Photo gallery: USF’s men’s club prepares for soccer games at FSU, UM

The USF men’s club team is a student run organization in which USF teams play soccer and compete with other universities, such as the University of Miami and Florida Gulf Coast University. The team trains Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 10 p.m. at Sycamore Fields, which is open to  all USF students who want to join the team.

This gallery shows players preparing for the upcoming games at Florida State University and the University of Florida in March.

Training at Sycamore Fields usually takes about  an hour and consists of structured drills followed by intense, small side games, all run by the president and officers on the team. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)


Bryce Driscoll, a junior majoring in criminology, plays for the USF men’s club team and is also one of the team’s officers. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)


Tryouts for the team are held at the beginning of each semester. Any USF student can use this opportunity to try to make the team. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)


Jose Estrada, a sophomore majoring in public health, plays on the left wing for the club team. Jose joined the team  during the fall 2013 at USF.   (Photo by Tom Turnbull0


Felipe Diaz and Jose Estrada play ball and warm up in a cold night at Sycamore Fields. They warm up before the team comes together and start training. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)


The boys usually train in small groups. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)






The photos were taken at the men’s soccer team’s training at Sycamore fields on Feb 20th.  About 30 players attended the session, even though temperatures were in the low 40’s.





USF track record holder plans to run for Bahamian national team after graduation

With graduation quickly approaching for many college students, anxiety and excitement is palpable at the University of South Florida.

The answer to the million-dollar question, “So what are you doing after graduation?” is different for every student.

Alfred Higgs, a USF criminology senior, plans to run track for his home country, the Bahamas.

Higgs came to the United States in 2010. He was able to attend USF on an athletic scholarship. A school record holder for the 4×100 relay, he played every sport in high school but stuck with track because he liked an activity that did not require a team.

“I was always athletic,” Higgs said. “And I think I just have the natural talent of running. So, I always liked running.”

On May 1, instead of wearing a green cap and gown to his graduation ceremony, Higgs will wear the Bahamian national colors, aquamarine and gold.

According to Higgs, the biggest cultural difference between the U.S. and the Bahamas is the food.

“When I came here, I wanted to go home because I couldn’t find a decent meal anywhere,” Higgs said.

Higgs has decided to run for the Bahamian national track and field team after graduation.

USF jump roper doesn’t let injury hinder competitive spirit

TAMPA — From playgrounds to gyms, people of all ages jump rope for fun and fitness. Graduate student Kaylee Couvillion, however, combines both aspects as a competitive jump roper.

Couvillion, a graduate assistant in the University of South Florida’s Exercise Science Program, has been jumping rope for over 15 years. Having competed all over the U.S. and abroad, Couvillion’s jump roping career was halted when she was injured during a complex trick in November.

“I was on the very bottom level of this big multilayered trick that was happening,” she said. “The ropes missed, and then the next thing I know, the back foot got landed on by the guy on the top of the trick.”

Couvillion tore her plantar fascia and injured her big toe, leaving her unable to jump rope for two months. In addition to not being able to jump, she feared what her injury would mean for her as a graduate assistant teaching Boot Camp Fitness.

One of Couvillion’s students, Norma Cacho, was nervous when she saw her instructor in a boot on the first day of class.

“I was a bit skeptical of her at first,” Cacho said. “I mean, how much could she really teach us with a boot on her foot? Kaylee definitely proved me wrong. She would do pushups, lunges, and a bunch of workouts better than any of us — and we weren’t injured.”

Almost three months after her injury, Couvillion is slowly jumping back into the game. She even has her eyes on a jump rope competition in Orlando this July.

“I want to compete at least one more time,” Couvillion said. “Maybe more after that. It just depends on how my body holds up.”

Clearwater swimmer Sidney Pickrem commits to making Canadian Olympic team

Sidney Pickrem has taken her sport of swimming to an elite level most people could only dream about.

She is an eight-time Florida state champion and is training to make the Canadian National Team. In about 10 months, she hopes to fulfill her ultimate dream, making the Canadian Olympic team. If she makes the team, she will compete with the best in the world in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Swimming has been the biggest part of my life,” Pickrem said. “I started when I was 6 years old. I always enjoyed pushing myself. I like the fact that it is a sport in which you don’t have to depend on anyone but yourself.”

There is no off-season in swimming. It is a year-round, intense training schedule with nine practices a week, two of them beginning at 4:45 a.m. Sticking to this schedule is physically and mentally challenging. However, the payoff is part of making your dreams come true. In Pickrem’s case, this includes getting a full scholarship at Texas A&M.

“Coaching an athlete like Sidney makes coaching fun. You can give her any workout, and you know she will give it her all. A lot of kids in the sport these days are not willing to do that. “

Pickrem is expected to qualify as the No. 1 seed in both the 200IM and the 400IM. She is also hoping to make the team in one of her off events, which is the 200 Freestyle.

Bloomingdale High softball athlete finds her true swing in golf

Elizabeth Jackson is a two-sport athlete whose future career could have swung one of two ways.

A senior shortstop in her fourth season at Bloomingdale High School, Jackson helped guide her team to the Class 8A State Softball Championship last year, leading the team with 38 hits and 24 home runs scored to a 27-2 record. Jackson  was named to the First Team of All-Hillsborough County Softball Team.

“It’s pretty amazing to have an opportunity to coach a player of her caliber,” said Mark Braddy, head coach of the Bloomingdale Bulls softball team.  “There are very few that come along, so I’m happy to have her.”

Jackson’s talent doesn’t stop at the softball field.  She is also an avid golfer.  She turned down an opportunity to play softball at the University of Arkansas to accept a golf scholarship to Daytona State.

“It was a really tough choice. Softball is different.  There’s only so far you can go with college,” Jackson said. “There’s really no pro league after that.  But for golf, you can make it so much farther, play in the LPGA, and ultimately, I’ve always wanted to be the No. 1 player in the world.”

Jackson wants to finish her softball career competing for the state championship once more. In six games this season, the Bulls are 5-1.  Jackson is hitting an astounding .615 with 8 hits and 9 runs scored.

“I really hope that we can repeat the state title again.  It’s probably a long shot, but we have a really strong team with a bunch of new incoming freshmen that replaced the seniors last year, and I think our shots are pretty good to go to states again,” Jackson said.

USF Student Shares love for Juggling in Objects in Motion Club

Joseph Lawlor, the president of the Objects in Motion student organization, brought his hobby of juggling to the University of South Florida three years ago, and he plans to keep it alive on campus for years to come.

Lawlor, a USF senior and electrical engineering major, began juggling during his sophomore year of high school. He was assigned a project in his English class that required him to learn a new hobby and write in a journal about his experiences. He considered picking up break dancing at first, but when he saw one of his friends juggling at a party, he decided to give it a shot.

“I picked it up weirdly fast and thought the whole idea of object manipulation was so cool and different,” said Lawlor. “I just started to really love everything about it.”

When Lawlor came to USF in 2011, he and Jesse Lutz, a fellow student and juggler, sought to form a student organization where other jugglers and students interested in learning could meet, practice and grow as a group. This resulted in the formation of the Juggling Awareness Society at USF.

With the growth of student interest in other types of object manipulation, Lawlor renamed the Juggling Awareness Society to the Objects in Motions club to cater to a wider range of interests. Today, Objects in Motion is a community of jugglers, hula hoopers, poi spinners, unicyclists and slack liners who collaborate to teach and learn from each other on campus during weekly meetings.

“Joseph and the other members have taught me that hooping is a way to harmonize your mind, body and spirit,” said Brianna Privateer, USF psychology major and member of Objects in Motion. “It’s like a peaceful meditation, and the possibilities are endless.”

Lawlor welcomes students of any age, experience and interest to join the club. Objects in Motion hosts weekly meetings every Thursday from 8-10 p.m., Monday from 2-4 p.m. and Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. outside of the USF library.

Lawlor says that the most interesting place that juggling has ever taken him was to a juggling camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania last summer. He worked as a driver at the camp and taught a juggling class for one period a day, but spent all his free time with the camp’s trapeze group. Here he met and shared stories with a group of international jugglers from France, Spain, England and Australia.

Lawlor wants to continue juggling as a sport and a passion. But above all, he wants to keep the sport of juggling alive in the USF community by continuing the Objects in Motion club for years to come.

“I really love Objects in Motion just as much as I love juggling, and I want to keep that going forever,” said Lawlor. “Giving the art of juggling its own organization has been the best decision I’ve made since I’ve been at USF and has proven to be the easiest way to meet the most interesting people out there.”

Video: C.R. Willey brings championship pedigree to USF disc golf team

C.R. Willey is not your average USF coach. He is a four-time disc golf champion.

And with Willey’s help, the USF disc golf team has a chance at the top 10 this year and — possibly — a national title.

Willey, a veteran of the Professional Disc Golf Association, has trained some of the top professionals in the league, including 12-time champion, Ken Climo.

“It’s nice that you are actually learning from somebody that has actually won (championships),” said Chris Crist, USF’s team founder and captain.  “He’s been playing for so long. He’s taught a lot of people how to play and a lot of pros how to play.”

While Willey was on the PDGA tour, he was approached by some of USF’s players, who asked him if he would be interested in coaching the team.

Willey didn’t hesitate in saying yes.

“Heck, yeah,” Willey said. “I would like to see USF win a national championship in disc golf. I’d like to see them win it in football, too — baseball or anything for the university. Let’s take it to the next level.”

Willey also played baseball at USF for a time. But one day, when he saw students playing ultimate frisbee, Willey knew his love and passion was for disc golf.

With more than 40 PDGA victories, he is considered the best thing that has happened to USF by its young group of players.

“We’ve qualified for the National Collegiate Championship, and we almost beat the reigning champs in a qualifying tournament that the USF team ran in Largo,” Willey said.

The National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship starts on April 15 in North Augusta, South Carolina.

Video: Christopher Hethcox turns lifelong passion for cheerleading into remarkable career

TRINITY — As an aspiring male cheerleading coach, Christopher Hethcox seemingly had the odds stacked against him early in life.

“The stigma of being a male cheerleader was something that was rough in the rural parts of Alabama,” Hethcox said.

But Hethcox didn’t let it bring him down. At age 13, Hethcox knew he had a passion for tumbling and gymnastics.

Twenty-two years later, Hethcox has turned that passion into a career as an instructor with All-Star Cheerleading at the Suncoast Gymnastics Academy in Odessa.

Though the profession does not necessarily have a large salary, Hethcox said he isn’t in it for the money — he just wants to help his athletes grow.

“I think I love the process of the training, performing, watching the development over the year of an athlete that’s had this place where they started,” Hethcox said.  “And then, where they end up.”

Hethcox coaches multiple levels of cheerleading with All-Star Cheerleading and has won multiple championships.

Competing at that level, Hethcox said,  is something that can give competitors butterflies. But for him, it’s all about keeping his team calm.

Mark Sczcepanik, whose daughter is coached by Hethcox, described him as passionate and driven.

“Coach Chris has done an incredible job with our daughter,” Sczcepanik said. “She went from never cheering ever six months ago to just doing an incredible job, thanks to his fine coaching.”

Hethcox doesn’t need praise, though. He just wants it to be about the kids.

“I want them to become sisters that they would do anything for each other,” Hethcox said.

Video: High school hockey garnering support around Tampa Bay

Ice hockey has become one of the fastest growing high school sports in the Tampa Bay area.

There are 12 teams in the Florida High School Hockey Association’s Lightning Conference, which includes schools from across the region.

Ed de la Paz, president of the conference, attributes much of its recent success to the support of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

“The Lightning have been wonderful,” de la Paz said. “(They’re) really giving us that hockey perspective.”

Dan Bubley, head coach at Steinbrenner High in Lutz, which competes in the Lightning Conference, has been coaching in Florida for more than 12 years.

At first, Bubley said, it was difficult to find players.

“We used to have to go and drive around the Northdale area to find kids who skated on rollerblades,” he said.

Things have improved. Bubley predicted they will have up to 50 kids trying out for one team before the season starts.

“With all due respect, I think you have to recognize what we are: a non-traditional sport in a sunshine state,” Bubley said.

Bubley said he believes the next step is for the sport to become sanctioned, or “soft sanctioned,” as he put it, by the Florida High School Athletic Association, which sets the guidelines as the governing body for high school sports in the state.

For game times and more information about the FHSHA, visit Select games are also televised on Bright House Sports Network, Ch. 47.


USF baseball has high hopes under new head coach

First year head baseball coach Mark Kingston is optimistic about his team’s upcoming season.

“I think the No. 1 thing is that we want to make sure we reach our potential,” Kingston said. “What that means from a win-loss standpoint, we don’t know yet.  We have a really tough schedule.  We have a lot of returning players, so I’m expecting some guys to continue to progress and get better.”

Kingston coached the past five seasons at Illinois State, where he compiled a record of 173-102 and was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2013. He joined the Bulls last June.

The Bulls are led by senior captain shortstop Kyle Teaf and 2014 First Team All-American Athletic Conference pitcher Jimmy Herget.  The Bulls are looking for a bounce-back season after having a tough year in 2014.

“Last year we were 27-31 I think, and that’s not good enough,” Teaf said. “We need to win more ball games, and obviously Regionals is a good goal to have, but we’re just trying to win ball games any way we can.”

The Bulls opened their 2015 campaign Feb. 13 by beating Cal State Fullerton 2-1 in the Clearwater Tournament. For more information, visit


Local martial arts gym offers training in many fighting styles

World Class Martial Arts is the place to train if you’re looking for a gym that features a little bit of everything. Located in Tampa, World Class Martial Arts offers all the fight styles you’re looking for in order to become a complete, well-rounded fighter, including boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, taekwondo and many more. The gym is led by head instructor Ralph Garcia, who possesses a list of noteworthy accomplishments in the martial arts realm, which is why Garcia feels World Class Martial Arts is one of the premier gyms in the Tampa Bay area.

“I have four black belts right now. I have a 4th degree black belt in taekwondo. I have a 1st degree black belt in Aiki jiu-jitsu. I have a 2nd degree black belt in American jiu-jitsu, and I have a black belt I recently received in Brazilian jiu-jitsu,” Garcia said. “I incorporate pretty much everything. My fighters are usually the most well-rounded fighters in the Bay area, probably.”

This year, the gym grew even stronger by adding another world-class martial arts instructor for their fighters to learn from. With the addition of Judo instructor Marc Maciel, he believes his fight style transitions very easily to MMA.

“Judo is a quick, safe way of teaching jiu-jitsu,” Maciel said. “Once you get your black belt, then you have the rest of the techniques of jiu-jitsu included, and kicks, punches, as well as weapons.”

World Class Martial Arts has trained fighters who have become commercially successful in the sport. Luis Zequeira, an undefeated professional MMA fighter training at World Class Martial Arts, credits his recent success to Garcia and his gym.

“If it wasn’t because of him and the whole team and the other teammates and everyone, you know, we wouldn’t be where we’re at right now as one of the best gyms in the state of Florida,” Zequeira said.

Zequeira isn’t the only student who feels that way. Sarah Kleczka, an amateur MMA fighter at World Class Martial Arts,  believes her gym is best place to train in the area.

“I feel like that our fighters come so much further, so much (more) quickly,” Kleczka said. “I feel like we get all sorts of training and not just one part of training, but we get it all.”

So if you’re an upcoming fighter and looking for a place to train and get in shape in the Tampa Bay area, check out World Class Martial Arts and see if it’s the right place for you.

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Video: Leto High boys basketball on the upswing

The Leto High School boys basketball team hadn’t won more than four games in a season since the 2005-06 season. This immediately changed when coach Mike Heben came to Tampa from Cleveland in 2013 and the Falcons finished the season with a 5-19 record.

While coaching is widely considered the first attribution to the team’s success, the talent on this team should not be overlooked.

Leto’s standout player is junior guard David Jones, who is averaging 24 points and nine assists per game.

“I do everything,”Jones said. “I’m not just a scorer. I use my talent to lead by example for my teammates.”

Helping Jones with the leadership of the team is senior guard Joe Bergollo.

Heben recruited Bergollo off Leto’s baseball team midway through last season. Heben said Bergollo, who previously had no basketball experience, quickly stepped up and set an example for his teammates.

“I’m looking to win, and I think this attitude is contagious to my team,” Bergollo said.

This team has come a long way under Heben’s guidance. With a team of mostly inexperienced players, sticking to a playbook of 10 plays has allowed the Falcons to progress toward their goal of a winning season for the first time in eight years.

Jones said that the family dynamic of the team has been the driving force behind its progress.

“We’re a family, both on and off the court,” Jones said.

That chemistry has helped earn Leto a spot in the district tournament, which started Feb. 2.

This would be Leto’s first Class 6A, District 9 title since 1997.

Lily Simone balances two careers: elementry teacher and Orlando Magic dancer

Lily Simone was once an ordinary girl with dreams of becoming a marine biologist. Now, she manages two careers: 3rd-grade teacher and dancer for the Orlando Magic Basketball Team.

“It has been difficult managing two careers,” said Simone. “However, I think I have gotten better as time goes on managing my schedule and doing both things at the same time.”

Simone works approximately 40 hours per week, but after school, instead of grading papers, she heads to Amway Arena to practice with her team, the Orlando Magic Dancers, or to perform on the sidelines and at quarter breaks during home basketball games.

The 20 members of the Orlando Magic Dancers, according to Jeanine Klem-Thomas, the Entertainment Teams Manager and dance coach, are all full-time students or have full-time careers.

“These are the strong, independent, intelligent women who are more than just big hair and red lips dancing on a court,” said Simone. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to dance on that court and manage an outside career and I don’t think the public understands that.”

The University of South Florida SunDolls dance team played a large role in Simone’s ability to manage a full time teaching schedule and a full time Magic schedule.

“Even though Lily is rookie, she has been fantastic on the team,” said Klem-Thomas.  “She is always smiling and goofy but she knows when to work hard and she always gives 200 percent.”

You can watch Simone and her teammates perform on Nov. 7th at Amway Arena as the Orlando Magic take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I love teaching and interacting with my kids and I love performing for the Magic” said Simone.

Bangin’ Bungee provides flight at Wiregrass

The Tampa Bay Fresh Markets, locations found on, are a favorite event of people in the Tampa Bay area interested in food, fun, and great shopping. Bangin’ Bungie chose to participate in the market, which took place on the morning of October 18th at the Shops at Wiregrass. This slideshow shows the construction of the entertainment complex, as well as a 4-year-old Esperanza Bernal’s first experience on the Bangin’ Bungee.

USF Quidditch Club practice shows magic, hard work

The USF Quidditch Club has been bringing the fictional sporting event from the Harry Potter series to life since the club’s inception in January 2011. The club boasts an active roster of approximately 30 members, as well as official membership status in the International Quidditch Association. Major achievements for the team include seventh place at the 2011 Quidditch World Cup and second place in the 2012 Swamp Cup. Take a closer look at the magic that happens during USF Quidditch practice.