A new futsal pitch at Perry Park is a testament to the progress Coastal Outreach Soccer has made as an organization focused on enriching the lives of young people.
COS unveiled the pitch Thursday in an event that was a little marred by rain but otherwise festive and full of energy.
The new courthouse was built with the support of grants provided by the Atlanta United Foundation’s Georgia 100 Project.
Futsal is a form of indoor football played on a hard surface between two teams of five players each, one of whom is a goalkeeper.
Perry Park’s outdoor court, converted from a double tennis court, measures 84 feet by 50 feet with a flexible surface that is more forgiving than wood or concrete.
Atlanta United players – Machop Chol, Thiago Almada, Brad Guzan and George Campbell – and executive staff attended the opening ceremony and took part in the official first kick alongside COS players, alumni and local supporters of the program.
Atlanta United Foundation announced the Georgia 100 project in 2020, and COS was among the first four organizations to receive a grant to build new football fields.
“This futsal pitch was based on the need Coastal Outreach Soccer saw in the community,” said Alec Queisser, community relations manager for Atlanta United.
The Georgia 100 Project offered a one-for-one matching grant and promised to fund up to $75,000 if COS secured the individual match.
A $67,500 grant from the Atlanta United Foundation was matched with $100,000 raised by COS.
The foundation’s goal with the Georgia 100 Project is to reduce barriers for young gamers who live in low-income or underserved communities.
“We want football to be accessible to anyone who wants to be able to pick up a football and score a goal,” Queisser said.
COS’s mission to provide cohesive programming and enhance the academic skills of their students stands out and has made the program a worthy recipient of foundation funding, Queisser said.
“They are perfect beneficiaries to work with, not only to work in the field, but also to ensure that the children succeed and can go to university or high school,” he said.
Darius Slay Jr., Philadelphia Eagles cornerback, four-time professional NFL bowler and longtime COS supporter, also attended the ceremony.
“It’s nice,” he commented standing next to the new enclosed courtyard. “It’s the first time I’ve seen him in person because I’m in season. I like him.”
Slay added that he envisions the new land as a place where students can hone their skills without having to travel to facilities far from home.
After the first official kick, the opening ceremony continued in the gymnasium of Burroughs-Molette Elementary School next door, where kids of all ages played indoor soccer wearing their new lime green shoes and COS black t-shirts provided free of charge to all attendees. They played with Atlanta United soccer balls that all students were able to take home.
COS started in 2004 with around 15 students and has since grown to serve many more players and to provide more opportunities for enrichment such as through STEM and other programs.
As the after-school program has grown, local support and opportunities to enhance programming through donations like those from the Atlanta United Foundation have also increased.
“It’s a special opportunity, and it’s a special honor for me to be able to be here and to be able to celebrate with (COS Executive Director and Founder Shawn Williams) his vision,” said Acting Mayor Felicia Harris. of Brunswick, who spoke at the ceremony. “And that’s just a small percentage of the vision Shawn had.”
Looking at the students sitting on the gymnasium floor, Harris noted that they are the future of this community.
“These wonderful young people are our future, and it shows us the umbrella of the community,” she said. “It shows us the diversity that we have in this city and in this county, and it should show all of us as adults what we can accomplish and what we can do when we put aside all our differences and we put those things that are not important aside.
Reading a proclamation from the mayor’s office, Harris declared March 24, 2022 to be “Coastal Community Soccer Day.”
“Coastal Outreach Soccer’s educational mentorship is an essential ingredient to the future success of all participants,” Harris read. “This includes the ability for students to earn athletic and academic scholarships after graduating from high school.”
Williams thanked the city and several other program supporters, including the Brunswick Housing Authority, Honeywell Corporation, H20 and the Atlanta United Foundation.
“It wouldn’t be possible without the Georgia 100 program,” he said. “…We are grateful for everything.”
Many details of the futsal pitch demonstrate the global nature of COS’ vision.
“I hope we inspire them to think about what’s available after high school, what’s your passion, how do I find that?” said Williams. “How can I find my passion?”
The new futsal pitch is more than a football pitch, Williams said. It is a place where students will find inspiration.
“We want to immerse them in their discovery,” he said. “And we’ll be there to guide them through that.”