Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe
Adrian Kawuba is determined to make a difference – and he’s starting with the Brighton boys soccer team. The former professional soccer player, entrepreneur and new coach will stop at nothing to make sure his players get to college, whether they’re playing soccer or not.
“I’m trying to help these guys look beyond a city championship, but college,” he said. “I want to increase the number [of players] that go to college. Not just soccer, the entire athletic department. I want to change their outlook. No more just, ‘after high school I may go to college.’ I want them to say ‘where am I going to go?’”
The 23-year-old’s passion for soccer and academics is evident from his background. The Uganda native would play from morning until night, and that didn’t stop when he moved to the US at the age of 12. He continued to play at his high school, Lexington Christian Academy and earned a scholarship to play for Drew University. He received many awards during his time at Drew and assisted the team in winning two championships. From there, he signed with the New Jersey Rangers, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Uganda’s Under-23 national league, and finally, with Boston, to play for Mass United.
“For me it’s always been more than soccer,” he said. “It’s been my outlet to keep out of trouble. It was my safe haven. I loved being on the soccer field. With some of the boys it’s somewhat of a similar situation where they’re really trying to use soccer as a platform, whether it’s aspirations for college or whatever else they have in my mind.”
While Kawuba graduated with a degree in finance and even secured a job in the field, he quickly determined that he couldn’t stray from the sport and the players. Utilizing his coaching and athletic experience, he started his own company, AK Sportgroups. The company organizes camps and clinics for boys and girls of all ages in various sports. Many players in the Boston public schools league trained with AK Sportsgroups this past summer.
He also created Mix Up Video Productions, a sports video company that produces recruitment videos for kids that want to play in college. This venture was designed especially for city players, who don’t get as much coverage as public school athletes.
“I want to provide structured programs for these guys and make chances for them to play in college,” he said. “That shouldn’t just be limited to kids in prep schools.”
Making sure that city students get the chance to show off their talent to colleges is what lead Kawuba to coach for Brighton.
“I saw that I would give more value to Brighton than prep schools that already have these programs,” he said. “I’m already talking to [the players] about college. A lot of them ask about college. I hope to help them make it happen.”
Kawuba also sees a bit of himself in the boys, making his transition to the Boston public school system even smoother.
“I feel that some of these boys connect with me,” he said. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family at all but I had a passion for sports. I want to play any part in helping them achieve their goals. Having gone through high school and college playing the same sport, I think I can make a difference.”
The difference is already evident. The team plays cohesively. The players support each other after each play, even if it’s unsuccessful. Their rapport with each other and Kawuba is positive and upbeat.
They chant “family” before taking the field.
“It’s my first year playing,” junior Lizandro Noqueira said. “He motivated me and helped me out since the first day. He’s a great coach and a great person.”
Kawuba’s coaching approach even benefits the players off the field.
“Generally the guys are very skillful players,” he said, “but they need to be fit. Core work and stretching, even nutrition. Little things like that, educating these guys on being a better athlete has benefits. They’ll say ‘coach I had a burger today, is that OK with training?’”
It’s obvious by looking at the team that the players look up to Kawuba and want his approval just as much as he wants theirs.
“I love my coach,” sophomore Wilson Sousa said. “He’s the best [coach] I’ve ever had. He’s disciplined and experienced. He’s always trying to get me to improve and do my best.”
While Kawuba would be thrilled if Brighton made it to the playoffs, it isn’t his biggest concern.
“I want to make a difference with something they can relate to,” he said. “My goal is to inspire the boys and show them that you can do what you love doing.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.