As the start of the domestic football season in Jamaica draw closer, Maliek Howell, one of Jamaica’s brightest young prospects, is taking his game to the next level in a new environment.
Howell, last year’s Manning Cup and Olivier Shield winning captain for Jamaica College, left the island recently to take up a scholarship from the University of New Mexico in the United States.
Jamaica, while good at producing quality young football talent, has fallen short of harnessing that talent to excel at the world level or to transition successfully to the senior ranks. A significant part of that is a failure to foster an environment and a culture that is conducive for proper nurturing.
It has been just two months since the 19 year old left the island, but he is already enjoying the more professional football environment in the US.
“Players here are just as talented as Jamaicans, but they work really hard without complaining. They don’t complain and argue while playing, they either encourage or try again,” said Howell in an interview with Sports At Your Fingertips.
While he believes the coaching styles are similar, he points out fitness as an area of greater emphasis in the American game.
“It’s more systematic than just going to train and being given fitness where everyone does the same thing,” he added.
Instead, he noted that every individual player’s fitness regimen is determined by their individual fitness level.
“Here everyone has different fitness levels coming into the preseason, and they find that out by running a fitness test at the start. They would use your current fitness to tell how you go about your training sessions when we do a fitness exercise like every other day or two, Howell revealed.
They have a program that you do every day before and after every session that they use to see the progress of your body and where it is at on a day to day basis,” said Howell while calling it a rare occurrence, if such a method even exists in Jamaica’s current football landscape.
While facing some unexpected obstacles so far on his new journey, the gifted right back continues to learn as he gets used to the life of a college athlete.
He credits some of his former schoolboy football teammates, who have traveled the college football road that he is currently on, with giving him sound advice and urging him to continue keeping his focus and working hard as he had always done to make the time a success.
Howell, who was an integral part of the ‘Dark Blues’ five straight Manning Cup and Olivier Shield triumphs, also credits his time at JC for adequately equipping him with the leadership skills and maturity needed to take on his new journey.
He says it has made it easier for him to settle into a new environment with new teammates.
The Lobos open their season tomorrow in what is likely their final season competing in the NCAA following a recent vote by the school’s Regents to suspend the program in July 2019 citing budget shortfalls.
Howell will be watching from the stands after deciding to redshirt his freshman year and sit out the entire season.
While he did not give a reason for the decision to redshirt, the young Reggae Boy is confident that he will still have opportunities to grow his game despite not playing.