Kim Sanford has thrived in various soccer, classroom roles


Name: Kimberly Sanford

College: Health and Human Performance

Major: Master of Science in kinesiology with a concentration in sports and exercise psychology

Age: 22

Classification/Year: Graduate student

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Hobbies/interests: Soccer, basketball, and track and field

Clubs and Organizations: ECU Women’s Soccer Team, Black Student-Athlete Organization


Favorite hangout: Women’s soccer locker room

Favorite place on campus: Johnson Stadium

Favorite place to eat: Sup Dogs

Favorite class: Group Dynamics with Dr. Habeeb

Professor who influenced you the most: Dr. Habeeb

Favorite TV show: “Abbot Elementary”   

Favorite band/musician: Meek Mill

Favorite movie: “Training Day”

Favorite superhero: Iron Man


Dream job: Sports psychologist

What advice do you have for other students? Take yourself a little less seriously. One bad grade or one bad day doesn’t make you a bad student, it doesn’t define you. Take a break. Breath. Go hang out with friends. At the end of the day the work will still be there, but opportunities to experience new things and hang out with new people, those are fleeting.

Some of the sports psychology techniques and strategies graduate student Kim Sanford learned in the classroom were practiced almost immediately on the soccer field.

Sanford’s progression as a determined, successful student-athlete was highlighted in her many roles, ranging from team captain to a member of the Black Student-Athlete Organization and as an ardent student to obtain her second degree at East Carolina University.

Along with playing 84 career games with the ECU women’s soccer team, Kim Sanford served as a member of ECU’s Black Student-Athlete Organization.

She received a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology in December 2020 and is graduating this spring with a Master of Science in kinesiology with a concentration in sport and exercise psychology, using that knowledge to help her in soccer.

“At this level, everyone is good at whatever sport you play and everyone has that physical ability, but your mental ability is what sets you apart,” Sanford said. “If you can hone in on that and really train that aspect, then you are going to have a leg up on your competition. Just being in the graduate program, I found myself really training my mental side and it helped not only in soccer, but in life. When adversity hits, it’s how you deal with that and you can look at it like a challenge and not an obstacle.”

Sanford finished last fall with 84 career games played, the most in ECU women’s soccer history, and was named to the All-American Athletic Conference second-team three straight seasons.

After serving as a leader for the Pirates on the field, she quickly transitioned to a new leadership role as a teacher this semester in kinesiology. A colleague said she thrived in classroom management and in building a great rapport with students.

“What I’ve really liked is I’ve gotten to know my students pretty well, just because I am close in age to them,” said Sanford, who has hopes of securing a professional contract to play soccer overseas and later exploring more educational opportunities in sports psychology. “It’s been really interesting being part of their learning process. Watching people learn and gain confidence in different skills has been so cool, because that is one aspect as a student you don’t really see.”

As someone who studies sports psychology, Sanford has been open with teammates and coaches about her personal mental health. She also has seen the topic grow in importance as she enjoyed her years as a Pirate.

“I want to help other athletes who might be struggling, mentally, especially with mental health being so prominent right now,” she said. “I’ve learned so many things here, but my biggest thing is any difficulty that you go through or any pain or a hardship you’ve been through, it always has a purpose. You can always learn something. That was big for me. … I know this all has a purpose. I’m working on something bigger than myself.”

Sanford, second from left, will earn her second degree from ECU this spring.