June 10, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Javier Esquivel and A.J. Foster want to build something.
As veteran soccer players and coaches, Esquivel and Foster understand boys and girls can''t become world-class players with the snap of two fingers.
But the new Columbus High School boys soccer coaches want players, parents, and fans to know they plan to put a process in place that will help the Falcons learn how to play the game and to develop into better players.
Esquivel, the owner of Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, was approved Monday to become Columbus High''s new boys soccer coach.
"It is a pleasure for me to be here," Esquivel said. "It is an excellent program, and I love the sport."
Esquivel will serve as the coach of the boys team, while Foster, a Ph.D. student at Mississippi State, will be a volunteer assistant coach.
Esquivel replaces Richard Martin, who stepped down after three seasons as coach. Martin helped the Falcons improve from three, to nine, to 11 victories in that stretch and had the program on the verge of making the Class 5A playoffs this season.
Martin cited a desire to spend more time with his family as reason for his resignation.
Esquivel owns Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant in Columbus. He grew up in Mexico and played sweeper on several semi-pro teams in that country in his late teens and early 20s.
From there, Esquivel played at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga from 1994-97. He was named team MVP all three seasons.
Since moving to Columbus, Esquivel has sponsored and/or coached several Parks and Recreation teams. Last year, he assisted Foster with a Division II Select boys soccer team with the Golden Triangle Futbol Club in Starkville.
Esquivel''s son, Matt, is a rising sophomore midfielder on the Columbus High varsity team.
Esquivel believes he and Foster will be able to give players an experienced, well-rounded approach to the game. He said the program has talent and needs to work to improve those skills.
"Soccer is a process. You have to know the language of soccer and what it is about," Esquivel said. "We understand the language of soccer on the field. We make a big combination on the field (when they play together on a team in Tupelo). We want the best for them in the future."
Foster, who grew up in Jamaica, holds and bachelor''s and a master''s degree from MSU. His primary position was striker playing for Dinthill Technical High School and for the Tropical Mystic, a Division II team, when he was 15.
He played amateur soccer for three years in Baton Rouge, La.
Foster holds a state "E" coaching license and is working to complete his National "D" coaching license. He has worked as a youth soccer coach in Starkville since 2005.
"We have a lot of experience playing and coaching soccer," Foster said. "The problem with most of these kids is that they don''t play soccer every day. Coming from the countries we''re from, we played every day. We developed the technique and had coaches. These guys don''t have that and are at a big disadvantage. But we''re going to work hard with them and we''re going to try to give them as many opportunities to play as we can and get people to help us as much as we can. At the end of the day, it comes down to their desire to play."
Dr. Del Phillips, superintendent of the Columbus Municipal School District, said the school board approved Esquivel''s hiring Monday night.
Phillips conducted the search for a new coach with Columbus High Athletic Director Paul Henry. Henry left the district earlier this month to become principal at New Site High School.
"We felt like he had the best soccer knowledge of the game of anyone we could have," Phillips said. "We wanted to try to increase our players'' knowledge of the game and their skill level."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.