Jerry Woodka knows what people are thinking. There is no way this 5-foot-7, 47-year-old father of two with graying hair is going to be able to compete against basketball players younger and taller than him.
Woodka has always been underestimated on the court. Through a high school career in Fort Myers to a two-year stint at Edison College and throughout his years in rec leagues, Woodka had something to prove.
And in most cases he proved people wrong.
Another example came in May, when Woodka was named the Most Valuable Player of the Masters Basketball Association 45-and-over National Championship tournament in Coral Springs. His team, the South Florida Elite, won the championship and he got to pose with his trophy with former NBA great Artis Gilmore.
"Quickness and hustle has always been my style,'' Woodka said. "My teammates know that I'm not going to get tired and I'm going to give it 110 percent. And when we play those young guys I try to wear them out, too.''
Woodka, a physical education teacher at Tarpon Springs High, says he has been around basketball since he was 4 years old. Except for an ankle injury before his junior year at Edison College, he has taken few breaks from the basketball court.
He currently plays on the South Florida Elite, as well as the Tampa Swish tournament teams in the 41-45 and 46-50 age groups. Throw in some local rec teams and Woodka said he is playing four nights per week.
He played even more than that at a tournament this spring, but he finally found his basketball limit.
"I went to Buffalo in March and played in four games on Friday, seven on Saturday and four more on Sunday," Woodka said. "When I got on the plane to come home I cramped up. I was in bad shape. I learned my lesson.''
Known as "Woody'' to his friends, Woodka credits his stamina to a simple workout. He jumps rope four times per week, 4,000 jumps per day.
"People ask me how come I don't get tired,'' he said. "I really do think it's the rope. I try to get my kids at school to try it.''
Woodka coached basketball at Tarpon Springs for nine years before giving it up to watch his kids play sports. Neither plays basketball. And when Woodka plays for his Tampa Swish team, they spend some time in the fall playing against Florida junior colleges as they prepare for their seasons.
Most of his Swish teammates are his age or a little younger, which makes for some curious looks when they enter the gym to play a college team.
"I remember on our Tampa Swish team we walked into St. John's Community College,'' he said. "Pretty much the whole team and fans got really silent. They were sure they were going to drill these old men. They thought we were horrible. They ended up beating us in double overtime. We gained a lot of respect.''
Woodka also gained respect at the national tournament. He said the experience of playing against other talented teams around the country was "awesome." And he also marveled at teams in older age brackets, especially a player who was 82 years old.
"I sure hope I'm still playing when I'm 82,'' Woodka said.
Don't bet against it.
Matt Cote of Palm Harbor finished fourth in the three-day Burgett H. Mooney Jr. Rome (Ga.) Open. Cote had a total of 2-under 211. Cody Shafer of Evans, Ga., won the tournament with 206.
- The County Golf Association held a tournament July 1 at Belleair Country Club. The regular division gross winner was John Lisenbee, who shot 72. The net winner was Scott Lincoln, who shot 61. The senior gross winner was Ken Fawcett, who shot 71. The net winner was Charles Dale, who shot 63. The ladies net winner was Kay Geer, who shot 72.
Anyone looking for something a little different this summer can check out the adult MudWars, July 24 in downtown St. Petersburg. Dirt will be dumped on Spa Beach at the base of the pier and there will be different events for teams of 10 to 12. Some of the events are dodgeball, ball crawl, football, obstacle course and tug-of-war. For information, see www.tampabayclubsport.com or call 804-0648.