The life of a professional soccer player is not for someone who wants to stay near home. There are few high-profile jobs out there, and if you don't play in Major League Soccer or for the U.S. National Team, or if you aren't an indoor star, you will travel from league to league, city to city, and maybe even continent to continent.
Sam Koleduk travels. The former Gulf High and Saint Leo College soccer star has led a gypsy's existence since graduating from Saint Leo in 1994. He has lived in Lexington, Ky.; Canton, Ohio; New Hampshire, and Knoxville, Tenn., and played in the USISL and the NPSL and the A-League.
Last week, he added another bumper sticker to his suitcase: Pensacola. Koleduk signed with the Pensacola-based indoor soccer team in the EISL (Eastern Indoor Soccer League).
"I've been a lot of places," Koleduk said. "But I like traveling, so it's been good."
Koleduk will report to the Flyers in the upcoming weeks. He is currently working as a recreation leader at Veteran's Memorial Park in Hudson and playing for the Pasco Excalibur, a local amateur team.
Only 27, Koleduk figures he has a few more years left as a professional and then would like to get into coaching. He is honing his skills at the rec center, and also helped out former Saint Leo teammate Ron Moon with the Gulf High school junior varsity team last year.
Koleduk thinks he has found his niche as a soccer player, and it is under a roof. The indoor game differs from the traditional outdoor game in that there are six players (compared to 11), the field is the size of a hockey rink, and the goal is 14 feet by 8 feet as opposed to 8 yards by 8 feet.
The closer confines make scoring commonplace in the indoor game, with goals and penalty kicks counting as two points and shots behind the 45-foot arc counting for three points.
"I like indoor soccer better," Koleduk said. "I guess that's because I'm a goal scorer, and people like to see scoring."
At Saint Leo, Koleduk was the school's first two-time All-American because he scored goals. Lots of them.
In 1993, after returning to Saint Leo after a year away, he scored 34 goals to set a single-season mark. He was as good the next season despite the added attention of defenders, and finished with career records for goals (81) and points (187).
Koleduk, who is 35 pounds heavier and stronger since graduating, was taken in the first round of the National Professional Soccer League draft and played for Canton. Outdoors, he was one of the league's top scorers while playing for the Lexington Bandits of the United States Interegional Soccer League. That was followed by trips to New Hampshire to play for the Phantoms of the A-League ("Too cold," Koleduk said) and a stint with the West Florida Fury in Sarasota, another USISL team.
"I always wanted to stay in Florida," Koleduk said, "but it was hard because it seemed the teams here never lasted."
Hopefully, Koleduk said, the Flyers will hang around. The EISL has had some success drawing fans (its top team averaged more than 5,000 spectators last year), and Koleduk would like to play in one place for awhile. "I might stay there year-round," he said.
He also plans on hooking up with another NPSL team when the Flyers wrap up their season.
"It's been kind of what I expected (since college)," Koleduk said. "I always wanted to play professional soccer and get paid, and I've gotten paid. I'm not rich or anything, but it's been a lot of fun."