Real Growth: Kenyatta Watson and the Gwinnett Youth Football Association
- Written on Monday, 09 January 2012
- Written by Steve D'Elia
(Youth1) - When Kenyatta Watson was a wide receiver at Boston College he really made a name for himself. He was a strong willed teammate and skilled player, who achieved a lot of success with his fellow Eagles. He even had his photo in Life Magazine. Now, almost two decades later, Watson is the founder and president of the Gwinnett Youth Football Association and he’s using his skills to enhance the lives of his players and community.
Celebrating its 2nd season, the Gwinnett Youth Football Association in Gwinnett County, Georgia has grown from a singular traveling team to a 12 team league, supporting the play of over 280 players and 60 cheerleaders. With two sequential Georgia state high school championship teams hailing from Gwinnett County, the tradition of football was ripe for further initiation. “Gwinnett County is very strong in the state of Georgia for football,” Watson said. “We’re not far from the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech, so it’s a hot bed for football with a lot of talent.”
Watson has taken the passion for the game among the Gwinnett County youth athletes and turned it into a league with burgeoning involvement. In addition, his team of 10 year olds has built experience and a strong reputation as road warriors. “We’ll travel and play anybody,” Watson said. “We played Deion Sanders’ team last year as well as teams in Maryland, Ohio and elsewhere to get the kids exposure and a chance to play.”
While having this kind of skill-set surplus is a dream come true for most coaches, it’s not nearly the most important aspect of Watson’s program. Rather than aiming to create a dominant football team, the player-turned coach is attempting to create something much more profound; a factory of men and women with excellent character and motivation. “I’ve implemented a program that stresses education and community most of all,” said Watson. “I’m a huge football fan, but I’m realistic. I understand that not everybody is going to play football, but I know there’s a place for everybody in life.”
With this in mind, Coach Watson preaches the importance of leadership, compassion and understanding. When a series of tornadoes hit northern Georgia in March of 2011, Watson and his team brought toys for the kids affected by the disaster. In addition, the Gwinnett Youth Football Association offers tutoring, free language lessons, college visits and more to kids not just involved in the program, but from all over the Metro Atlanta area.
“I opened my program up to all kids because I care about all kids getting an education,” Watson said. “I just wanted to give back to the community because someone took the time to volunteer with me growing up, so I wanted to do the same.”
That guide he referred to is a high school football coach named Kenneth Sullivan, who arrived as the coach of Watson’s team during an unsuccessful rough patch. Despite having great athletes, the team was down on themselves and had no pride. They wondered why they kept losing to teams with slower athletes, but when Coach Sullivan arrived, he taught them about fundamentals, being team players and achieving goals. “The values that he instilled in us are things that I stand by to this day,” said Watson. “Fundamentals and discipline will get you a long way.” As a testament to the power of mentorship, Watson emphasized the continuing relationship with his old ball coach decades later.
When Kenyatta Watson was snatching spirals out of the air and weaving through defenders during his days in high school, college and the pros, it was a manifestation of not only his talent, but the dedication of his instructors, admirers and acquaintances. It is in that spirit that Watson carries himself as a head coach, today. Now a married father of five, with a league about to jump from 12 to possibly 26 teams in a single season, Watson puts the attention to others before himself. “Sports are just a small caveat,” Watson said. “We want people to know that the Gwinnett Chargers are about building character and growing kids from the inside out.”
By Steve D'Elia
"Devoted to Youth Sports"
Get insider access! To read the rest of this article & other premium content,
please click on one of the Press Pass Options below.
|Have a PRESS PASS? Sign in Below!|