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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sports

Sean Pittman in Sweden.

Islander excels in world's oldest youth soccer tournament

If Island resident Sean Pittman is assigned the obligatory "what-I-did-on-my-summer vacation" essay, he'll have no excuse about not having something to write about. Not after a summer that saw him travel to Sweden to play in the Gothia Cup, the world cup of youth soccer.

Pittman joined other U.S. players on National Sports Tours team July 11-18 in Gothenberg, Sweden, for the oldest world youth cup tournament. Pittman and his teammates joined more than 1,500 teams from 120 countries for the annual event.

Check in at the hotel and the team's first practice opened Pittman's soccer excursion soon after landing in Sweden. The following day, Pittman and his mates played their first game against a Swedish team and dropped a 3-2 decision and followed that up with three consecutive losses to teams from Norway, Sweden and Finland. Pittman's team closed out their tournament by defeating another team from the United States by a 4-1 margin.

Despite the losses, it wasn't all bad for Pittman, who started and played sweeper, a position he normally doesn't play. He must have done something right because the team coaches named him team Most Valuable Player for the tournament.

"My team didn't do too well in the tournament," said Pittman, "but I had fun and gained a lot of good experience playing against those European teams, which should help me improve as a player."

Pittman and his teammates also managed to squeeze in some sightseeing between soccer games. They took a canal cruise through the city and also visited the National Park of Sweden, which was breathtakingly beautiful, according to Pittman.

The boys also managed to take in a professional soccer match between Tottenham and Copenhagen. The opening ceremonies attended by more than 40,000 people stood out to Pittman as one of the highlights of his trip.

Now Pittman turns his attention to his sophomore year at Manatee High School where he hopes to improve on what was a good freshman year on the varsity soccer team as a returning starter.

Last chance to register for fall soccer
Registration for the Anna Maria Island Community Center's fall soccer season is winding down with the last day Saturday, Aug. 14.

Monday and Friday, Aug. 9 and Aug. 13, are designated "registration nights" from 6-8 p.m. at the Center, but players can register anytime between now and Saturday.

Registration fee for Center members is $40 for first child and $35 for each additional child. Nonmember fees are $55 for first child and $50 for each additional child.

Players receive a uniform, including shirt and matching socks, and must provide black shorts and shin guards. Shin guards are offered at the Center for $10 a pair.

Everyone who signs up is assigned a team, although mandatory tryouts will be held for each of the five age groups. Tryouts will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Aug. 16-20. Players ages 5-7 try out Monday for the instructional league and are followed by Division III, ages 8-9, Tuesday and Division II, ages 10-11 Wednesday. Division I, ages 12-13, try out Thursday, while Premier League players, ages 14-16, try out Friday evening. Players will be assigned to their division's teams immediately following each tryout.

For a brushup on soccer skills and basics, the Center's Soccer Camp 2004 gets under way Aug. 11 and runs through Aug. 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Cost is $20 for Center members and $35 for nonmembers.

Youth soccer coaches are also sought.

The 2004 soccer banquet will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, at the Center. The banquet will feature a spaghetti dinner with Caesar salad and garlic bread catered by Beach Bistro. Parents are asked to bring a dessert to share and the Center will provide beverages.

Cost for the banquet is $5 for children under 16 and $6 for adults. Take out dinners will be available as well. Uniforms and schedules are distributed at the banquet and the Center's Scott Dell should have some raffle prizes to give away.

Sign up or inquire at the Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, or call the Center's athletic director, Andy Jonatzke, at 778-1908.

Everyone is invited to come out and support Island youth sports.

Football players sought
The Anna Maria Island Community Center is still accepting registrations for the Anna Maria Dolphins football team in the Mighty-Mite and Flag divisions. Cost for the season is $60 for Islanders and non-Island residents alike.

Mighty-mite players must be age 8-10 and weigh less than 125 pounds, while flag players must be age 6-7 by Sept. 1.

Currently both teams are short by at least 10 players so any and all interested players are strongly encouraged to come out for football.

After a 20-year void from youth football on the Island, the Anna Maria Dolphins managed to establish themselves as a competitive program in the Police Athletic League's youth football league last year and, in 2002, the junior varsity team won the PAL Superbowl.

Unfortunately, lacking signups, it is apparent there will be no JV or varsity team from the Island.

All prospective players must provide a birth certificate to register. Sign up at the Center or call 778-1908 for more information.

Sign up early to bowl
The always anticipated, never disappointing O'Connor Bowling Challenge is set for Saturday, Aug. 28, at the AMF Bradenton Lanes on Cortez Road. If you haven't reserved your spot, you better get your team on the board immediately. Last year sold out early, with 280 bowlers participating and plenty more who showed up intending to bowl left disappointed.

The 14th annual event, which raises money for Anna Maria Island Community Center sports programs, is a fun-filled night where serious and not-so-serious bowlers converge at the bowling alley to challenge their skills against twins Bill and George O'Connor.

Cost for the tournament is $20 per bowler, which includes three games and bowling shoes, that is if you get there early enough to find a pair your size. There will also be raffle tickets for sale for a chance to win a variety of items donated by area merchants and restaurants with the top prize giveaway being the Panasonic 32-inch flat-screen television donated by The Islander.

Joining the usual challengers will be a team from Circuit City, including manager Denny Thompson, an Islander himself. Thompson has made great deals The Islander's purchase of a "bowling" television for some eight to 10 years - bigger and better every year.

All bowlers must pay in advance and cash or check will be accepted by The Islander and Duffy's, while credit card payments (in person or by phone), are accepted at the center.

Sign up for the challenge at The Islander, 5504 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach; Duffy's Tavern, 5808 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach; or the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

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