Glenn's return a chance to play, teach
As a youngster, playing soccer came naturally to Jonathan Glenn. As he matured into a professional, the desire to spread his love for the game flows just as easily, too.
Among several stops, Glenn’s circuitous soccer journey has taken him from his native Trinidad and Tobago to Florida to Iceland and back to the Sunshine State as a forward with the Jacksonville Armada of the North American Soccer League.
Having also previously worked two years with the Camden Chamber of Commerce, he is delighted to be back in an area he calls home, not only to continue playing but also to help develop the next generation of kicking enthusiasts.
“Jacksonville, Camden, this whole northeast Florida and south Georgia is pretty much home to me now,” he said after directing a youth clinic last week at Yulee Middle School. “It’s really great to be back, meeting up with my old friends and coworkers.”
With many sports and other activities vying for a child’s free time, Glenn has a simple message for his students.
“Talking to the kids, it’s all about them having fun, making sure they come out here and have a great time and they want to keep playing,” he said.
One of soccer’s challenges in the U.S. is drawing newcomers to the game and keeping their interest between the times huge events like the World Cup and the Olympics are happening. The positives are many as the country tries to strengthen its soccer profile globally.
“If you look at the MLS (Major League Soccer) now, the amount of people in attendance is rivaling some of the biggest leagues in the world,” he said.
According to the team’s website, the Armada announced Glenn’s signing Feb. 7. He has started seven of 11 matches, and scored a goal April 29 against the Indy Eleven.
In addition to starring on the soccer field, Glenn earned degrees in marketing and psychology at St. Leo University near Tampa, Fla. He served as membership and marketing coordinator for the Camden chamber, building relationships and spreading the benefits of chamber affiliation.
“I really enjoyed meeting with business people and community leaders,” he said. “That taught me a lot. It helped me learn a lot about the business side of things, which now helps me in my own life.”
Glenn’s life in soccer began at about age 3 or 4. He also played cricket — another popular sport in the Caribbean — and basketball, “but soccer was always No. 1,” he said.
After receiving a scholarship to St. Leo in 2007, he netted 41 goals in 57 matches with the Lions. However, the route to the next level was “unique and non-traditional.”
“I was pretty much completely outside of the soccer world, then came back in, and my life just transformed after that,” he said.
Glenn played in the USL Premier Development League from 2008 to 2011 with the Panama City Pirates and Vermont Voltage. He spent the next two years with Jacksonville United — now the Armada’s under-23 team — and was an all-conference pick in 2013.
Following his work with the chamber, he spent three years in the Iceland Premier League with two teams, scoring 24 goals over 48 appearances and earning Goal of the Year honors in 2014 with an acrobatic bicycle kick.
He has also realized another career highlight by playing for the Trinidad and Tobago national side. In six appearances, he has notched a goal — against Mexico in a friendly before about 50,000 fans — and three assists.
“Playing for my country was my dream since I picked up a soccer ball,” he said. “When I got the call, that was one of the best moments of my life. I was able to play in the Gold Cup, which was an amazing experience.”
Glenn enjoyed his time in scenic Iceland, calling it “three of the best years of my life.” The country known for chilly temperatures has put a lot of resources into soccer, he said, and excitement there only increased after the men's team stunned England and reached the quarterfinals of the Euro 2016 tournament.
“It’s obviously cold, but in the summertime, it’s so beautiful, so much to see,” he said. “There are things you see in Iceland that are just mind-blowing, from the glaciers, volcanoes, to the lagoons. It’s just a nice place.”
Glenn wants to continue coaching as long as possible. Having held similar clinics in Iceland, he wants to do his part to help soccer become the top option for youngsters choosing a sport.
As he does so, he reflects on his own beginnings in a game which has offered him so much.
“I get so much from the kids,” he said. “It’s so rewarding. Every time I see a kid smile, I see a kid kicking a ball, it reminds me of when I was younger. It’s just something I can’t see myself not doing.”