Soccer players have found a solution to the heat and rain by setting up an indoor league in the gym at Veterans Memorial Park on Tuesday nights.
The matches were first organized by park employee Dominic Thompson in January. At the time, however, weather was not the inspiration for the league. For Thompson, a well-traveled soccer enthusiast, it was another way to get people involved in the game.
"We need more soccer around the area," Thompson said. "Tampa is the nearest place people can play indoor soccer, so we started this as another way to get people playing."
The idea seems to be working. Interest in playing indoor soccer is high as turnouts have been good and continue to get better.
"It varies, but sometimes we have three teams of 10 out here looking to get into a game," Thompson said. "It's about the same turnout that you get for outdoor soccer. The big advantage is that you're in the air-conditioning and you don't need any special shoes or anything."
Experience levels vary greatly as new faces are commonplace at the community center.
"This is the first place I've ever played any kind of soccer," said Charles Graves, a 31-year-old Brooksville resident. "My co-worker plays with these guys and it sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try."
For newcomers such as Graves, the indoor game offers a less extreme version of the highly physical exercise playing outdoors provides.
"I wanted to start with indoor because it's cool in here," Graves said. "I want to play, but it's just too hot out there to be running around like this."
Others, such as Scotty Combs, who has been playing since he was 3, view the Tuesday night sessions as a good way to stay fit and practice during the summer.
"It's fun to come out here and play with guys who have all different levels of experience," said Combs, 17. "I love coming out here and joking around with people. This whole thing is about having fun and that's what we do."
Players of all skill levels can appreciate the indoor game for a few reasons. With the ability to do things that they can't do outdoors, such as bouncing the ball off walls, players are allowed to be more creative in some ways in an indoor game.
The goals and balls are provided by the community center and the indoor field of play engulfs the entire gymnasium, with a standard hockey goal at each end.
The game is faster-paced with no out of bounds and offers the benefit of not having to chase the ball when someone misses a shot. The rules are for the most part identical to normal soccer and offer aspiring players a more laid-back alternative form of practice to supplement their normal routine.
"I like it because it's really relaxed out here," Combs said. "We all make fun of each other and have a good time. It reminds you why you play soccer."
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