Jun. 27—Chris Rowland's worldwide soccer journey has led him back home in the north country.
The former Immaculate Heart Central standout was named coach of the Jefferson Community College women's team last week. Rowland takes over for longtime coach David Bowhall, who recently stepped away.
Rowland played one season for JCC before transferring to Nazareth College, where he was a multiple-time Empire 8 Player of the Week during his three seasons with the Golden Flyers.
Rowland has traveled the world to pursue the sport he loves, as he went to Thailand to play for Vatican FC. He was close to entering law school at the time, but decided to give his favorite sport another go.
"One of my friends and I got to talking about everything and we just decided to give it a shot," Rowland said.
Playing overseas was a big change for Rowland, as he was stunned by a number of differences. It took awhile for him to get used to how the game was played in Southeast Asia.
"It was definitely a culture shock," Rowland said. "We were playing on fields that were sad or beat up and some of the players didn't have shoes."
He played six months in Thailand before having to return home when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Rowland was sad he had to leave, but understood why.
"At the time, I was certainly disappointed," Rowland said. "But we didn't want to get stuck in foreign country at the start of COVID."
Rowland has stuck his pursuit of law career in the background while he continues his soccer career. He was hired part-time at JCC to help out in the enrollment office and then showed interest in coaching soccer should a position open.
"I told the athletic office that if one of the jobs came open, to let me know," Rowland said.
Rowland acknowledges the upcoming season is going to be a challenge due to him taking the job less than two months before the 2021 season is slated to start. The fact both the Cannoneer men's and women's programs did not have a 2020 season also hurts, but Rowland is hopeful to field a squad for the upcoming campaign.
"It's going to be difficult considering how late in the process I'm coming in," Rowland said. "However, I don't mind a challenge."
The Mid-State Conference slate will also be a challenge in dealing with perennial powers like Herkimer County Community College and Onondaga Community College. However, Rowland will be working his vast connections in the area. One of those people he's relying on is his former high school coach, Mary Guyette. She has already been a big help, according to Rowland.
"She's an absolutely fantastic coach," Rowland said of Guyette, who is back in charge of the Lyme girls program. "I've been fortunate to have been an assistant with her and I've learned a lot."
Despite all the challenges of putting together a team, Rowland is looking forward to the upcoming season. He can't wait for August practice to begin.
"It's going to be fun when practice starts and I can't wait to get out there," Rowland said. In the meantime, plenty of soccer is on his plate. He currently plays for the SouthJeff FC of the United Premier Soccer League, which is this area's first pro development team. Rowland is also a head coach for the Victory Bulldogs travel team and is an assistant for the IHC boys program. He also serves as the SouthJeff FC Developmental Academy director and coach.