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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves forward Sam DeBien shows off some moves as part of the Red Wolves Academy's Olympic-themed soccer camp July 5 at Chattanooga Christian School.

It's probably no surprise that Samantha DeBien would like to eventually pursue a career in coaching.

Her father, Eric Phillips, was a wrestling coach and helped rebuild Cleveland High School into a state power during his time with the Blue Raiders. DeBien already has a bachelor's degree in sport management, and she's working on her master's in the same field with hopes of becoming a college coach — someday, once she's done playing soccer.

"I've always listened to him and everything he has to say as a coach and all the wisdom and advice he's given me," said DeBien, who was a Times Free Press Best of Preps selection during her time at Cleveland.

"I would love to share that with other people, and give them my advice — not just on the game, but just how sports help you. Whether that's teamwork, leadership, communication, all these other things that can help you in the real world, and I just want to share that passion and love."

DeBien still has one college season left at Middle Tennessee State, and the 5-foot-2 forward hopes a professional soccer career will follow.

She has played sparingly this summer for the Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves, and due to a school conflict, DeBien won't be able to play anymore for them this season. The Lady Red Wolves are seeded second in the Women's Premier Soccer League tournament and host a semifinal against the Southern Soccer Academy at 7 p.m. Friday, with the winner advancing to play in Sunday's championship match against either the top-seeded Nashville Rhythm or Alabama FC.

Debien had two goals and an assist for the club this season, but she also spent a lot of time trying to be a sponge, leaning on head coach Luke Winter for advice on going into the industry.

"It's funny because since I want to be a coach and I'm still playing, I look at coaches and see what they do," DeBien said. "Then I try to take bits and pieces of how I want to incorporate that when I start coaching.

"With Luke, I love the way he motivates players. He has a special way that makes you want to fight for him. One of the best ways you can bring the best out of players is when they feel the love from the coach and their teammates, because that makes you want to work even harder. And Luke has a great ability to do that with us, plus he really knows the game."

Winter was on the other side of the equation before as well, having played collegiately at Tennessee Wesleyan before moving on to a standout career with the Chattanooga Football Club. He spent a lot of time being molded into a better player, so it makes sense that he's attempting to pay it forward. It doesn't hurt that DeBien going into coaching would help further one of his objectives after taking the job leading the Lady Red Wolves — he wants to help grow the women's game.

"We connected earlier this week, and she thanked me for everything I did," said Winter, whose hire was announced late last year. "You never really, truly know what players are thinking all the time, so it's nice that she values the way I've coached.

"It's humbling, and it's a great feeling. It kind of puts everything into perspective, right? You want to do well in the game, you want to win, you want to believe, but there's a bigger picture, which is helping people. I told the team that the reason why I coach is because I enjoy helping people fulfill whatever it is they want to achieve."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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