Becoming a Better Leader

Sam Estrada

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

My journey in soccer all started when I was just a young girl, around three years old. My dad was a professional soccer player, he actually played for the Dallas Burn before they became FC Dallas, and he even played overseas.

So, with my dad’s love for the sport, it was only natural that I fell in love with it, too.

My dad became my “personal trainer.”

He would coach the local high school men’s team, and I would train with them. I really felt like I was learning from the best. And it wasn’t just my dad who played soccer, my mom played in high school, too.

We were a soccer family through and through, no doubt about it.

When I was younger, I played all kinds of positions.

But I think it was spending that quality time with my dad during goalkeeper training that made me start to love it more.

It became our bonding time, our way of growing closer.

And soon enough, I found myself drawn to the goal, wanting to protect it with everything I had.

Choosing SMU

Fast forward a few years, and I was trying to figure out where I wanted to continue my soccer journey after high school. Now, here’s a funny story for you.

At the time, I didn’t even know what college was. A family member of mine had been to jail in Fort Worth, and my parents told me that was “college.”

So, needless to say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about going to college.

But then I got discovered by SMU, and everything changed.

I was a discovery player for the Houston Dash, playing with them while still attending school in El Paso. I had some other options, but SMU just felt right.

When I got to campus, I knew it was where I was meant to be.

It was a prestigious school, and I had family in Dallas, so it seemed perfect. Plus, the coaching staff at SMU really took care of me, especially Coach Mat.

He’s been there for me since I was 14.

Back to my feet

During my time at SMU, I’ve had my fair share of setbacks.

I’ve torn my ACL three times now.

And let me tell you, that really put things into perspective.

It made me appreciate the game even more and taught me to lead with grace and gratitude. I know what it’s like to be on the sidelines, to watch my teammates play while I can’t.

And I really think that has made me a better leader.

As a captain now, I try to lead by example.

But I’m also a vocal leader. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. It’s just who I am. I think it brings the team together, especially during tough times.

My coach from back home, Coach Jando, really pushed me to be the leader I am today. He told me to be smart with my decisions and to always strive for more.

And I keep those words in mind when I’m trying to help my teammates.

This season, our goal is to win the conference. I believe in this team, and I want to see the younger girls step up and show what they’ve learned from the older players.

We’ve worked hard, and I know we can achieve great things together.

And personally, I have my eyes set on winning Goalkeeper of the Year. It’s a goal that will keep me focused on the task at hand, and if I do well, so does my team.

When I got to campus, I knew it was where I was meant to be. It was a prestigious school, and I had family in Dallas, so it seemed perfect. Plus, the coaching staff at SMU really took care of me, especially Coach Mat. He's been there for me since I was 14.

Life after SMU

And when it comes to life after SMU, no doubt, I want to continue playing soccer.

I’ll enter my name in the draft and see what opportunities come my way.

I’d love to play in Mexico, too. And maybe even try playing overseas in countries like Denmark.

But ultimately, I just want to see where this journey takes me. I’ve put in the hard work, and now it’s time to let fate play its part.

I want to express my gratitude towards SMU and everyone who has been a part of my journey.

From the coaching staff to my teammates, they’ve shaped me into the person and athlete I am today.

SMU feels like a family to me, a sisterhood where we support and push each other.

And I’m thankful for every moment, every lesson, and every game I’ve experienced here.

From a little girl playing with dreams of following in her dad’s footsteps to a college athlete with goals and aspirations — it’s been a rollercoaster ride, filled with triumphs and setbacks.

But through it all, I’ve grown as a player and a person.

And I can’t wait to see what the future holds, both on and off the field.