Young football coach transforming Longville Park community
Former Glenmuir High School student Faizon Walters, 21, has a lot of reasons to smile. But the main one is that the team he has been coaching for almost a year is now playing in the big leagues.
The Longville Park Football Club, which started in 2009, has faced many ups and downs, including being non-functional from 2014 until it was revived last year. A group of players, including Walters, who had played in the past for Glenmuir High, entered the 2017 Clarendon Division One Competition. The team received the support of club president Wayne Golding and other members of the management team.
Two and a half weeks into the competition, Walters realised the team would be in trouble if they didn't have a coach. As much as he enjoyed playing the game, Walters decided to apply some of what he had learnt at Glenmuir while being a part of the football team and put it into practice by coaching players at the Longville Park Football Club.
"With this effort, we saw things coming together with the players as they bonded. It was like a family atmosphere, which was transmitted into the unity and cooperation exhibited during the matches," Walters reported.
For Walters, the best spin-off was the way the team's successes started to impact the community.
"Longville Park was never described as being violent, but I started to witness more young people showing respect for each other, thus creating a friendly and safer environment," Walters recounted. "This was the aim of the team from day one, to see the scheme come alive again. We even went as far as inviting members of nearby communities to be a part of our structure," he added.
The team ended the year with one loss and advanced into the major league.
"Now the community is here awaiting the beginning of the major league season as we have created a family which continues to grow," Walters said with satisfaction.
While the Longville Park Football Club has been reaping success, opportunities have been coming, too, for individual players such as Gavin Thorpe who, after being observed in the competition, was invited to the Jamaica College programme. He went on to score six goals and two assists, aiding the school in retaining the Manning Cup title for a fifth consecutive season. Thorpe, a triple-crown champion, will be representing the Longville Park football team in the major league season this year.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Faizon Walter's feat of being the youngest coach to qualify a team for the major league competition in the parish has resulted in him being invited by the Jamaica Football Federation to attend a coaching seminar to be certified as a Level 1 coach.
Worried about future
Even as he basks in the success of the community's football club, Walters is worried about the club's future, as the 50-member strong group of players (as new members keep joining and he doesn't have the heart to turn away anyone, especially if they exhibit skills) is badly in need of funding and equipment.
"We are seeking sponsorship in cash or kind - football gears included," he told The Gleaner, while explaining that some of the incurred expenses include transportation to the away games, fees for referees, food and refreshments, as well as maintaining the field.
"The aim is to build the community - and where better to start than with the youth of the community? They are the future," Walters stated, in explaining his involvement with the Longville Park Football Club.
In closing, he commended fitness coach Tanice Barnett, another former high-school athlete who did distance running while attending The Queen's School.