Brunswick High School head soccer coach Daniel Szokoly said when he bought into Guillermo Ramirez and Tevin Dixon’s dreams of playing collegiate soccer was at a signing ceremony for several Pirate players last season.
“I heard Tevin whisper to Guillermo, ‘That’s gonna be us next year, man,’” Szokoly said. “After that I was like, ‘I’ll do whatever, we’ll make it happen.’”
Dixon said that signing day was when he realized playing collegiate soccer was attainable for him and his teammate.
“We thought you had to be (Division I) bound, professional (to play collegiate soccer),” Dixon said.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” Ramirez said.
They realized it was possible because they shared a common background with the new signees, they grew up playing for the Coastal Outreach Soccer Program.
COS has operated since 2004, starting out as a recreation level soccer programs for first-generation players and coaches, but has since increased its competitive threshold and expanded its resources.
Executive director Shawn Williams said the program is low-cost, and geared toward eliminating financial and transpirational barriers for young players who want to grow as soccer players in an environment similar to the traditional club soccer programs. In addition to coaching his alma mater’s varsity team, Szokoly also worked as a coach for COS.
Some players start almost as soon as they enter school. That was the case for Dixon, who was 7 years old when he first got involved with COS. He said soccer helped him channel energy into a productive “hobby,” and when he started cycling through different extracurricular clubs at school, soccer always stuck.
In sixth and seventh grade, Dixon started to recruit Ramirez, who had played recreational soccer for several years. At the age of 13, Ramirez went out for the COS team in his age bracket to get more focused coaching, and he was impressed with the level of player development the program had.
“I didn’t know how to (properly) kick a ball,” Ramirez said. “They taught me pretty much everything.”
The same can be said for Glynn Academy’s Truman Antah. The junior Red Terror is surrounded by teammates that play on various club teams, but he felt confident COS laid the groundwork to further develop as a player when he tried out for Glynn Academy.
“Without playing club soccer I don’t think I would have made the GA team,” Antah said. “We all have a different style of play and (Williams) helps us find out who we are as a player.”
Antah described the average COS roster as fairly diverse, mostly from lower- middle class backgrounds. Ramiriez said he and his family immigrated from Mexico when he was three years old, and he adopted English as his second language when he was fluent by the time he was in third grade. Dixon’s family also comes from an immigrant background, raised by his single mother from Guyana, who he said is his motivation to stay ambitious, whether its a soccer coach or a teacher giving him a lecture.
Both Ramirez and Dixon say organized soccer helped them open up socially — both describe themselves as introverts. Not only that, Williams said the teams grew up together and built a palpable sense of camaraderie.
“They’ve become bros,” Williams said. “They look out for each other on the field.”
The COS program started as a mode to help high school graduation rates, but since those early years, graduation rates of players currently or previously involved in the program have been at 100 percent, Williams said. Now he is deeply involved in helping former players try to fulfill their ambitions of earning scholarships and playing soccer at a higher level.
“(Williams has) been totally involved in helping us find college to play soccer at,” Dixon said. “Honestly, without coach Shawn, I probably wouldn’t have the opportunities I have today.”
Williams is familiar with his former players’ course loads. He helped them academically by guiding students to enroll in SAT prep courses and COMPASS tests for dual enrollment, allowing high school students to gain college credit by taking college classes off campus.
For the two Brunswick seniors, a crucial semester is still ahead of them as they narrow down scholarship opportunities. Ramirez said he has offers from University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie and Life University in Marietta, and Dixon is weighing an opportunity at Emory, and both Pirates intend to go to more camps to broaden their exposure.
Of course, there is still the varsity season left to play.
“We’re no joke,” Dixon added, post-interview. “BHS is coming for every team this year.”