Training would be a little different today for the Bellwood Boys and Girls Cup, a Soccer in the Streets community-based program, on Thursday, May 3. As the players started to gather around the field a new player joined the group - Atlanta United player Romario Williams.
Williams, in his first season with United and third in MLS, joined training and spoke with the players about his soccer journey from Jamaica to North America and making it as a professional athlete.
The 23-year old Portmore, Jamaica native started his career at the age of three. Raised in a soccer-oriented family, he followed his passion for the game that has taken him from his home country to college at the University of Central Florida to the professional ranks as well as onto the international stage as a member of the Jamaican National Team.
“If you love the sport to keep playing. Act on it with the same confidence and motivation, just as you would in the classroom. If this is something you want as your career then take the necessary work to be successful,” Williams told the Soccer in the Street youth players.
For Williams, the biggest positive is that he has been able to realize his dream of becoming a professional athlete. That dream allows for him to take care of his entire family, not only his kids and his wife but his parents, too.
But it hasn’t been an easy road.
On the field, the game in Jamaica was more physical and more difficult than in the United States. He learned how to play “street soccer” back home, which helped him adapt to the soccer culture in America. So, he is able to relate to the youth players at Soccer in the Streets because he understands what is involved in adapting to different cultures as well as different styles of play.
The transition was also challenging off the field has had to leave his family and friends to pursue his soccer dream. He also had to adapt to a number of different cultures throughout his journey from college in Florida to play in the USL in South Carolina to play in Montreal, before landing in Atlanta this season. But thanks to a support of teammates and coaches over the course of his journey, he’s been able to handle the many changes. He also turned to his faith to provide him strength and guidance through the process.
One other key has been the Five P’s motto: proper preparation prevents poor performance. These five P’s have been instrumental in his success.
For the Bellwood Boys and Girls Club, that only started seven months ago in November 2017, having a professional player come and meet with them was inspirational.
“Romario William’s appearance at the Bellwood Boys and Girls Club was a great experience for the kids in the program,” said Toussaint McClure, Soccer in the Streets, Community Program. “Most of the kids in the program started playing soccer last November and have never seen a professional soccer game. Williams connected with the kids on a personal level when he talked about his background, and his presence at the Bellwood practice inspired the kids to continue playing soccer for years to come.”
The Soccer in the Streets Bellwood program started in November 2017. The purpose of the program is to give kids access to soccer in a community that is dominated by basketball and football. Most of the kids in the Bellwood program had never played soccer before the program was launched and it has been a pleasure seeing their progression over the past six months. For the spring season, the Bellwood Falcons, coached by Ermias Sium and Muhoza Valence, practiced twice a week and played two games against the Soccer in the Streets Oakland City Raiders.