Members of the Coastal Outreach Soccer team help reconfigure guard posts on the athletic fields at Howard Coffin Park in Brunswick.

Provided photo

Members of the Coastal Outreach Soccer program are pitching in to help reconfigure and improve the athletic field at Brunswick’s Howard Coffin Park to accommodate the team’s continued growth.

Team members have already helped complete the first of six phases of improvements on the field with the help of a church group out of Tennessee.

The first phase involved helping with moving 45 guard posts to reconfigure the field from the 80 yard by 60 yard, east-west configuration to a 120 yard by 70 yard, north-south configuration.

Eunice Quartey, 15, a sophomore at Glynn Academy was part of the action.

“The posts are heavy,” Quartey said. “It was hard work but I felt pretty good about it because it was for a good cause. I’ve been on the team three-and-a-half years. I feel Coastal Outreach is a good program because it is not just about soccer it’s about family. We stick up for each other and support and love each other like family. It’s a great environment for youth.”

Rather than seeing their labor to help improve the athletic field as an unfair burden, the young participants, who are from low income households, see it as an opportunity to make things better for future members and a way to give back to their community.

“We’ve been blessed to have a great group of young people,” said Shawn Williams, executive director of the Coastal Outreach Soccer program. “We’ve always looked at the kids as being part of the club in every phase and taking ownership of it. They welcome an opportunity to engage and we’ve never forced them to do anything and they are always willing to give back to the club.”

The new positioning of the posts will serve as a buffer to protect the field from vehicles driving onto it.

The remaining field improvement work includes relocating the bleachers and concrete slab, using fill dirt to level the field, seeding and grass treatment and fencing the area around the field to protect the surface.

Started in 2004 as a collaborative effort between the Glynn County School System, Brunswick Recreation Department and local volunteers as a way to provide a constructive, after-school program for students in the Head Start Program, Coastal Outreach Soccer now serves youths from 4-18 years old.

By 2005 the program was providing activities for 60 under-served and underprivileged youth annually. Today, teams play at a competitive level against clubs with far more resources and larger player pools. Despite that fact, Coastal Outreach teams won Georgia Parks and Recreation titles in 2011 and 2012 and continue to compete well against soccer clubs throughout South Georgia and North Florida.

Program growth has gone from traditionally serving 60 to 70 youth a year, to serving 90 since March.

With soccer as a learning environment, the program focuses on youth development by way of cultural enrichment, empowerment, physical fitness, academic achievement, college preparation, career exploration and leadership development.

Educational mentoring is a core ingredient of the program and has helped Coastal players remain on track academically and has played a part in the number of players to earn full athletic scholarships upon graduation.

Quartey added that Williams makes sure team members have good grades in order to play.

“He checks our grades and gives awards to those of us on the honor roll,” Quartey said. “Recently, we went kayaking and he bought us pizza. We met Darius Slay, (corner back with NFL’s Detroit Lions) it was fun because I’ve never met a famous person before.”

An integral part of the soccer organization since its inception, Williams often will go beyond the program’s natural reach using his own time and resources to ensure participants have the tools and experiences to become well-rounded individuals with the ability to contribute to society.

Williams said the goal is to have the athletic field ready for the fall season.

“We’ve always had public, private funding to help us. By helping to do the work, players learn that by the sweat of ones brow, you can create or change (your) situation,” Williams said.