Giving the Reggae Boyz that caring touch
JULIA COUSINS' caring touch has got her on the move.
Her job as a physiotherapist took the 32-year-old from St Catherine, where she grew up, to her day job in St James at Cornwall Regional Hospital. Then she started working at daCosta Cup matches as a member of the Jamaica Sports Medicine Unit, and top local clubs Montego Bay United and Wadadah.
While he was a member of the senior men's national football team coaching staff, Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore had a knee injury and was recommended for treatment to Cousins, whose skill extended the recommendation.
Now, she's the Reggae Boyz' team physiotherapist.
From she was a child, Cousins had a talent and an affinity for sport, winning a high jump gold medal for Waterford Primary at the primary champs. That talent, however, never went far.
"When I was in first form, I tried out for the track team, but that never worked out. It's a very funny story. When I was at primary school, all you had was a mattress on the ground and two persons holding a string and you'd run and jump over," she explained.
"When I went to St Hugh's, I went out for the track team, but that also never worked out," said Cousins.
Her association with sport never stopped there, however. Her cousin, Dadrian Williams, played football and they went to matches aplenty. Williams represented Spanish Town High at Manning Cup and Cousins would be his number-one supporter.
"I used to follow him more and started to get into football more," she admitted, noting her favouritism for Village United, Waterhouse and Portmore United, "as I lived in Portmore", in the Premier League.
Then came World Cup 1994 and she started putting together her scrapbook.
"I remember Oliver Kahn, Roberto Carlos," she said of popular stars glued up to pages in her keepsake from the 1994 Finals in the United States.
At the time, little did Cousins know that she would be playing a role in a football championship.
The first move came last year when she worked on the Reggae Boyz' home-and-away friendlies against Trinidad and Tobago,
Then in November of last year, Jamaica were involved in the regional championship, the Caribbean Cup, and she was officially brought into the set-up.
"It was a dream for me," she admitted of working alongside people who are "icons in our country. Warren Barrett , he's a great personality - my angel," she said of the goalkeeper for the original Reggae Boyz, Rene Simoes' 1998 unit that pioneered World Cup qualification for Jamaica.
"They're easy to talk to, they include you, they joke around, especially Rudi (Rodolph) Austin, he's great for the team," Cousins said. "I'm normally a reserved person ... but they draw you out. It's a good working relationship."
The team's manager, Roy Simpson, said besides her professionalism, Cousins provided balance.
"I think at first, she was a bit tentative coming into a male environment. But she never really understood that it wasn't really about gender, but competence, and the first time she worked with us, the players especially - because she works closely with the players - were satisfied, as well as the coach," Simpson said.
"Coupled with her dedication, because she had challenges getting time off, she has always made herself available to serve the country first and the players on the team.
"We refer to her as the rose among the thorns because her femininity provides balance," he theorised.
The test of Cousins' commitment goes beyond gaining time off to work with the Boyz.
"I'm doing a doctorate in Physical Therapy with Nova Scotia Eastern University, and even during the Caribbean Cup, I had to email my lecturer in the middle of the night to get a deadline extended for a paper," she said.
"My mom, sisters, friends, they're very supportive, always saying 'you can do it,' but going back to school is not fun."
Among the Boyz it's different," the self-professed God-fearing person said.
She has shared their joy at becoming Caribbean champions last year in Jamaica; seen the time play admirably, despite losing 1-0 in matches against Uruguay, Paraguay and world number one Argentina in Chile; and now she's in North America travelling with the Jamaica senior team. They have been to Los Angeles, Texas, Toronto, Baltimore and now Atlanta, where they will tackle the United States in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final Georgia Dome today.
"I think they're a great bunch of guys and I really want them to do well," she said. "I think it's overdue, so I want them to go very far in this tournament and possibly win."
With the final and third-place set for Philadelphia, whether the Reggae Boyz win or not, Cousins will be on the move.