Young Girlz striker Atkinson balancing books and ball
ACADEMIA and sport are often inescapable elements of an organised and progressive life.
A strong education is one of the safest paths to a successful career, and regular exercise benefit both physical and mental health. However, a synergy of the two is not always easy.
From a young age Natoya Atkinson has been passionate about playing football — and she has pursued her passion. The national representative recently received a scholarship to study and play football at Seaward County Community College (SCCC), a public community college in Liberal, Kansas, United States.
The full two-year scholarship was jointly contributed by Umjo Management and Fraszier’s Whip Football Club and will see Atkinson departing the island today to start a new chapter in her football career.
Receiving a scholarship to play overseas means that Atkinson is one step closer to achieving her goal of becoming a professional football player. While this is great news, Atkinson said she has to be focused on preparing herself to study as well, as this opportunity is a life changer for her.
“I feel very excited about this scholarship because this opportunity is one that can change my life completely,” Atkinson told the Jamaica Observer.
“I want to go on and play professional football, as that is my dream. It is not only just about football [however], it is about education as well and so I have to be focused in everything that I do.
“I play centre forward because I love scoring goals; and I believe that this is my break, this is my moment, and I will treasure it and do my best because your best is always good enough,” said Atkinson who scored 27 of Denham Town High’s 35 goals in the recent high school girls’ football competition.
Atkinson, who has represented Jamaica at the Under-14, Under-15, and Under-20 levels, also expressed a desire to play on the senior national team.
“Every time I put on the national colours I represent everybody in Jamaica and so I always give my best. One of my dreams is to play for [the] senior Reggae Girlz; I would one day love to play alongside Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw.
“I am proud of their performance at the recent Fifa World Cup, which can only serve as an inspiration for us young players. It motivates me to do good because I also want to make history,” the 18-year-old Fraszier’s Whip sensation remarked.
Atkinson also made mention ofthe people behind her development — Kimathi-Nkrumah Makonnen, former Denham Town football coach; Delano Campbell, current Denham Town High School football coach; Xavier Gilbert, Excelsior High School football coach; Michael Lowe, assistant manager at Fraszier’s Whip; mother Lotoya Brown and father Dwayne Atkinson.
Gilbert, who was key in obtaining the scholarship for Atkinson, encourages her to take advantage of the opportunity and flourish.
“We know how gifted she is and what she is capable of. She has done well for Jamaica, her high school, and the Fraszier’s Whip squad, and it is now up to her to focus, keep working hard, and go out and give a good account of herself.
“She has represented Jamaica at all levels, and we just hope that she takes advantage of this opportunity to continue to grow and make the transition to represent us at the senior level. I hope she goes on to a four-year school after she finishes and does well,” Gilbert said.
According to Campbell, this is a significant opportunity for Atkinson’s personal development as well as the community of Denham Town.
“The opportunity is one that we have been working on for a long time with her Coach Kimathi-Nkrumah Makonnen, who is migrated to Africa. We have been with her from the inception, from her development coming right through Under-14, Under-17, and Under-20 — and now she is ready for the transition into the senior ranks.
“Prior to that, at the high school level we have been working with her under the Umjo Management, and so for her to get this opportunity — which is our fourth girl from Denham Town in one year that we have gotten a scholarship for — Atkinson, with all the talent she has, we needed the education to help back her up,” he said.