When Coastal Outreach Soccer started 12 years ago as a collective effort between the Glynn County School System, Brunswick Recreational Department and local volunteers to provide a constructive after-school program students in the Head Start Program, executive director Shawn Williams and the COS coaches wanted to help change the lives of youths in the Golden Isles.
Soccer was the vehicle chosen to make that impact, but there were some hurdles that had to be cleared.
“In the beginning, you had a core group of coaches that have never played soccer,” Williams said. “We had to learn along the way how to help the kids with their technical ability and how to help them with their tactical awareness.
“All the coaches that we have are interested in impacting the youth in the community and we said ‘OK, we’re going to use soccer to do that.”
Others across the state and around the world have recognized just how impactful COS has been in the Isles. Williams was named 2016 Administrator of the Year by the Georgia State Soccer Association during its Georgia Soccer Annual General Meeting Awards Luncheon last week in Atlanta.
“To be recognized at the state level for the work that we’re doing for the kids and the community is a tremendous honor,” Williams said. “For us and for me, it was overwhelming because it definitely wasn’t expected. You don’t set out to win an award, you set out to work and deliver the best program you can.”
Williams was nominated by Ragan Flowers, a parent who has children in the COS program.
“Our girls are learning so much more than soccer and it is all because of Coach Shawn,” Flowers said in a release from COS. “We love and appreciate he and his wife for everything they pour into our girls.”
COS has multiple programs including its Academy Program, which emphasizes the complete development of youth between the ages of 4 and 11 years old and uses soccer as a learning environment with positive mentors in the form of coaches and parents. There is also Our Time, which keeps girls involved in activities that encourage cultural enrichment, empowerment and physical fitness, and an education initiative called Beyond the Horizon that puts a focus on academics through college preparation, career exploration and leadership development opportunities.
“Our club is about the development of children and gives them an environment where they are able to grow as individuals and be able to communicate to us what their life goals are,” Williams said. “We set out to help them accomplish their goals. Soccer happens to be the way we keep them involved for a number of years to allow that change to occur in their lives and also allows us to provide the guidance they need in their lives.”
Coastal Outreach Soccer has grown at a slow pace for a long time, something Williams attributed to “a lot of people not knowing what we’re all about.” But as the information about the work COS is doing has spread, that growth has taken off in the last year.
“Over the last year, the pace of the growth has increased,” Williams said. “The number of individuals at schools are saying ‘how do we become involved’ has also increased.”
COS’s reach has moved beyond America’s borders. Williams said coaches from Brazil, Spain, other European countries and the Caribbean have reached out to ask how COS maintains its focus on development instead of winning.
“We’ve been able to communicate to others what we’ve done,” Williams said. “We’ve done some of the simplest things I think is possible to do, but it’s turned into this wonderful club and a wonderful outlet for the kids in our community.”
Up next for COS is a reward for students who have excelled in the classroom. Next week, COS will recognize its Big Play Slay Academic All-American award winners with a kayaking trip provided by Southeast Adventures. The trip is a reward for students in the eighth through 12th grade who made the all A or A and B honor roll last semester. The award is named after Brunswick High graduate and Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay, who is also helping with the clubs first major fundraiser coming up soon.