UWF coach hopes to lead Jamaican national team to 2015 Women’s World Cup
Alicia Wilson’s account of how and why she has led such a fortunate life is poetic, sprung from a solitary rooftop near the water in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Wilson, an assistant coach for the University of West Florida women’s soccer team, captains the Jamaican national team that hopes to qualify for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. It would be their first-ever appearance in the tournament.
The Gold Cup, sponsored by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), is the region’s World Cup qualifying tournament and will take place at four venues. Jamaica’s opening-round games will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, beginning on Oct. 16.
If they advance, her team will continue to play in Chester, Pennsylvania—a long way, and many experiences, from that Caribbean rooftop. Wilson’s safe haven was perched in the midst of what she described as a ghetto.
“Normally, to get away from the craziness of life I would go up on top of my house and just sit and relax, clear my mind and talk to God,” Wilson said. “I didn’t know at the time who I was talking to, but once I found Jesus, I realized he was the one speaking to me.”
She said she longed for something, but what that was she did not know. She would say so when she withdrew to have her talks.
When Wilson was 16, she experienced a moment of inspiration during one of her answer-seeking sessions, she said. It prompted her to seek help from a business she could see on the street below her.
“While I was on top of my house, the thought came to me, ‘why don’t you write a letter to the owner, and explain to him—be honest with him—and let him know all you want to accomplish,’” she said.
“I sat there and wrote a letter that said we were poor … that I didn’t want to go straight to work after high school, that I aspired to do more.”
The next day, she went to the business and handed the letter off to a secretary, who delivered it to the owner. The owner read the letter and arranged to meet Wilson.
“When I went in there he said, ‘I’m going to adopt you as my daughter,’” she said.
Wilson, who at the time was part of the Jamaican national netball and volleyball teams, had an opportunity to attend a local college before her, but she did not have the means to pay for it.
That barrier was swept aside when Gordon Townsend, the recipient of the letter, wrote a check to cover the cost of attendance.
At that time there was nothing to suggest, other than her athletic prowess, that Wilson would have Jamaican national soccer history in her sights.
“I was at my college in Jamaica, and I’d normally go out and scrimmage with the guys,” Wilson said.
“The national team was camping at our college, and the guys went up to the coach and said, ‘We have a female player that plays with us … you have to take a look at her.’”
The coach agreed.
After watching her, Wilson was invited to the camp and subsequently made the team, despite having never played organized soccer.
She honed her skills in the same manner that she had conducted her soul-searching conversations: alone.
“I went into this big gymnasium, and I practiced,” Wilson said. “I’d pass the ball back and forth against the wall, dribble through some cones and try to come up with my own moves.
“So I really wasn’t coached,” she said. “I kind of taught myself.”
Her unorthodox training appeared to have worked.
Wilson was a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American at William Carey College. She also played semi-professional soccer in New Jersey and North Carolina. She played professionally in Iceland, where she was named one of the league’s top 11 players; and in 2004, she was selected as one of the top 18 players at the Olympic qualifying tournament alongside Mia Hamm.
Today, in addition to competing with her national team and coaching at UWF, she is married, is the mother of two daughters and lives part-time in Costa Rica, where her husband is from.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How do you do it?’” Wilson said. “It’s not easy to carry all of that, but I believe in God greatly. And He has been my source of strength.
“It’s not me,” she said. “It’s not me … I know it’s God who has done this because it’s just too perfect.”