To say that Sam Milbury's burgeoning soccer career has taken him places would be an understatement.
The Peabody resident barely had time to unpack his bags after getting him from a recent tournament before getting ready to leave again for his next competition. Milbury has done so as the alternate captain and leading scorer for the Seacoast United Soccer Club.
The elite U16 team is based in Hampton, N.H., and just returned from the Four Nations Clubs For Young People Tournament in Newcastle, England. After a few days at home, Milbury and his teammates flew to Texas to compete in a soccer college showcase which attracts lots of college coaches.
"We had a really good trip," said Milbury, a consistent starter for Seacoast United who also plays up with the U18 squad at times. "It was my second time in England, but the first for soccer. We tied England (2-2) and beat Wales (3-0), but lost to Scotland (1-0). England won the tournament, and I think we played our best against them. Unfortunately, we did not play well against Scotland."
Milbury, who will be a high school junior at the Brooks School in North Andover this fall, is a 6-foot-2,175-pound middle defender who has been playing soccer since he was four years old.
His uncle is former Boston Bruins defenseman and head coach Mike Milbury, who is now a commentator for NBC. It would've been natural for him to gravitate to hockey, but Sam never had the desire to follow in his uncle's footsteps.
"It's too cold and you have to get up too early in the morning for hockey," said Milbury, whose brother Max played hockey and soccer for the Pingree School. "I always loved soccer, but I soon switched from hockey to basketball."
'A real passion for the game'
Milbury started every varsity game in his freshman and sophomore years at Brooks and has been a regular starter for Seacoast. His skills include the ability to win balls in the air and defend 1-on-1. He distributes the ball with accurate passes, and becomes an offensive threat on corners. Two of his five goals this season have been game-winners, and he also had a tying goal.
Last year his Brooks team went to the New England Prep School Tournament semifinals and reached the quarterfinal round two years ago.
"He is a leader both on and off the field," said Seacoast coach John Price. "Sam's whole attitude is great. Even though he hasn't been with us long, he's one of the leaders on the squad as well as one of our better players. He has been identified as one of the top young players in the region.
"We utilize his skills on set pieces because he has that sense of always being in the right place at the right time. He reads the game well and sees the whole field which is something you either have or don't have; it can't be taught. When you play at this elite level you don't have time to think; you must react right away. Sam has tremendous talent and a real passion for the game."
Two years ago, Milbury was the only freshman at Brooks to make the varsity basketball team. He plays small forward or 2-guard, but soccer is his first love and the sport he intends to play at the college level.
"I really want to play Division 1 soccer," said Milbury, who has always been a defenseman and has five goals for United this season. "The best teams from all across the country will all come to Texas, and we'll play three games in four days.
"There are two showcases a year, one in December and this one. I went to two last year and also the (most recent) one in December. It's a great opportunity to get your name out there because scouts from all the Division 1 and a lot of Division 3 teams are always there watching."
Staying busy, improving your game
Last year Milbury played for the New England Revolution Development Academy team. Before that he spent several years with the New England Aztec Soccer Club out of Beverly, where he was a key member of the 2009 state cup championship team. He was also captain and MVP of his Shore Country Day team in Beverly growing up.
"Brooks has Saturday classes and I had to either switch schools or change soccer clubs," said Milbury. "I love Brooks and didn't want to leave. Seacoast coaches have been very flexible whenever I have a conflict, which wasn't the case at Revolution.
"Seacoast is also in the United States Developmental Soccer Academy League, and there are six teams in our division. The league is made up for the top 80 players in the country. We play a team from New York called Empire United, two Connecticut teams, and both the Boston Bolts and Revolution from Massachusetts. We start right at the end of the high school soccer season and go through until the end of June."
Milbury plans to attend two college showcase camps this summer: one at Boston University, the other at Dartmouth. He also works out with a trainer at CrossFit on Route 1 in Saugus.
"I like to stay busy," said Milbury. "I get tired when I'm not doing anything so I like to keep going. When you play at a high level, you always have to work on improving your game."
Milbury is also a top student who has been on the Headmasters Honor Roll since his freshman year, and takes honors or advanced placement courses. He also finds time to volunteer at Haven for Hunger.