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Mar, 2022

Keri Sarver Makes Impact on New Zealand and Internationals SC

By Mahonri Mendoza/

Ohio native Keri Sarver's journey within soccer has led her to become an influential person on and off the field.

"I have always had a passion for the game," said Sarver. "As a very young player growing up, I didn’t think at the time of becoming a coach.  I dreamed of big international events like the Olympics or the World Cup.  Playing in the U.S. youth soccer system fueled that fire.  Then, during my senior year of high school I starting training youth players and helping out with camps and clinics led by our club founder Zdravko Popovic.  Those early experiences inspired me start to thinking about a long-term future in the game once my playing days were over."

Studying the game more and starting to acquire the necessary coaching licenses as a 20-year-old helped Sarver begin her journey as a coach.  Sarver has been around the coaching world, at all levels of the game, including colleges, the U.S. Soccer youth system like the US U-19s and U-20s, and being a club director and coach at Internationals Soccer Club.

"I knew that youth development was a huge piece of what I wanted to do," said Sarver. "Having a taste of the international stage with the U.S. U-20'S gave me the opportunity to work with Jitka Klimková, so jumping at the opportunity to assist with the Ferns was a no brainer.  I am able use that experience I gain at the senior level to have a bigger influence at the youth level."

Sarver currently serves as New Zealand's assistant coach under Jitka Klimková and was brought onto the staff back in September 2021.

In November of last year, after their camp in South Korea, the Ferns and Sarver had positive feelings coming into the annual SheBelieves Cup.  Their path in the SheBelieves Cup took an unexpected turn as they faced two losses against Iceland and the U.S., finalizing their participation with a scoreless draw against the Czech Republic.

"It was an excellent atmosphere in Korea, on the field and off the field," said Sarver. "We finished with a lot of success in terms of growth and winning the second game of the tour.  We left that tour feeling very good about the future, and then we came to SheBelieves, and it did not go the way we wanted and had planned and prepared for."

However, the results in the SheBelieves Cup are not much of a concern for Sarver, knowing the results were a learning opportunity to perfect and improve, leading to next year's FIFA Women's World Cup.

"The SheBelieves experience is going to help us, in the long run, to make our team stronger, to make our staff stronger, to help us be more connected," said Sarver. "It'll help us make better decisions moving forward as we continue to layer on additional pieces leading into the World Cup."

The Ferns will host next year's FIFA Women's World Cup alongside Australia.  Having the opportunity to play in these types of tournaments lets the players and Sarver know and assist in their future development in Klimková's final roster.

"We have something we call individual performance plans," said Sarver. "We're working with players to set their long-term, medium-term, and short-term goals.  We help them establish a plan for themselves while they're away from the Ferns in their pro environments.  The players know what the team focus is for each tour.  Then their individual goals and priorities should lead into the team performance."

Sarver's trajectory to one day coach a specific senior team is the least of her worries.  Her drive to influence youth and help them develop into better athletes and better people is what she has enjoyed most on her coaching journey.

"It's not something where every day I wake up and work this hard to get to a certain spot in my professional coaching career," said Sarver. "For me, it's more of a holistic approach.  I've learned as a player that you can have these big dreams, and it's amazing to work towards them, but the amount of time that you waste if you're only focusing on the end result, then the other experiences along the way kind of gets lost.  For me, it’s about the journey, not about the highest level you can achieve or the result.  I've been blessed to coach now for New Zealand, and they have taught me that it's not just about soccer or being the best in the world.  There are so many more aspects that go into inspiring players and helping them on their pathway to improve."

For Sarver, there must be that motivation to help youth development progress by assisting people to reach their dreams and then fine-tuning it at the international level to influence on and off the field.

Alongside her New Zealand duties, Sarver serves as the Director of International SC, based in Northeast Ohio.  When she goes back to the Internationals, she hopes to transfer all the knowledge acquired and pass that on to the next generation of young players.

"There are so many things that transfer from one environment to the next," said Sarver. "The psychological aspect and so many lessons learned that we could try to implement in these young players' careers to help them and put them in a better position to reach their goals. Things like different coaching methods, how to study the game and break it down through video sessions and, of course, you always get new ideas for additional things we can implement on the field."

Sarver has pride in the journey that she's had in her soccer career.  Playing in northeast Ohio, coming back, coaching, becoming a director, and now owning a club and using the fantastic experiences that she's had to influence a younger generation of players and help them figure out what they are passionate about in life.

"I pinch myself every day," said Sarver. "I'm able to coach at the highest level and then come back and give back to our club.  I also believe that strong female leadership is essential right now.  These young females need positive role models and knowing that I have a big influence on them is the most important part of my job in my life…it’s so much bigger than wins and losses.”

Internationals SC had a strong presence in the SheBelieves Cup.  

This year, both Klimková and Sarver are part of the coaching staff of New Zealand.  Klimková served as a coach in the club for the two and a half years prior.  13-year-old Ella Bard won the 2021 SheBelieves Hero Award, and she was recognized at this year’s SheBelieves Cup.

"The Internationals are a small club," said Sarver. "To have three representatives on the international stage from the same club, is a huge testament to what we are doing at the youth level in Northeast Ohio."

Photo Credit: Photosport

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