Sam Mann has always had a passion for soccer
It started with war and instability. It ended with soccer and a love for coaching.
Sam Mann was born in Liberia during a time of civil war. The country was unstable and his family was fighting to stay alive. It was unpredictable what would happen each day and Mann said he knew his family would be better if they could go to the United States.
"My father came to the United States in 2000 and was trying to get my family over here," Mann said. "In 2002, my father was able to get us over to the states."
Mann moved to Minnesota with his family in 2002, and said he was excited to get to the United States and start a new life. Though he said he was afraid, too, because some of his extended family stayed in Liberia and have continued to live there for the last 16 years.
While coming to the United States, Mann has had to adjust to many things in America.
First, the weather. Liberia is a warmer country, so he said he and his family weren't prepared for the below-zero temperatures and snow.
Second, the food. When Mann was living in Liberia, his family would have one meal a day if they were fortunate enough. When he came to the United States, that changed to three times a day. At first, Mann wasn't able to eat that much food a day, but he said he was thankful to have that opportunity.
Third, the culture. Liberia had a particular culture of how things were done and the United States was very different. His family was still able to celebrate their culture in the United States, but Mann said he enjoyed learning more about other people's cultures.
"It was definitely a transition into adapting in the United States," Mann said. "I've really enjoyed the opportunities I've had in America."
One of those opportunities was to play soccer, a game he started to play soccer at a young age in Liberia. Once he came to the United States, he started to play in youth leagues and eventually found himself on his high school team. Along with high school, he participated in some club teams with the St. Paul Blackhawks.
Then he played at Northwestern University and developed a great relationship with Greg Wheaton, the head coach of the team. He developed his skills to a high degree while at college and it allowed him to participate in the Minnesota United Reserve team.
This reserve team is the practice team for the Minnesota United. Mann said he was fortunate enough to play with some great athletes and develop great friendships that will last a lifetime.
"These teams become more of your families because you spend so much time with them," Mann said. "I'm happy with all the relationships I've made."
After three years with the Minnesota United, Mann went into the next phase of his life:
His coaching has led him to many different places around the Twin Cities. He coached at Minneapolis United, Minnehaha Academy and St. Paul Central.
Wheaton told Mann about a job opening at New Life Academy and he decided to apply. He went through the interview process and was selected to become the girls head soccer coach.
He's been with New Life Academy for three years and said he loves everything about it, from the kids to the environment to the staff. It was also an opportunity to be close with his family who live near the school.
While being a coach at New Life, he also coaches at the Shakopee Soccer Club and focuses on development with boys and girls from the ages of 9-13.
"I'm here for the long haul and I'm not looking to leave anytime soon," Mann said. "My goal is to become a Division I men's soccer coach in the next five years."
Mann is hoping to go back to Liberia this fall to see his extended family since he hasn't been there since he came to the United States. He calls his family once a week to check in and really enjoys the bond he has with his family.
"I was fortunate to play soccer all my life," Mann said. "I just want to give younger kids the same love and passion for the sport that I have had all my life."