The Center's pitch: One big family
As another adult basketball season came to an end Wednesday night with third ranked Team Mike Walter & Associates capturing the championship against the top seed Team Beach to Bay, the thought of what made adult co-ed soccer so much different than any other adult recreational sport at The Center filled my mind.
During the 365 days of the year, as many as five different sports might be forming leagues, but soccer stands out in my mind as the one that is different. There is a spirit that fills the air at the field that no other sport brings. It is the one sport that calls out to so many, even those who have never played before.
When the adult co-ed soccer league started in the fall of 2010, the pitch was filled with mostly holdovers from the fall flag football league, a sprinkling from the Island's pickup soccer group and a few odds and ends players who happened to hear about the new league. With many husband-wife pairings and very few dedicated goalies, the league was mostly for fun, but still had the competitive fire that every game at any level should have. Many individuals dusted off their boots from high school and college, and some like me borrowed their children's cleats.
The league soon caught fire, attracting more players from the Island area, eventually going from a once a year event to two seasons each year. In its 12th season and nearly 80 players strong, the league continues, but with a sense of family and competitiveness different than year one.
Now the family is within the league – the Island soccer family. This family is accepting of new people, fights hard on the field, but makes up at Slim's Place afterward with hugs of brotherhood and sisterhood.
As I look at my team this season, it is the prime example of the family accepting of all. Team Ross Built is comprised of Greg Ross, who grew up on the Island playing sports all of his life, but Ross put away his soccer cleats for 30 years before playing again with the pickup group on Sunday evenings.
Ross and I played in the inaugural soccer season at what was then known as the Anna Maria Island Community Center. For me, however, soccer was a new sport. As a competitive gymnast in my youth, team sports were not my thing. In fact, I broke my thumb playing soccer during PE in the second grade. That was my lasting memory coming into the league.
Not knowing the rules or having any skill whatsoever, I was still accepted on my team with Lyn Clark at the helm and Enrico Beissert by his side cheering me on. Clark, my stern soccer father, was not easy on me. We joke to this day about my dismal attempt to throw in a soccer ball followed by the verbal punishment handed out by Clark. A lesson I will never forget and a bond that will never be broken.
Team Ross Built is comprised of other players who have played in the past as youth and played for fun as adults. Friends on and off the field, Max Gazzo, Chris Circharo and Connor Bystrom were brought back together on the same team at The Center. Cicharo, owner of a landscape maintenance company, played soccer while at Manatee High School, and Bystrom continued to play for fun while in veterinarian school in Grenada. Like so many, Gazzo, project manager at Ross Built Construction, played on the Island as a kid only to return years later as an adult.
Stetson Matthews brought his soccer skills from Montana to the Island this year to add to the team skill set. Former league team captain Kevin Roman, who works in the pharmaceutical sales industry, has played soccer for years, including his time at Manatee High School and his competitive club play for the Braden River Soccer Club. Rainia Lardas, youth leadership and environmental programs coordinator at The Center, shares her youth soccer playing experience on the adult field for Team Ross Built for the second season.
Ben Carpenter, emergency medical professional, and Sean McCarthy, former New York City detective, round out the team for the first time this season. Before playing at The Center, neither had played soccer. Carpenter, Circharo's brother-in-law, was an all-state swimmer in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle. McCarthy played college and semi-pro rookie baseball. He also played hockey while in high school and later as an adult. Both Carpenter and McCarthy are a force to be reckoned with as goalies, using their athletic talents outside of their comfort zone.
Team Ross Built exemplifies what can be found throughout the Island league. Each of the eight teams is comprised of players from all walks of life and varying skill levels. The construction industry abounds in the league, not only with Ross Built Construction, but also with Mason Martin, Eason Builders Group, Wash Family Construction, and players Matt Kretzmann, Richard Fosmore, John Coleman, Shawn Kaleta, Nate Talucci and Ryan Moss.
Realtors bring their A-game to the field every Thursday represented by Charles Buky, Heidi Johnston, and Jason Sato. All walks of life from engineers to dentists, chefs to educators, personal trainers to financial planners, attorneys to hair stylists, and those in between are welcome at The Center to play the international game.
The family that is community center soccer takes individuals from coast to coast and nation to nation and puts them on the pitch every week for competitive fun. While a good majority of the players have been on Anna Maria Island for most or all of their lives, many join us from across the United States and other countries.
Germany seems to dominate the field with Beissert, Oliver Petereit, Alfred Klotz, Chris Klotz, and Olaf Krause. The United Kingdom makes its presence with Clark and Aaron Parkin, as does Turkey with veteran players Kris Yavalar and Murat Akay. Central and South America has a field presence as well.
The mix of native locals, islanders who have transplanted their roots to Anna Maria from near and far, experienced soccer players and newbies who just love the sport and the people gives the Island soccer league something that no other sport at The Center has. The league is a unique family brought together by the common thread that ties us all together.
Tuesday, Jan. 3
Adult Basketball - Quarter Final Game
#4 Intechgrate Systems 58
#5 Blake Medical 35
#2 Harry's Grill 71
#3 Mike Walter & Associates 82
#1 Beach To Bay 60
#4 Intechgrate Systems 45
Wednesday, Jan. 4
Adult Basketball Championship Game
#3 Mike Walter & Associates 50
#1 Beach To Bay 46
Thursday, Jan. 5
Adult Co-Ed Soccer
#5 Eason Builders Group 4
#6 Acqua Aveda 1
#3 Anna Maria CrossFit 3
#8 Slim's Place 2
#1 Mason Martin 4
#4 Wash Family Construction 1
#2 Ross Built Construction 10
#7 Jiffy Lube 4
Saturday, Jan. 7
Youth Flag Football:
Truly Nolen 42
Salty Printing 19
Beach to Bay 13
Slim's Place 12
Bark Real Estate 0
Cloud Pest Control 24
Youth Flag Football:
11- 14-Year-Old League
Planet Stone 39
Anna Maria Oyster Bar 0
Tyler's Ice Cream 6
Miller Electric 24
Adult Co-Ed Soccer Playoff Schedule
Thursday, Jan. 12
6 p.m. #5 Eason Builders Group
vs. #4 Wash Family
7 p.m. #2 Ross Built vs. #7 Jiffy Lube
8 p.m. #3 Anna Maria CrossFit vs. #6 Acqua Aveda
9 p.m. #8 Slim's Place vs. #1 Mason Martin