Chris Rowland’s world football journey has brought him home to the north of the country.
The former Immaculate Heart Central star was named coach of the Jefferson Community College women’s team last week. Rowland succeeds longtime coach David Bowhall, who recently retired.
Rowland played one season for JCC before moving to Nazareth College, where he was Empire 8 player of the week several times during his three seasons with the Golden Flyers.
Rowland has traveled the world to play the sport he loves, as he traveled to Thailand to play for Vatican FC. He was about to enter law school at the time, but decided to give his favorite sport another chance.
“A friend of mine and I talked about everything and we just decided to give it a go,” Rowland said.
Playing abroad was a big change for Rowland as he was blown away by a number of the differences. It took him a while to get used to the way the game was played in Southeast Asia.
“It was definitely culture shock,” Rowland said. “We were playing on sad or damaged grounds and some players did not have shoes.”
He played six months in Thailand before having to return home when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Rowland was sad to have to leave, but understood why.
“At the time, I was definitely disappointed,” Rowland said. “But we didn’t want to get stuck in a foreign country when COVID started. “
Rowland has put his pursuit of a law career in the background as he pursues his football career. He was hired part-time at JCC to help with the registration desk and then showed interest in coaching soccer if a position arose.
“I told the sports office if any of the positions were open let me know,” Rowland said.
Rowland acknowledges that the coming season will be a challenge as he takes the job less than two months before the start of the 2021 season. The fact that Cannoneer’s men’s and women’s schedules haven’t had a 2020 season also hurts, but Rowland hopes to field a team for the next campaign.
“It’s going to be tough considering what time I’m getting into the process,” Rowland said. “However, I don’t mind a challenge.”
The Mid-State Conference roster will also be a challenge to deal with perennial powers such as Herkimer County Community College and Onondaga Community College. However, Rowland will work on his extensive connections in the region. One of those people he relies on is his former high school coach, Mary Guyette. She’s been a big help before, according to Rowland.
“She’s an absolutely fantastic coach,” Rowland said of Guyette, who is back in charge of the girls’ program at Lyme. “I was lucky to have been an assistant with her and I learned a lot.
Despite all the challenges of building a squad, Rowland looks forward to the season ahead. He can’t wait for August training to begin.
“It’s going to be fun when practices start and I can’t wait to go,” Rowland said. In the meantime, a lot of football is on his plate. He currently plays for SouthJeff FC in the United Premier Soccer League, which is the region’s premier professional development team. Rowland is also the Head Coach of the Victory Bulldogs Travel Team and the IHC Boys Program Assistant. He is also director and coach of the SouthJeff FC Developmental Academy.