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Fast-growing soccer league hires trainer

The new hire, who will also work at the University of South Florida, will train coaches as well as players.

By MELANIE AVE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 25, 2000


The all-volunteer New Tampa Soccer Association has entered a new realm by hiring a league-wide trainer -- its first employee.

Jim Felix, 41, will serve as director of coaching and player development for the fast-growing association, which had about 1,200 players last year. Felix, a former coach at the Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, Mass., also will serve as one of two assistant men's varsity soccer coaches at the University of South Florida.

Dennis O'Connor, the association's vice president of competitive soccer, said Felix will split time between USF and the NTSA.

"His job is not only to train the kids, but the coaches," O'Connor said. "We're going up a notch on the food chain."

Felix, who played for USF in the 1970s, coached at Cornell, State University of New York at Stony Brook and Harvard and Boston universities. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from SUNY-Cortland.

Felix said he had already accepted the part-time position at USF when he was approached by the NTSA. He was intrigued.

"I like the way they're developing talent right in their own area," Felix said. "It's a grassroots kind of development. "You don't go out and get players. You bring them up where they are."

O'Connor said Felix's hiring was necessary because of the expanding association, which has grown from about 200 members a decade ago to 1,200 children last year.

"In order to keep up with the kids, we needed some level of professional assistance," he said.

Felix will work with the association's competitive teams about an hour a week. He also will organize clinics for coaches and camps for recreational players.

The goal, O'Connor said, is to help players reach their potential. The league, which plays on fields in Hunter's Green, Tampa Palms and West Meadows and at Benito Middle School, doesn't recruit players from other areas.

"We're trying to grow teams just from the neighborhoods," O'Connor said. "We are interested in kids who live in New Tampa playing at their highest level."

About 80 percent of the children in the New Tampa Soccer Association play on recreational teams. But the league expects to have 17 competitive teams this year compared to 12 last year.

John Hackworth, the USF men's varsity coach, said Felix is a good addition to the university and the soccer association.

"He brings a very strong background of coaching and really has a good philosophy of young soccer players," he said. "I think it's good for soccer in this area overall."

The soccer season runs from November through February. Tryouts for the recreational league will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 at the Comptom Park Clubhouse in Tampa Palms. A second round of tryouts for the league's competitive teams will be Aug. 12 at Benito.

For more information, contact the New Tampa Soccer Association at www.newtampasoccerassn.org or call (813) 991-4890.

- Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3473 or melanie@sptimes.com.

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