TEMPE, Ariz. — Sammy Jo Tracy has accomplished more at the ripe age of 23 than a lot of people do in a lifetime.
She has started her own business. She has been an All-American during both her high school and college career. She has also won a National Championship with the North Carolina Tar Heels. Twice.
Now, she is ready to begin a new journey as a college coach. This isn’t just any ordinary coaching venture, though. Tracy will take on the role of assistant coach at Arizona State, a new program, in a challenge that is a stark contrast from her accolade-laden time playing at women’s lacrosse powerhouse UNC.
ASU head coach Courtney Martinez Connor deemed Tracy as the best fit to fill the role as an assistant for a multitude of reasons, one of which is her resume, which is extensive enough to put her among some of the most decorated college lacrosse players.
“I think playing at the highest level is something that not a lot of people have the opportunity to do,” Martinez Connor said. “To compete, it takes a lot to know what it takes to win a National Championship and she was able to see that it takes a lot of hard work, not just on the field with your team but also off the field, and that is something that we are trying to instill on our players.”
Tracy commands respect as a coach because of her skill. Not only is she a two-time National Champion, but she scored the game-winning goal in triple overtime to clinch the first of the pair. She also is the Tar Heels career leader in draw controls with 327.
Her career in college lacrosse gives her a perspective to bring to the Sun Devils that many new programs don’t get.
“She knows what we need to do to be a team that competes and could eventually win a championship,” sophomore midfielder Mia Harp said.
Bringing the same winning mentality that the Tar Heels possessed won’t be an overnight process, but it’s what Tracy hopes will eventually translate to Tempe.
“I think just being comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Tracy said. “Pushing each other to the fullest, challenging each other, and also chemistry. I know how to win, but every team is different, so I am learning from them as they are learning from me as well, so that is kind of cool. So I am learning a lot, and interjecting when I can.”
Tracy has always wanted to immerse herself in lacrosse as a coach, although the opportunity with the Sun Devils didn’t come right away. After concluding her college career with UNC in the spring of 2017, she started her own business, with Major League Lacrosse All-Star and MVP Greg Gurenlian, called Draw Control Academy, which taught the skill of the draw.
“The women don’t really have that yet, but it’s coming as I was a draw specialist at UNC, along with a top attacker,” Tracy said. “(Gurenlian) asked me to join on with him and I was like, ‘Sure, let’s do this.’ I traveled all over the country, worked with all different types of players and girls.”
When a spot opened up on the ASU staff, Tracy was the first person Martinez Connor contacted, and Tracy’s desire to get back into the college game prevailed.
“The fact that she can play with the players — she can verbalize as well as show the skills — is super important,” Martinez Connor said. “I think being able to be out on the field and demonstrate, as well as talking through a skill, is very important because some players are visual learners, some learn it audio, and obviously she is able to do both.”
Tracy admits she leads by example. She doesn’t just say something, she has to follow it up by actually doing it as well, otherwise, she believes the effectiveness of what she is teaching is diminished.
Since she is only 23 years old and fresh out of college, Tracy’s ability to relate to the players has garnered her even more admiration from the team.
“It really does help because obviously we respect her but you can also have that friendliness level that makes her super approachable,” Harp said. “I can talk to her like I would if I have a problem going on on or off the field. She knows what we are going through so she can relate to us super easily.”
The chance to grow the game of lacrosse in Arizona — a sport that is mainly dominant on the East Coast — is not something that Tracy takes lightly.
“I think we can have an everlasting effect on the state and I think it is really exciting to start a new program,” Tracy said. “I love a challenge and these girls are really hard working and I am excited for what I got.”
A New York native, Tracy has quickly fallen in love with Arizona. She loves to hike and wakes up in a good mood every day living in a state where she is able to take advantage of everything it has to offer.
“The campus is like nothing else I have ever seen before,” Tracy added. “I get to bring something to the state as it offers me so much. I think that was the deciding the factor.”
As she learns more and more about what Arizona has to offer as well as what it takes for a new program to succeed, Tracy has had to temper her initial expectations for the program. However, as the Sun Devils continue to get their feet wet, she envisions a quick climb up the ladder.
“First get a winning season, Pac-12, then a National Championship, bring that home,” Tracy said. “Get my girls with the crazy stick work and getting on SportsCenter, because I think that brings more attention to the game. I want them to top me; I have been on it three times, I want them to be on it four, five. To be an exciting pro player, so I think they are going to help me with that.”
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