Florida Southern College begins esports program

 

Staring in January of 2018, Florida Southern College is joining the movement that many deem the future of competitive athletics, esports.

Ditching basketball courts and soccer nets, esports allows gamers to competitively play video games with other teams. While the concept is revolutionary, it is also very new. Its long-term impacts are unknown, but some believe esports could lead to negative impacts, such as harming our environment.

Despite this concern, students and faculty at FSC are excited for the start of competitive gaming. They will be joining schools like the University of South Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida State University in the movement.

Florida Southern President Anne Kerr believes that the good from bringing in esports outweighs any potential bad.

“We are all learning together,” Kerr said. “I think this is a great way to bring our students together.”

Florida Southern College President Anne Kerr and Vice President Robert Tate are excited to bring the esports program to Florida Southern. 

“With our growing computer science major, you have to think ‘how do we change to meet the needs of our students’?” Kerr said.

The National Association of Collegiate eSports is responsible for 90 percent of all varsity esports programs in America. According to the NACE, only seven colleges and universities had esports programs in 2016. Today, it holds about 30 schools in its membership.

Its rapid rise in popularity has been well documented. The 2014 League of Legends World Championship drew an online viewership of 27 million people, according to the NACE.

“It really is a spectator sport”, Kerr said.

Those who are interested can watch the competitions through their personal devices or in giant, flashing neon stadiums.

The movement is sweeping across colleges and universities nationwide, but the impacts of this concept have had little time to be addressed. The type of intense, high tech equipment that it requires uses a massive amount of energy. These are a few examples of features that require high energy usage:

  • Sophisticated widescreen computers
  • Gamer specific lighting in game rooms
  • Gaming stadiums, complete with monitors large enough for an audience to view

The esports program will use a massive amount of energy. 

With just 30 schools involved in the esports program, the negative effects of intense computer labs and spectator fueled gaming events are limited.

However, esports continues to grow in popularity, even outside of the school setting. That increase, with the continued use of fossil fuels, will further intensify the negative impact on our environment.

Morgan Napper is an environmental science student at Hillsborough Community College. She is concerned with the potential impacts of esports.

“It’s kind of a new thing so I doubt there is a whole lot of research but anything that uses such a high amount of power is a bad thing for our energy usage,” Napper said. “I mean, there could be ways to incorporate green technology but really I doubt that’s a priority.”

Though esports is a relatively new construct, researchers have been looking into the health impacts of video games for years.

 

Without concrete evidence, President Kerr stands strong in her support of esports.

“There is great excitement on campus,” she said.

Florida Southern will offer competition for League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone, three of the most popular games within the esports community.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning and NHL Celebrate Hockey Fights Cancer this October

Hockey Fights Cancer runs throughout the month of November. Photo via Ashley Vedral

During the month of November, the NHL contributes to the fight against cancer with their ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ nights, bringing funding and awareness to the cause.

Each of the 31 NHL teams take pride in participating. The teams choose one home game during the month of November to dedicate to those affected by the disease. The players wear lavender jerseys during warm ups in addition to their own personal touches like lavender stick tape or skate accessories.

The league began this initiative after Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward John Cullen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1997. Cullen had played in 13 NHL seasons before his diagnosis.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a cancer that develops in white blood cells and can begin in different parts of the body causing a variety of symptoms.

Cullen went through six rounds of radiation and chemotherapy along with a bone marrow transplant that stopped his heart temporarily.

After taking a year off to go through his recovery, Cullen attempted to play in the NHL again during the 1998-99 season, but decided to retire after just four games.

Due to the recent cancer diagnosis of New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle, who played with the Lightning from 2014 to early 2017, the current Lightning players dedicated their Hockey Fights Cancer night to Boyle.

Boyle wasn’t the only recent diagnosis that left the Lightning community solemn. FOX Sports Sun television host Paul Kennedy was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer approximately two weeks ago. Kennedy is in his 12th season as the Lightning’s rink side reporter but is taking a hiatus to deal with his diagnosis and recovery.

Players posed carrying signs saying who they fight for pre-game to show support for those who have been personally affected by the disease. Fans are given ‘I Fight For’ signs upon entry during Hockey Fights Cancer night and encouraged to write down someone they fight for. These pictures are shared throughout the arena and social media, uniting thousands of survivors and supporters.

“I look forward to this night every year,” said Kyrah Joseph, a longtime Lightning fan, “I am pursuing a career as a physician’s assistant at USF and have a personal connection the the subject.”

All around the league, players, staff and fans share their own stories regarding the vicious disease. Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson has been very vocal about his brother’s battle against Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a cancer that develops within different blood forming cells and can progress quickly if untreated. A bone-marrow transplant is the most common treatment for this particular cancer.

Gudbranson’s younger brother, Denis was just six years old when he was diagnosed. At the age of 11, Gudbranson had to take on a lot more responsibility than the average 11 year old. He became the third parent in his household having to look after his other younger brother, Alex, and his younger sister, Chantel.

Gudbranson’s brother received a bone-marrow transplant after having been in remission and then having the cancer return just a few months later.

Denis is now a healthy 19 year old attending college at Concordia University in Montreal.

Additionally, NBCSN announcer, former player and Stanley Cup Champion Eddie Olczyk was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this season and is currently receiving treatment.

“In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

The awareness that the NHL and many other professional sports leagues have brought to this cause is one of the many reasons why people like Denis Gudbranson are able to find donors that are willing to help.

The league plans to continue this initiative for as long as it possibly can, hopefully leading to a cure.

 

Local Tampa architect reveals unofficial Ray’s stadium design

The stadium design by Joe Toph includes a bird’s-eye view.

 

 

 

 

 

A Tampa architect has developed an unofficial visual concept for the proposed Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City.

Joe Toph released his vision for the new stadium on SkyScraperCity.com under the username Bueller. The designs are unofficial and the Ray’s team was not involved in their creation.

“I created these for fun,” Toph said. “I just wanted to get a creative dialogue started on the potential the location has.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan announced Oct. 24 that he found a site for a new baseball stadium. The 14 acre site is bordered by the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, North 15th Street, East 4th Avenue and Channelside Drive.

Locals and officials brought up one of the main issues with the location, which is parking. The lot is large enough for a baseball stadium, but there is concern that there may not be enough room on the proposed site for additional parking to be built.

However, the proximity to Ybor City and Downtown Tampa makes this site easily accessible through public transit. Toph’s plan includes the use of the trolley line, noting that it could also serve as a light rail line in the future. A possible Uber pickup lot and a water taxi marina are also included in the design.

If Toph’s vision does not pan out, and another garage cannot be built on the lot, there are other parking options. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told ABC Action News that the parking garages in Ybor City and in the downtown area are not used every night.

“The key will be to provide the linkages whether it’s a trolley or whatever to connect those garages to the stadium,” Buckhorn said.

The next hurdle for the proposed site will be finding the funding for the project.

“That’s going to be the $800 million question,” Buckhorn said.

The Rays will have to come to the table with a significant financial plan to fund the potential stadium. Mayor Buckhorn doesn’t want another stadium built on taxpayer dollars.

Raymond James Stadium is funded completely by taxpayer dollars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lease to play in the stadium. According to Buckhorn, another stadium funded the same way would leave future generations of mayors and locals with an unpayable debt.

Tampa Bay real estate agent and Palmetto Beach resident, Laura Meyer, is looking forward to the possible development of the new stadium in such close proximity to the neighborhood she has called home for over a decade.

“A stadium in Ybor would have a huge impact on the residential community here,” Meyer said. “It’s the kind of boost the neighborhood could use to really put it on the map as a new up and coming area for Tampa.”

Palmetto Beach sits south of Ybor, west of 22nd Street and tucked on the east side of Desoto Park. Meyer says the area has a lot of potential to be another residential hot spot like Channelside and Hyde Park have become.

However, other locals are not as convinced that a stadium located in Ybor would be good move.

“I don’t know how they are going to fit a stadium onto the lot they are interested in,” Justin Cales, a student at Hillsborough Community College, said. “The traffic would just be terrible, as if it isn’t bad enough already. A stadium over here would be chaos.”

Cales has been attending HCC in Ybor for over a year. The small brick roads have taken time for him to adjust to and the idea of stadium traffic on those streets isn’t comforting.

“Ybor is great the way it is now, I don’t why we’d want to mess up a good thing,” Cales said.

Four states, one home

College freshmen are faced with the decision of choosing a college major, which they will dedicate the next four years of their lives to. A majority of college students have little experience to base such a big decision on.

Dominic Conrad is a sophomore at the University of South Florida. He is studying marketing and plans on graduating in the spring of 2020.

Conrad had a demanding childhood. His father, Dexter Conrad, a top sniper in the Marine Corps, was constantly being relocated for his job. His family followed and supported him, despite the number of times they had to move.

The Conrad family lived in West Virginia, District of Columbia, North Carolina and Florida. In Dominic Conrad’s eyes, the district made the greatest impact in his life when he was 8 years old.

“It was the first place that really felt like a home to me,” Conrad said. “It was the first time that I loved my school and I made real friends. I even saw my first football game with my dad there. The Washington Redskins will always be my favorite.”

His passion for football inspired him to choose marketing as his major. Conrad aspires to work in the marketing department of the Washington Redskins when he graduates from USF.

Conrad thought his devotion to his favorite team could benefit their marketing department more than the average marketing major.

“I love this team with all of my heart,” Conrad said. “I will learn anything and everything in my courses just to make sure I can be the best, because they deserve the best.”

This summer, Conrad plans to intern for the marketing department at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the District. He hopes to acquire knowledge that cannot be taught in the classroom.

Dexter Conrad is proud of his son’s decisions and accomplishments so far.

“He took his future into his own hands,” Dexter Conrad said. “The fact that he already has an internship in the summer shows me he is serious about this. It’s not the Redskins yet, but it’s one step closer.”

Little League children taught to succeed off field

Bianco Berry (left) and his daughter, London. Photo by Katie Ebner

The vice president of Progress Village Little League teaches children more about life than baseball in hopes of inspiring a misunderstood community.

Progress Village was created less than 60 years ago—before the height of the civil rights movement—to give black people an affordable community to call home. Only a railroad track separated it from the Klu Klux Klan, who terrorized members of the new community.

Progress Village changed a lot over the years, but it still fights a bad reputation from its drug problems and murders that seem to be the only reasons the community makes the news.

Little League Vice President Bianco Berry, however, sees Progress Village differently than outsiders. Though he did not grow up there, the tight-knit community enjoys a rich storytelling culture, which is how he learned about its history.

“Just to hear the old stories is really, it’s almost like, you growing up, you wasn’t always here, but you always feel like you was always involved in the community,” said Berry.

Berry started volunteering with the Little League when he moved to Tampa in 2006. His passion for giving back to the community and being a positive influence for his children and the children he coaches earned him a spot on the Little League board, and eventually the title as vice president.

During his stint as vice president he coached both of his children, and even coached his daughter’s softball team when it won the district championship two years ago. His daughter, London, 11, cherishes her relationship with her dad for more than what they have accomplished on the field together.

“Many people don’t have a dad that can just tell them that, ‘oh you’re amazing, you’re worth it in life,’ so I just feel like respected that like I have someone that is there for me that can tell me that,” said London.

She credits the Little League for playing a big role in teaching children like her valuable life lessons.

“I think that kids can develop great leadership because Progress Village, we hold a lot of like activities for the children to do, just to get involved more, and also it gives the kids like new opportunities to learn something new, and to experience things off of others,” said London.

His primary focus is not winning games. It’s helping children learn how to achieve great things beyond Little League Baseball.

“We’re trying to teach you the game, trying to teach you the fundamentals, trying to teach you this is how life is,” said Berry.

As one of the league’s leaders, Berry wants players to recognize the importance of working together.

“We try to give you the tools that’s not necessary to succeed in sport but to succeed in life as well,” said Berry. “This has to be like a team organization. You got to have teamwork when you go to your job, you got to have a team, got to be able to rely on others, you try to teach them it’s not always about ‘me me me.'”

He also emphasizes the importance of giving at-risk children a positive atmosphere to learn and grow, instead of falling into bad habits.

“[We] try to teach them to be respectful of everyone, and just try to provide a safe and fun environment for them to come out and do stuff, and not have to be always in the streets, always doing something negative,” said Berry. “Try to turn something negative, and try to make them keep, keep a positive attitude.”

Bianco and London spoke to WUSF as part of its “Telling Tampa Bay Stories” radio series. Photo by Katie Ebner

Berry teaches his own children these same values. On every family vacation, he and his wife take their children to different universities wherever they visit to show their kids what they can achieve if they continue to work hard and be positive influences on others. These trips gave his daughter a new perspective, and inspired her to make a difference in others’ lives.

” … Until like a few years ago I didn’t really realize that most people don’t exactly get like I have,” said London. “[I’m] able to do stuff in life, [and] not always [be] one of those people who’s always down. I can always stay positive.”

According to Berry, both of his children exemplify the values he tries to teach Little League players, and he could not be more proud of them. His daughter talks about how she stands up for kids who get bullied at school, and how she is involved with Sisters Network—an organization that raises awareness for African-American women impacted by breast cancer. One day, she wants to be a doctor or professional athlete.

“I mean, she’s a pleasure,” said Berry about his daughter. “Both my kids are, so I’m just happy trying to do the right thing by them, make sure they can be productive citizens in life.”

Walt Disney World Resort’s NBA Experience’s latest update

Preview poster for The NBA Experience. Photo by: Tea Piro

As of Oct. 19, the Walt Disney World Resort has given guests an updated first look into a sports themed experience coming to their main shopping and dining destination, Disney Springs.

In June of 2015, the editorial content director for Disney Parks, Thomas Smith published an article on the Disney Parks Blog, announcing The Walt Disney Co.’s collaboration with the National Basketball Association to create The NBA Experience. The announcement came just before the 2015 NBA Finals, which brought in an American audience average of roughly 20 million.

“We’re excited to join The NBA in offering this unique form of family entertainment,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “It will be a terrific addition to the world-class lineup of shops and restaurants coming to Disney Springs.”

The Oct. 19 announcement featured concept art for what will be the facade of The NBA Experience. The statement referenced the architectural design of modern basketball arenas across the U.S. as contributing factors to the design choice.

While detailed design ideas have yet to be released for the interior of the space, the venue is set to include shopping experiences, games with competitive features, a connected dining location and other interactive aspects.

“This one-of-a-kind experience is sure to be enjoyed by basketball and Disney fans of all ages who visit Disney Springs from around the world, ” said Sal LaRocca, NBA President of Global Partnerships.

On March 14, 2013, Tom Staggs, Chief Operation Officer for The Walt Disney Company, announced the transition of the resort’s shopping center, Downtown Disney, into what is now Disney Springs. The three year expansion resulted in the shopping center almost doubling in size.

The NBA Experience will be replacing DisneyQuest, an indoor interactive theme park that opened at The Walt Disney World Resort in 1998. DisneyQuest featured an array of video games that highlighted attractions found in the Disney parks as a way for guests to enjoy key elements without directly visiting one of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks.

In June of 2015, it was announced that DisneyQuest would close its doors the following year to make way for The NBA Experience. However, DisneyQuest did not officially close until July of 2017.

DisneyQuest demolition site as of November 3, 2017. Photo by: Tea Piro
DisneyQuest demolition space as of November 3, 2017. Photo by: Tea Piro

DisneyQuest was known for its old-school atmosphere, featuring pinball machines and other arcade-style games. While this aspect brought feelings of nostalgia to some guests, others viewed the indoor theme park as outdated. However, Walt Disney World Resort cast members noticed an influx of guests returning to DisneyQuest prior to its closure.

“People know that it’s coming to a close,” said Steve Ruffman, the General Manager of Disney Springs’ West Side and The Landing, to the Orlando Sentinel in June of 2017. “There are Disney gamers, there are Disneyphiles and there are people who are just excited that this has been part of their annual visit to Disney World. It’s now ‘a must-do’ when it was ‘a may-have-been’ a year ago.”

The NBA Experience is coming to The Walt Disney World Resort following the closure of NBA City at Orlando’s Universal CityWalk. NBA City, the themed restaurant that included NBA memorabilia, closed in August of 2015.

“Earlier this year, we decided not to renew the lease for NBA City so we could create an exciting, new concept for that space,” said Universal spokesman Tom Schroder to the Orlando Sentinel.

The NBA Experience’s new location to Disney Springs will add a significant space increase to the basketball themed restaurant. The location of CityWalk’s former NBA City restaurant, now The Toothsome Chocolate Factory & Savory Feast Emporium, offered 17,500 square feet; however, the new location at the DisneyQuest space offers 100,000 square feet.

Although the opening date for summer 2019 has officially been announced, Walt Disney World Resort guests have been voicing differing opinions in the comment sections of the Disney Parks Blog regarding a NBA themed experience at Disney Springs.

No one knows how to handle NFL protests

TAMPA – NFL fans are torn between their political and sports allegiances after President Donald Trump called on teams to fire players who kneel during the national anthem.

Unsportsmanlike conduct?

Trump tweeted dozens of times about the NFL and its players over the past few weeks. His comments come after several players from multiple teams decided to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

One of his more controversial comments came when he spoke in Alabama.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say: “Get that son of a b—- off the field right now,” said Trump.

Same story, new players

Anthem protests in the NFL are not new, however, the movement has grown since last year. It started with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled to protest police brutality. Now, Kaepernick no longer has a job in the NFL, and several other players have decided to take a knee or lock arms during the national anthem.

Travis Bell, an expert in sports media and professor at the University of South Florida, believes that the anthem protests have recently become a bigger deal because of Trump’s involvements.

“I definitely think that the flashpoint for this bringing it into the mainstream conversation is because of the president’s involvement in it,” said Bell.

What did he call us?

Several players took offense to Trump’s comments, and the following Sunday, players continued to protest. Some teams’ owners joined the players on the field to show solidarity.

Even Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who supported Trump during his presidential campaign, disagreed with Trump’s comments.

Any excuse to burn jerseys

When Lebron James left Cleveland, fans burned their James jerseys. When James left Miami, fans burned their James jerseys (again). When the Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers, fans burned their Thomas jerseys.

This love for burning jerseys has seemed to spread to the NFL, as many fans have filmed themselves burning jerseys of players who have decided to protest during the anthem. Fans also burned season tickets, hats and other memorabilia. They even went on Twitter and started #BurnTheNFL, which encourages people to no longer support the NFL.

Just play football

People who disagree with the protests often say that sports and politics should remain separate, and that politics are ruining sports. Many others, however, would argue that there is not a clear divide between sports and politics.

“People always want to hold sports as some separate, fun, social entity, and we don’t want to politicize things, and when politics gets involved in the sports arena, it sort of clouds that popular notion that sports is sort of just this untainted space, and clearly it’s not,” said Bell.

Others choose to take a knee

While some fans have been burning their jerseys, others have been applauding the players for taking a stand on what they believe is an important issue. Supporters on Twitter started #TakeAKnee to show solidarity with the players who protest.

NFL short on options

As the NFL remains busy trying to keep its name out of headlines, it has failed to find a solution to either the player’s protests or people’s protest of the NFL. This may be because they do not have many options.

According to Alan Balfour, an expert in employment relations and union-management relations, it is not in the NFL’s best interests to force players to stop protesting, no matter what rights they have or do not have guaranteed in their contracts.

“I doubt that anyone will treat this as a contract issue,” said Balfour.  “It is perceived by everyone–players, owners and fans–as a moral issue. If the contract permits, owners could force players to stand or face discipline.”

Balfour does not believe that will happen.

“Invoking the contract would only polarize matters worse and expand the range of disagreement,” said Balfour.

He does, however, point out that NFL teams are within their rights by not signing Kaepernick, whether those reasons are related to his performance as a football player or not.

“I have always said, back when this was just about Colin Kaepernick that boycotting him as a potential employee was well within the individual rights of every owner and his employability would depend, not on his ability to help a team as a second-string quarterback, but on what he, or anyone, can contribute to attendance, merchandise sales and the TV contract,” said Balfour.” The obvious answer was his contribution is negative.  I can understand why no team or owner wants him–he will hurt the bottom line and, believe me, this is a business.”

Therefore, if any owner refused to sign a player because of his political views, he/she would be well within his/her rights.

Additionally, NFL viewership is down 11 percent from last year, according to Nielsen ratings. Bell points out, however, that this could be for a number of reasons, including the discovery of traumatic brain injuries occurring from playing football. Bell believes it is too early to tell how the protests have affected the NFL’s brand, but that it could negatively impact the NFL’s business in the future.

“I definitely think there’s some potential for fallout, but I don’t think it’s going to be you know, an immediate drop off the cliff,” said Bell.

Americans stand divided

While people have been vocal on social media, what’s trending on Twitter does not always reflect how most Americans feel. CNN and USA Today both conducted polls to find out how the public truly feels about the protests.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

This quote is normally attributed to the philosopher Voltaire, but it was actually written by his biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall. It seems that Americans seem to agree with this sentiment. While players may not have the constitutional right to take a knee, most Americans believe that they should not be fired for their beliefs.

Some veterans have echoed this idea as well, and they argue that the reason soldiers fight is to protect democracy. It is not unexpected that people living in a country that touts freedom of speech in its First Amendment disagree with Trump’s comments. Most people would not want to be fired for their political beliefs, though it is not against the law for employers to do so.

Even if the majority cannot agree on kneeling during the anthem, perhaps it is a small victory for Americans to agree on the principle in the Constitution. Or, perhaps this agreement is not a reason to celebrate. Balfour believes that Americans may not be equipped to handle these discussions.

“Thomas Jefferson’s fear of the tyranny of the majority is, I believe, well-founded,” said Balfour. “I don’t observe the current public being very good at thoughtful consideration of disagreement.”

Despite His Autism, Tampa Athlete Exceeds In Cycling During Special Olympics

Mark Zac, a Tampa native who was diagnosed with a form of autism, has participated in special Olympic sports over the past few years ranging from a local level to the world level in the World Special Olympic Games.

Allen Zac, Mark’s father, trained with him for six months before the World Special Olympic Games. They lifted weights and cycled almost 10 miles a day to prepare Mark for the event.

“That year he went to San Diego on his own, on the plane with the team, did training for five days, and then went to Athens and was with the team for three weeks on his own. We never thought he could survive without us, somehow he did and he did awesome,” Allen Zak said. “He won a gold and a silver in cycling.”

Mark took home a gold and a silver medal and proudly wears them to this day. Although he plays many sports, cycling has always been his favorite choice.

Out of the wide range of awards he’s won, his gold medal is his favorite.

Mark Zac has proven to many people in his community and around the world that even with a disability, you can live out your dreams.

Local basketball team takes season by storm

BRANDON, FL–Red Storm Elite is an AAU basketball team whose focus is on developing its players.

Assistant Coach Inniss Goden Jr. knows the importance of his team maturing in basketball fundamentals.

“We want to see growth, maturity and an increase in basketball IQ,” Goden said. “We don’t want them to be robots, we want to see them be instinctive when they are running the plays and we just want them to grow every time.”

The team is entering its second season as a program and has 10th-grade players from various high schools in Hillsborough County. Big man Maurice Pickett believes playing for the Red Storm is preparing him for varsity basketball at Lennard high school.

“My coaches prepare me on that next level when the season comes up for varsity,” Pickett said. “I know that every day we practice, every day we play just gets me better.”

Red Storm Elite hopes to continue the success gained in its first season. The team placed in the top three in five out of eight tournaments.

“We can see that with each tournament that they’re getting better, trusting each other and we see ball movement,” Goden said. “We actually see them running the plays now instead of us yelling the plays out to them, gradually with each tournament they are getting better from tournament to tournament.”

The team is confident that their hard work and focus on development will benefit them against opponents in the upcoming season.

“Oh, this team, I don’t know what other teams are because this the only team I know that’s coming out with that trophy,” Pickett said.

To find a schedule of the AAU tournaments that Red Storm Elite will be participating in, visit their Facebook page.

 

Ice Bulls Make it To Nationals

 

The USF Ice Bulls make nationals for the first time in program history.

The University of South Florida Ice Bulls had a rough season, ending 10-18 before entering regionals. USF capitalized on two major games during the regular season, beating two top seeded teams.

Thanks to freshman goalie, Sam Coleman, who 60 minutes into the game blocked all incoming shots, the Bulls knocked out the University of South Carolina Gamecocks 1-0 in overtime in the first round of regionals at Florida Center Ice in Wesley Chapel.

The following night, the Bulls earned a nationals spot defeating the Liberty University Flames 6-3. Weston Moon scored the first goal early in the first period, followed by goals from Logan Sheehan in the middle of the second, Kenny Weightman late in the second, Huw Baveystock early in the third, Lukas Medo late in the third, and Michael Budd in the last minute of regulation.

Earning their place at nationals the Bulls had one more hurdle to overcome. In an attempt to cover the costs of the trip they started a GoFundMe page and asked fans for support.  They did not disappoint, the Ice Bulls fans raised over $11,000.

The following night, the Bulls earned a nationals spot defeating the Liberty University Flames 6-3. Weston Moon scored the first goal early in the first period, followed by goals from Logan Sheehan in the middle of the second, Kenny Weightman late in the second, Huw Baveystock early in the third, Lukas Medo late in the third, and Michael Budd in the last minute of regulation.

Nationals will be held at Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team will travel to Columbus, Ohio to fight for the title of  the American Collegiate Hockey Association division 3 national champions.

The Bulls will take on the number one seeded Calvin College Knights on March 14 to start their postseason.

To find out more on how you can support your USF hockey team on their road to nationals, visit www.gofundme.com/USFHockey.

Rowdies hope to be next team added to Major League Soccer

 

  1.  The Tampa Bay Rowdies hope to be the next Major League Soccer expansion team.

    The MLS is selecting two new expansion clubs in the second or third quarter of this year, and with St. Petersburg being part of the country’s 11th largest media market, it makes the Rowdies an attractive bid.The owner of the Rowdies, Bill Edwards, plans to spend up to $80 million in upgrades to Al Lang Stadium if the team is part of the MLS expansion. The upgrade would boost the stadium’s capacity from 7,500 to 18,000.

    Stephen Cundiff, president of the Rowdies’ fan group, Ralph’s Mob, believes that the energetic ownership is what will make the difference for the team’s bid.

    “You have an owner that’s willing to spend the money to make it happen,” Cundiff said. “Any sports fan of any team will ever tell you, the one thing they want their owner to do is spend money; and we got Bill Edwards and he’s spending the money.”

    There is excitement among the fans this season as the team has moved to the United Soccer League after spending six seasons in the North American Soccer League.

    Rowdies’ midfielder Luke Boden spent time at Orlando City when it made the transition to the MLS in 2015, and knows what the team has to do to obtain the bid.

    “It was exciting times,” Boden said. “It was down to us to start winning games and trying to win championships to recognition from MLS. With the MLS hopefully around the corner in Tampa, we need to try and win something this year, and as I say, get that MLS attention.”

    The Rowdies have started a social media campaign on Twitter with #MLS2StPete.

 

USF Second Baseman Honored by Conference

Coco Montes,a USF sophomore infielder, was recognized by the American Athletic Conference during a big week for USF baseball. The team went 5-0 and had a huge win against Florida State. Montes totaled three runs, his second home run of the season and a team-high five RBIs. Montes said he is ready to continue this type of play throughout the rest of his sophomore year.

“My body feels a lot better than last year,” Montes said. “Just being able to come out here and start winning, that’s going to be the biggest thing for me.”

The second baseman was recruited out of Miami with the vision that he could immediately have an impact on USF’s baseball program.  Montes had a big freshman year, but has improved since then.

Both Montes and head coach Mark Kingston said they believe that confidence has a lot to do with it.

“He is just a better all-around player. He’s taken the second base very well,” Kingston said. “I just think his confidence is at an all-time high.”

Coco Montes says being AAC’s player of the week is nice, but he’s more proud of the fact that his team had a great week.

 

New Head Coach for USF Football

In December of 2016, the University of South Florida named Charlie Strong the new head coach of the football team, following Willie Taggart.

With a few months under his belt, Strong is excited to build on the strong foundation that is already in place.

“I saw the program here and just knew that it had the chance to really develop and become something special,” Strong said.

In a short amount of time, the new head coach has already had an impact on the program for spring ball.

“We are just moving in the right direction, fast, and I believe he will have a great impact,” Elkanah Dillon, tight end, said.

Strong’s coaching career has included 15 years in Florida, sporadically, since 1983, according to ESPN. During that time, he built relationships with high school coaches, players and community leaders. These relationships may help Strong to continue creating strong recruiting classes in seasons to come.

USF football is on the rise. They won 11 games last season, but Charlie Strong wants to continue pushing the team to improve and make it to conference title games.

“That’s what you play for,” Strong said. “You want to make sure you go and compete and win.”

New Port Richey running club promotes fitness at Gasparilla

The Gasparilla Distance Classic played host to numerous charities and running clubs, including a New Port Richey-based running group.

NPR Running’s founding members, Tammy Carr and Jaana Jala, started the group to help family members and their kids stay active in the New Port Richey community.

“We are an all-level, all-ages, fitness and running group from New Port Richey, Florida, and what we emphasize is that all levels get out there and just keep moving,” Carr said.

Today, NPR Running participates in marathons across the country, which was unthinkable to Carr and Jala given the adversity that they experienced nearly five years ago.

“I was just getting bigger and bigger so I decided it was time to make a life change,” Jala said. “I quit my job, moved to Florida, came down here with a suitcase. But the weather down here is beautiful and it was kind of like jumping off a cliff and changing your entire life.”

Gasparilla is only a local example of the runs that NPR Running participates in. The group travels across the country to triathlons in places like Savannah, Georgia, and Central Park in New York.

“We have racked up, like last year, 26,000 miles,” Carr said. “It’s the equivalent of going around the globe as a group in the miles that we’ve dedicated ourselves that we were going to do.”

A Young Florida High Girls Basketball Team Heads to Lakeland

A Young Florida High Girls Basketball Team Heads to Lakeland 

After defeating their opponent during overtime to win the regional final, Tallahassee’s Florida High is ready for the state finals in Lakeland.

Last year, the Florida High Lady Noles had an unsuccessful season. They lost in the first round of the district championships. According to head coach Darryl Marshall, this year has been different.

“The season has been great. The girls came out mentally focused, ready for the season and ready for this run that we are on now since day one,” Marshall said.

The Lady Noles are now on the verge of making history as the youngest ever to win a 5A State Championship. Two of three team leaders are in eighth and ninth grade. Freshman Kendall Thomas and eighth grader Jordan Rosier have led this team to the state semi-finals.

“I’m the point guard, I am the leader of this team,” Thomas said. “I just go out and play my own game.”

“I had a lot more responsibility this year, I had to put on a big pair of shoes this year and step up,” Rosier said.

These young players must carry triumphant athleticism in their blood because 10 years ago it was their older sisters, Chelsea Rosier and Autumn Thomas that led the Lady Noles to win the state championship.

“Growing up it was always me and her and now it’s so funny to see Jordan and Kendall,” Chelsea Rosier said. “It’s like déjà vu.”

This young duo is only a small part of this dynamic team. The Lady Noles will play Fort Lauderdale’s Cardinal Gibbons on Wednesday, Feb. 22, as they strive to win the state championship and continue to make history.

Minority women’s golfing group looks to bridge gap in professional world.

After leaving the corporate office one woman made the decision to build Women of Color Golf, an organization centered on golf and networking.

The organization’s founder and director, Clemmie Perry, made it her duty to increase the awareness of golf within the minority women community.

Women of Color Golf (WOCG) is a non-profit organization that sets out to promote and encourage minorities and women of color to learn the benefits of golf. Ms. Perry not only wants women to fundamentally understand the game of golf, but she also wants Women of Color Golf to be a gateway to networking and partnerships.

“We serve on various boards, such as the World Golf Foundation and other organizations that will help leverage our mission,” said Perry.

Many women within this organization have benefited from the outlets that Women of Color Golf provides. Robyn Thompson, the Millennial Leader for WOCG, says that this organization is the needed push to bridge the gap between male and female golfers.

“I think we have to educate women, and that’s one of the great things about Women of Color Golf. In the beginner session they basically educate you on what golf is, how you play the game before you even go out on the golf course,” said Thompson.

Perry has built an organization that is more than just “learning how to play golf.” Women of Color Golf has been national recognized by President Barack Obama for the diligence that it provides to the Tampa Bay area. There is hope for further expansion and an excitement for future endeavors.

Ex-professional tennis player becomes USF’s new head coach

Following the departure of Matt Hill, USF’s previous men’s tennis head coach, to Arizona State, the men’s tennis program decided that the best fit for the new head coach was already there. After serving as assistant coach for one season, Ashley Fisher was promoted to the head coach position for the 2017 season.

During his one year with the program, Fisher helped lead the team to their third-straight American Athletic Conference title, a No. 13 national ranking and their third trip to the NCAA tournament.

Before joining the USF tennis program, the Australian native had a successful 13-year professional tennis career. He was ranked in the top 20 in the world while winning four ATP World Tour doubles titles.

“We are a very lucky team to have an ex-professional tennis player to be as a head coach,” said senior player Vadym Kalyuzhnyy. “It’s just a more professional work environment.”

Although the ultimate goal is to win matches, Fisher is focused on the process this season.

“We just want to create a great program. We already sort of have that, there has been a lot of success here, but we want to kind of keep pushing forward and get the program into the top ten and start competing for national championships,” Fisher said.

Another mission of his is to connect and mentor each of the players.

“It’s nice to win tennis matches, but we have a greater responsibility in that we have to mentor these student-athletes and impact their lives and we have a big opportunity to do that,” he said. “I want to be remembered as a great tennis coach, but probably just as importantly I want to connect with these guys and kind of be there for the rest of their lives.”

USF Sport Clubs: A chance to play

Sport Clubs at the University of South Florida offer students the chance to be able to live out their sports dreams of being college athletes, but not necessarily playing at the Division 1 level.

 

“This way students that are not at as high a level as NCAA athletes, still have an environment where they can go out and have fun and participate in their sport of choice.” Supervisor Sam Cathcart said.

 

USF Sports Clubs offers many different types of sports to USF students. They also offer unique sports including Water polo, Quidditch, and even Kendo. The wide range of sports available allows many different students to get involved with the sports clubs.

 

Also, many students who play sports during high school assume they are going to play sports in college and are often disappointed when they try out for the college team and do not make the cut.  USF Sport Clubs allows these students to still be able to play the sports they loved back in high school. Club teams are often much more laid back than college teams allowing the players to enjoy their time more while they are playing.

 

Students are also able to create their own clubs if they wish to do so. “There’s Bullsync that you can go onto if you are interested in joining a sports club. That has all the information,” Jordan Mckenzie of USF Campus Recreation said. “As well as how to join a club. If you want to start a new club you are able to go on Bullsync and that’ll answer your questions as well.”

 

USF Sport Clubs give a unique future to something many students thought they would never be able to do again.

 

NFL, MLS Brass Participate in Sport & Entertainment Lecture Series

The University of South Florida’s Sun Dome recently hosted two influential people in the sports world. Tod Leiweke, Chief Operating Officer for the National Football League and Don Garber, the Commissioner of Major League Soccer. The USF Sport & Entertainment Lecture Series is aimed at students studying in USF’S Sport & Entertainment Management program.

Students find it important to have renowned names visiting the university. This is especially true for those in the Sport & Entertainment program.

“First of all, having such important folks that have so much influence in the sports business like Tod Leiweke and Don Garber brings a lot of great attention and educational opportunity to folks in the Tampa area,” said student Payton Phillips. “Our students, our faculty and our athletic staff [benefit] as well, so it’s able to bring industries’ minds and is good to learn from so that we can perform better and learn more.”

The lecture series is a way to show the growing Sport & Entertainment Management program which the university now offers.

“I came here for the basic fact that I wanted to be a Sport Management major, but USF didn’t have that major when I first started,” said Brittany Barber. “I just decided to come to see how I would like it if I wanted to go into it for Grad School because, you know, Grad School is a whole other monster than undergrad. So I just wanted to figure out whether this is something I want to pursue.”

The event took place at USF’s Sun Dome and was presented by Florida Fox Sports and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The lecture series has taken place annually, with this year being the fourth installment.

Tampa Bay Lightning Host Hockey Fights Cancer Game

The Tampa Bay Lightning and members of the Tampa Bay community came together Nov. 3 to join the fight against cancer at the Lightning’s Hockey Fights Cancer game.

“It’s really important that we lead by example and we inspire others and in the fight against cancer I think we all know someone fighting that fight,” said Lightning Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Frazier.

Players rallied together; wearing purple jerseys with purple taped hockey sticks to show their support for the cause.

“It means so much to see the entire community give it their all to support people like myself,” said Kerry Roopchand, Moffitt Cancer Center patient.

The event will benefit research efforts at Moffitt, the Lightning’s charitable partner, to help find a cure for cancer. Moffitt team members were taken back by the support.

“It’s so amazing to see such a turnout from our community to help with the prevention and cure of cancer,” said Dr. Damon Reed, Moffitt sarcoma department medical director.

To learn more about the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, visit https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-fights-cancer.