2019 West Ham National Camp?
I think coming back from the Experience Trip and going into the 2019 National Camp I had a real confidence since I’d previously been overseas and seen what’s expected of you by West Ham coaches. Plus, I got to see and somewhat feel the passion of West Ham and the way their academy plays in London and bring it into National Camp. I was way more prepared for National Camp this year than I was in 2018 and the Experience Trip played a huge role in that. From 2018 National Camp to 2019 I’ve been adding good habits and tips from the coaches to my game and they’ve made everything smoother and easier.
How have the National Camps and Experience Trip made you a better player so far?
I think one of the biggest things it’s done is showed me how important it is to have good habits. With the ball, without the ball, on the field, and off the field. They’ve shown me how I should keep an agenda or diary that I add to after every practice and game. I’d always had a goal to make the Regional ODP team and I failed to for two years in a row. After my the second try and not making the team (last year) was when I started my first West Ham Camp. This year after going through two camps with West Ham I tried out for the Regional ODP team and made it. I think West Ham had a good amount to do with that. After going to the National Camp and Experience Trip and adding things I’ve learned and taken away important tips and tricks from the coaches and players around me, I improved and added things to my game and it’s shown.
A big thanks to Sam for his time and we can’t wait to see you on the Elite Trip next spring!