Women's Soccer NCAA Tournament, Stony Brook Women's Soccer, Coffey (17)

Midfielder/forward, Sam Coffey (17) battles for the ball during the NCAA Tournament first round match against Stony Brook Women's Soccer on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 at Jeffrey Field.

Seconds before kickoff, when the team huddle breaks and each player gets set for the intense 90-minute battle to ensue, Sam Coffey rests on one knee at midfield.

In demonstration of her Christian faith, Sam habitually says a pregame prayer as a final sense of calmness prior to immersing herself in the game she loves.

“I love being able to do it in a public setting,” she said. “I think it’s really special to have that, obviously. I don’t care who sees me when I’m there, that’s the most important part of my life and just to have that moment of peace and stillness before a game, no matter how big.”

That isn’t the only avenue through which Sam channels her faith on the soccer field. Etched on the white tape wrapped around each of her wrists are various personal messages and symbols in tribute to her individuality and, most importantly, her faith.

Sam’s array of religious allusions includes a singular cross, as well as “AO1,” an acronym for “Audience of One.”

She writes “4:13,” alluding to the bible verse Philippians 4:13, which reads, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Women's Soccer, Northwestern, Coffey (17)

Midfielder/forward, Sam Coffey (17) dodges a tackle during the match against Northwestern on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 at Jeffrey Field.

“That just has been my verse since I was like seven, just like writing it places and just remembering it,” Sam said. “Me and my dad definitely share a bond of faith, and he’s always really reminded me of the truth of that verse.”

Her father, Wayne Coffey, a New York Times bestselling sportswriter, detailed his and Sam’s mutual love for the verse, recalling that at a young age, she would inscribe the numbers on her shoe.

“There are a few [bible verses] that we really share, that we really consider the all-time greats, and Phillippians 4:13 is absolutely right at the top of the list,” Wayne said.

As fundamental to her uniform as her shin guards or her cleats, Sam’s wrist tape also serves as a constant reminder of her inherent purpose.

“I just write ‘joy’ on it too ‘cause at the end of the day, if I’m not out there having fun, then I’m not doing it for the right reasons,” she said.

“I got ‘serve’ as well, just like serving the people around me trying to make the people around me the best that they can be and in doing that, they help me be the best that I can be and obviously serving God with that.”

While she sports some of the same elements on her wrist every game, Sam enjoys changing up the subtleties of the design to match her present mindset. 

Women's Soccer vs Illinois, Coffey (17)

Sam Coffey (17) kicks the ball during the game against Illinois on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 at Jeffrey Field. Penn State defeated Illinios 2-1.

“I’ll add some stuff if I’m feeling it, if there’s a theme for a certain week,” she said. “Something recently that I’ve been thinking about is just like this idea of victory and not succumbing to fear, so I’ll write ‘victory over fear’ in just that we have nothing to be afraid of at this point.”

If it isn’t obvious already, Sam exhibits a natural aptitude for writing. As a journalism major who radiates conscientiousness, she conveyed that the written word suits her well. 

“I love writing, and I have from a really young age, whether that be just like in journaling or writing stories or whatnot, but I’ve always found a lot of comfort in just writing things down,” Sam said.

“I just find it helps me consume information, helps me remember things, helps me make sense of things.”

Sam has kept journals since around the age of 13, in which she records her thoughts, both positive and negative, on a daily basis.

“Sometimes it’s just what happened that day, sometimes it’s what’s bothering me, sometimes it’s things I just need to surrender and give to God, sometimes it’s prayer requests for other people, just what’s on my mind, or what I’m thankful for,” Sam said.

“It definitely just helps me find peace and just check in with myself with where I’m at.”

Women's Soccer vs. Virginia, Sam Coffey (17)

Midfielder Sam Coffey (17) wrestles an opponent for possession of the ball during the game against the University of Virginia on Sunday, Sep. 15, 2019 at Jeffrey Field. The Nittany Lions fell short to the Cavaliers with a final score of 2-1.

To Sam, writing is not only an outlet, but also a means of keeping her faith strong.

“In my eyes, it is a form of prayer,” she said. “It’s a way of communicating with myself and also communicating to God.”

Sam emphasized that while her parents played a role in her discovery of faith, they always allowed her grow into her beliefs on her own.

“My parents believe but never imposed their beliefs on me, which I think is why I was able to find it so much,” she said. “I think having it as something that I was able to find, not something that was like ‘mom and dad are dragging me to church again,’ was really important for me.”

The approach that Wayne and his wife Denise took toward transmitting their faith to Sam and her two older siblings mirrors Sam’s subtle, yet powerful manner of displaying her personal connection with her beliefs.

Women’s Soccer vs Michigan, Coffey (17)

Midfielder Sam Coffey (17) runs after the ball during the soccer game against Michigan at Jeffrey Field on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Michigan defeated Penn State 1-0.

“We’ve never been the sort of parents who wanted to be heavy-handed or to dictate to our children ‘you have to do this, you have to do that,’ but what we did try to do, and still try to do really, is to stress the importance of being a moral person and being a kind person,” Wayne said.

The Christian faith has been constant in Wayne’s family dating back to his grandfather, who was a minister, but he admitted that Sam’s devotion has profoundly influenced his own perspective.

“I feel as though Samantha has taught me about how to be a good Christian and how to be a person of faith,” he said. “I may be her father and a mentor of sorts, but really I found her faith to be so strong that it lifted me up and it still lifts me up to see it.”

“It’s been exhilarating and inspiring for me to watch her grow as a Christian and to live the faith-based life that she lives.”

Although Sam’s widely acknowledged identity is that of a soccer player, stepping on the field and playing the game she loves serves as a means of representing the most meaningful aspect of her persona.

“It’s when I feel closest to [God], it’s when I feel like I’m glorifying Him the most,” she said.

“[Soccer] is a gift from Him and I feel like there is not a day where I can take it for granted. I just believe that it’s definitely something he’s given me as a way to just shine for Him the best that I can.” 

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