Sam Stickney, who played soccer at North Kitsap, earned a bronze medal at the Special Olympics World Games in Dubai.
BREMERTON — Sam Stickney, the youngest of eight children by Pat Stickney and Tina Davis-Munn, showed promise on the soccer field.
Sam’s special aptitude with the soccer ball began at a very young age while his older siblings were playing. While he was progressing remarkably well in the sport, it was his early lack of social skills that set him back from his peers. His parents didn’t have a reason until he was diagnosed with autism.
“Since I was a little kid I always loved dribbling the soccer ball,” Sam said.
“What he developed was a relationship with the soccer ball,” Pat Stickney added. Pat, former North Kitsap boys and girls soccer coach, added he gave all his children a soccer ball when they were about three or four years old.
Sam took to it quickly.
“By 11, he was able to do all those wonderful skill things.”
So with his success increasing on the soccer field, and continued progress in social circles and with his education, it was enough that Sam’s ability allowed him to play for the North Kitsap boys soccer team. His highly-tuned skill set earned him a spot on varsity and he played select soccer most of his life.
Sam graduated from North in 2015 and began attending Bellevue College through its Navigator program for people on the autism spectrum. But a
But soccer was always there and something that made Sam’s world right. That’s when Pat decided to contact Barb Pool, director/coach of the Bremerton Kitsap Athletic Teams for the Special Olympics, in order to get Sam back onto the field.
“Soccer is my only passion,” he said.
Never did his family suspect what was to come.
As soon as Pool saw Sam’s ability, even though he hadn’t played in over a year, she knew she had to get him on the field. Pool happily welcomed Sam, who used his ball and footwork skills to teach his new teammates.
“I love teaching people how to dribble the ball and the correct technique for shooting,” he said.
It didn’t take long for Sam, 22, to return to form and, after an invited tryout, he was chosen to play for Team USA’s unified soccer team in Abu Dhabi for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in March.
Traveling to the Middle East to play soccer for the United States was beyond any dreams Sam, or his family, had for him.
‘It was really an amazing experience for me,” he said. “I got to explore the world with my teammates and it’s a new culture. We stayed at a really fancy hotel and we, a couple days, we visited mosques and did tours.
“It was really amazing and so much fun.”
Sam rubbed elbows with celebrities, including Olympic and World Cup champion Julie Foudy and Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence.
Team USA earned a bronze medal and Sam said the team had great chemistry right away. Sam, who played center mid, and “can play anything but goalie just because I don’t like goalie” was thrilled to earn a medal.
“The games were super competitive and all the teams were really good,” he said. “We played India, Denmark, we played Kenya and South Africa.”
Sam didn’t play in the first game after hurting his ankle but was still named team captain.
“It was such an honor,” he said.
When he did get into the games, he made an impact.
“I scored with my left foot,” he said.
It’s an experience that Sam, and his family, will not soon forget.
“I’m proud of all of my children and Sam’s no exception,” Pat Stickney said.
If given the chance, would Sam want to play in the World Games again?
“Yeah, definitely, oh yeah,” a smiling Sam said.