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Should Tennis Coaches Teach the Volley First?

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 3:25pm

Doug Browne

As long as I have been around the great game of tennis, most coaches have started their new players with the forehand drive. A few lessons later, and the new player is working diligently on their backhand stroke, and eventually start moving forward to work on their net game.

However, would it be a game changer if all new tennis players began their quest at the net verses the baseline? Would beginners look at the game in a different manner?

First, let’s probe the advantages of coaching the volley ahead of the groundstrokes. First, the volley is a very simple, short stroke. In my opinion, a large percentage of new players have great success with the volley due to its unassuming nature.

In other words, there is little backswing and a very basic compact finish. There really is very little room to go “off the tracks.” The backhand volley offers more challenges because one must decide between a “one-hander” verses a “two-hander.” The coach will make the proper determination, as she will experiment with each style.

Whether a coach utilizes the Playmate ball machine or implements the hand toss, a large number of new players will excel with their new volley. To better improve eye contact on this quick new stroke, coaches prefer their student to step into the volley and make a modest punch.

In short order, the beginner has achieved excellent success with their volleys and has gained valuable confidence. Now this brand-new player is poised to take on heavier tests, and will look forward to learning the baseline game.

Another keen approach is to have the beginner move from volleys straight to the serve. Why? Once again, the student will be striking the ball in the air and has already gained valuable self-assurance from mastering their volleys.

If the pupil has prior sports experiences, the serve may not be a daunting task. Often, the only difficult aspect of learning the serve lies in the toss. To me, the key is to let the apprentice feel free to fail. Yes, it is okay to fail. Once the student begins to reach up and toss above their head, good things start to develop.

Now, with my new pupil self-reliant, she will be anxious to delve into the groundstrokes. In today’s more modern world, coaches offer an unlimited amount of methods to achieve baseline weapons. For instance, with today’s semi-western forehand grip, beginners are able to achieve rapid success.

Prior to the modern game, golfers and tennis players were only offered the ‘shake hands grip,’ and students often felt uncomfortable trying to swing their club or racket. With today’s more user-friendly, semi-western grip (the palm of the hand secures the grip), beginners flourish.

Additionally, the advent of the two-handed backhand has enabled beginners to conquer their fear of hitting this new stroke.

There is an abundance of reasons why we should encourage new players to the sport of a lifetime:

  • Best-ever coaching methods;
  • Top-level fitness and training;
  • Nutrition guidelines;
  • Slower court surfaces (enables players more time to get into position);
  • Top-flight equipment: rackets and strings; and
  • Thousands of facilities with outstanding programming for all levels of tennis.

In summary, formulate a plan before your first lesson. All highly skilled tennis professionals will ask a series of questions to jumpstart your game. If it is your desire to begin at the net, she will oblige. Good luck.


Since 2000, Doug Browne was the Collier County Pro of the Year three times, and has been a USPTA pro in the area for 28 years. Doug was also honored in the International Hall of Fame (Newport, Rhode Island) as Tennis Director during the 2010 summer season. Doug has been writing about tennis for the last 19 years.

Keep the Flip

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 3:17pm

Todd Elliott

There are many different techniques that produce success in golf.

Exhibit B

When hitting a chip or pitch shot the sequence of body movements should be different compared to a shot that needs power. The chip or pitch shot is considered a finesse shot. In contrast, the power sequence is from the ground up: feet, hips, torso, arms, and then the club head. The power sequence starts with the feet shifting pressure into the earth, and pushing off the earth to generate maximum club head speed. The finesse shot does not need this explosive sequence. A golfer should use the ground for stability when hitting a finesse shot. This gives the golfer more control over the club handle, and club head.

We are going to talk about two techniques that breed success when hitting a chip and pitch shot. Both techniques have the golfer using their legs for a stable base.

One technique Phil Mickelson famously named the “hinge and hold.” This is a technique where the golfer hinges or sets the club head with the wrist, and has little body movement on the back swing. The downswing starts with a rotation of the torso, as the golfer tries to hold the angle in the shaft as they come through impact. After the torso starts to rotate, the lead arm keeps the movement of the club handle moving. It is impossible to hold the angle, but this is the feel. The hinge and hold produces less dynamic loft at impact than the loft at set up. Many have great success with this method, which keeps the ball low and running. In my opinion, for the average golfer this method is very useful out of the rough, but tight lies become a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I teach this method to those I think it will help. Again, there is no one way to play golf, only success and/or improvement determines right and wrong in this game.

The second method I find most helpful to those who have a “flip” in their chipping and pitching motion (See Exhibit A). In my experience, those who have the flip are the easiest students to help. I prefer the club to pass the hands on the short shots. The golfer with a flip is creating a motion with the club head passing the hands already, but usually they have other elements that do not match the flip motion.

Keep the flip, but to get results, make a few adjustments. First, you need to make sure that your set up position of the torso is slightly open to the target line, and you tilt the torso towards the target without moving your lower body. Second, your lead arm and shoulder must keep momentum through the whole downswing. Third, your torso does not move until after your lead arm has engaged in the downswing. There are more elements that might be needed depending on the student, but if a golfer already has a flip motion, these three elements are the key to success. Often a student has two of the three necessary elements, and we may only work on one element for the whole lesson.

In Exhibit B, James Sieckmann, short game guru and teacher to many tour professionals, is showing us the correct flip method finished position. As you can see, the club head has moved passed the hands, but the left arm has moved well past impact. In Exhibit C, Sieckmann is also showing us a great drill. These three pictures shows a drill in which he only uses his trail arm.

The flip method will sometimes have a lower launch than the first method. Even though the hinge and hold delofts the club more at impact, the flip method will expose the bottom of the club head to the ball much more. When a golfer makes contact with a chip or pitch on the bottom of the clubface, the golf ball will launch lower with more spin.

I am sure on TV you have seen players hit these amazing 40-yard shots that fly low, skip once or twice on the green, and then stop on a dime. The flip method makes it much easier to make this happen. Yes, I am telling you they are mishitting those 40-yard shots on TV to make the golf ball perform like that. For amateurs, there is a fine line between hitting a low spinner, and blading the ball over the green. Many who have a flip motion blade the ball a lot, because their lead arm does not keep momentum through the shot, as shown in Exhibit A. The arms stop, the player has the flip, the club head bottoms out behind the ball, and as the club head is coming upward, contact is made above the equator.

No method is right, no method is wrong. However, if you have a flip…keep it. Just make the proper adjustments that help the flip work. Trying to go from a flip to a hinge and hold could be disastrous. Go see your local PGA professional to see what method is right for you.

Exhibit C

Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titleist staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email

Why Has Pickleball Become So Popular?

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 2:35pm

Wayne Clark

Three years ago, when pickleball was first introduced to the Racquet Center, not many people, including myself, knew much about the game. But pickleball is now the fastest growing sport in the country! Pickleball has become a very popular athletic activity across the nation, and its popularity is spreading around the world.

Believe it or not, the sport of pickleball has actually been around for 50 years. The game was invented in 1965 in Seattle, by two dads who had returned from a round of golf and were in search of an activity that they could do with their kids for fun. The game was originally set up on a badminton court, and got its silly name from the family dog whose name was Pickles. Pickles would chase and fetch the balls, hence the name pickleball.

Along with many others, when I was first introduced to pickleball, I did not take the sport too seriously. But as I became more involved, I realized that it is a very competitive game that is fun to play and provides a great aerobic workout at the same time.

The recent surge in popularity of the sport is derived from several different reasons. While the sport is beginning to gain popularity with younger generations, the majority of players are baby boomers. As a regular and avid participant playing and competing in the sport of pickleball, I have discovered one of the biggest selling points of the game for all generations is the sociability of the sport.

In recreational club level play, pickleball is mostly played as doubles. Games are played utilizing ping-pong scoring to 11 points. The average game takes about 20 minutes. The team that wins the game retains ownership of the court, and two new players rotate in for the next game. These two new players switch partners with the team that has held the court as the previous winning team. This format provides a social mixer type of scenario, in which in an hour-and-a-half time, we have all played four or five games with a dozen different people.

In addition to this, as an instructor I have found that the learning curve for beginners to become proficient in the sport of pickleball is much easier then in tennis. It is also an alternative for many baby boomer tennis players, who because of physical conditions such as knees, hips, shoulders, etc. (aka the limitations of our maturity), just simply can no longer play the sport of tennis. Because pickleball is played on a court that is one-half the size of a tennis court and is played with a lightweight plastic ball and a lightweight paddle, even though the sport is on a hardcourt surface, players do not have the issues they have with tennis.

Also, as originally intended, pickleball is a great family activity. Over the last three years, as I have been instructing pickleball at the Racquet Center, I have had several tennis playing members come to me wanting to take a pickleball clinic with their grandkids. After taking the clinic, they come back to me a few days later, and tell me, pickleball is the only activity that they have found that they can all do together, that everyone is good at, and most importantly, everyone has a great time together!

Like tennis, pickleball has a rating system ranging from 1.0 to 5.0, with a 1.0 player considered to be a complete beginner, up to a 5.0 being a top rank tournament level player. This is a self-rated system, and the qualifications of these ratings can be found on the USAPA website,, as well as being posted at the Marco Island Racquet Center. As with tennis here on Marco, the majority of players are in the 3.0 to 3.5 level of ability.

In future articles, I will be addressing the sport of pickleball and its strategies, for beginner, intermediate and advance levels of play. But for now my advice is: Don’t miss out on all the fun! Get in the game! Make new friends! Give pickleball a try!

The Racquet Center offers daily clinics for all levels of pickleball. We also have daily rotational play weekday mornings from 8 to 10 AM.


Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 23 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at The Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis juniors program runs year round and has classes for players from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, by phone or text at 239-450-6161, or visit his website at

Meow Girls

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 2:17pm

Naomi & Karina Paape

Team Meow Power, from left: Maria Lamb (runner), Karina Paape (biker),
and Sammy Miller (swimmer). SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Dear Fellow Felines: The day dawned dark and stormy on Sunday, October 4, but – unruffled – my Meow Power team slinked through the course of the Marco Island Fitness Challenge Triathlon and made me and my staff (remember, cats have staff; dogs have owners) here at For the Love of Cats proud. Not only did they obliterate their target finishing time, but they also raised $2,095 for all the cats and kittens here at Marco’s no-kill cat shelter. This was a respectable 42% of their $5,000 fundraising goal. Despite the threatening weather, the Meows had a small cheering section that kept everyone’s spirits up with a colorful Meow Power sign!

As their coach (yes, I know I’m just a cat) I was beaming from ear to tortie ear (remember, I’m a “tortie,” a type of cat known for its take-no-prisoners personality) when my gals received their “finisher” medals. I’d worked the Meows hard through the suffocating summer heat, drenching downpours, and frightening lightning.

Team Meow Power competed in the event as a relay team (versus as individuals), meaning each competed in a single discipline. The team’s swimmer – Sammy Miller, an accomplished triathlete, put in roughly 50-miles of swim training to prepare for her quarter-mile, open water swim, no small feat given that some of her swim sessions at the beach involved dodging families playing and splashing in the water, as well as having to get in and out of the water to avoid getting hooked by fishing lines!

Maria Lamb feeding Roger.

But alas, on game day the seas of the Gulf were dangerously rough for the swimmers who’d be fighting a westerly wind of 15-20 knots and a strong riptide. The organizers decided to cancel the swim, a heartbreaker for the 342 athletes who’d spent months training for that segment of the course. Instead, the swimmers ran a quarter-mile on the beach, and then ran up to the transition area to hop on their bikes for the 15-mile ride to and through Key Marco and back. As if the hilly course through Key Marco wasn’t challenging enough, the bikers had to deal with the same strong and gusty winds that had shut down the swim leg.

Team Meow Power’s biker, endurance cyclist Karina Paape, put in roughly 1,000 training miles and 25 hours of spin classes, yet still found the course a pedal-to-the-metal suffer-fest. Runner Maria Lamb, a marathoner who’s doing the New York City Marathon in two weeks, was waiting for Karina when she hit the transition area, literally. Karina fell spectacularly while trying to run across the sandy parking lot in cleated biking shoes to rack her bike, yet still managed to hand off the timing chip to Maria, who was waiting anxiously in the team box. Maria dashed back to the crowded beach for the event’s final leg, a 3.1-mile run in the sand.

The team’s assistant coach “Felicia” – a beautiful, elderly Maine Coon cat who took up residence in the shelter early in the summer, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on August 24 after an unsuccessful battle with a litany of health problems. The loss drove my Meow Power athletes to train even harder so as to make Felicia proud. The effort was reflected in a finishing time of 1:38:18, which was well below team captain Maria’s goal to finish in 1:49:00. Team Meow Power finished fourth in their team division, which fell one place short of bringing a trophy home to the shelter. But to me, the kitties, and my staff of volunteers, Meow Power brought home the greatest prize of all: hope and happiness for all the kitties we rescue each year.

I was so touched by their dedication, in fact, that I decided to give them each a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of how hard they had worked for the shelter kitties. When the Meows arrived for the ceremony, they found me (I’m the official “shelter supervisor”) and my staff knee deep in a litter of five orphaned, nine-day old kittens who’d come in the door moments earlier. We were busy giving each one a bath, picking fleas off, and determining their genders.

The Meows, wearing their neon green triathlon shirts and finisher’s medals, jumped right in to help. Maria started bottle-feeding them one at a time, after which I asked Sammy and Karina to give the newbies a walking tour of the shelter. Since the kittens delayed my little awards ceremony, I gave the Meows the honor of naming the new arrivals. They didn’t waste any time coming up with purr-fect, famous athlete names: Diana, Gretta, Quintana, Ranger, and Rodger. And they’re already talking about next year’s triathlon! “The best part of all was sharing the race with my uber talented and caring teammates,” Sammy explained. “That’s the part I’ll treasure the most!”

In closing, I encourage readers to check out the shelter’s “kitty cam” at: And start saving your allowance so you can buy one of the shelter’s Glamour Puss 2016 calendars, which are available online and at the Farmer’s Market. They make purr-fect Christmas gifts!


Naomi is a 6-1/2-year-old Tortie and a permanent resident at FLC. She is the shelter supervisor and takes her salary in food. She would love for you to learn more about For the Love of Cats at its website,


Marco Island Florist Celebrates 35 Years

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:34pm


In celebration of its 35th anniversary, and to honor its valued customers, Marco Island Florist and Gifts is giving a complimentary rose to every person who comes into the shop on Saturday, October 17, between 9 AM and 5 PM.

Throughout the day refreshments will be served and the shop will feature a design table where residents can watch professional floral designers at work and learn decorating tips and flower names. Those who stop by can also enter a drawing to receive a flower arrangement delivered to their home or office every month for a year.

“We’ve enjoyed helping people select the perfect flowers to express their love, friendship, congratulations, thanks, birthday, anniversary wishes and heartfelt sympathy. Now is our chance to say ‘thank you’ to all of our loyal customers,” says Nancy Carrington, owner of Marco Island Florist and Gifts.

Nancy is a past president and board member for the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of the Society of American Florists. She is an FTD master designer, winning numerous designing awards, such as Teleflora’s Top 100.

Marco Island Florist and Gifts has a history of putting its petals where its promises are. Just look around Marco Island. One of their favorite projects is donating to the American Cancer Society’s fund raising gala, and they stand behind Christmas Island Style. “We’re always excited to get involved in the community,” Nancy says.

Come join in the fun on Saturday, October 17, and help Marco Island Florist and Gifts celebrate 35 years of serving this great community.

Marco Island Florist and Gifts is located at 178 S. Barfield Drive, Marco Island. Business hours are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Saturday. Call 239-394-8141 or visit for more information.


Cost Cutters Family Hair Salon, Entering its 10th Year on the Island

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:32pm

By Samantha Husted


Cost Cutters Family Hair Salon, located in the Marco Town Center, is Marco Island’s only full service value price salon. Full service means everything from kids’ to adult haircuts, color & gloss to foil highlights, and perms to facial waxing.

Value price means low, everyday pricing. Regular price for an adult haircut is just $15.95; however, every Tuesday and Saturday you can get one for just $10 (cash price). Kids’ cuts are regularly priced at $9.95 but also on Tuesdays and Saturdays you can get one for just $5 (cash price). Included in the kids’ cut is a free toy that the child can pick out after their haircut.

Value pricing also extends to Cost Cutters’ color and chemical services. The everyday low price for a color & gloss is just $39.95; however, with a coupon you can get one for just $29.95, any day of the week. If you’re really looking for a deal, make an appointment for either Monday or Saturday and you can get that same color & gloss for just $19.95, if you add on an adult haircut.

Unique to Cost Cutters is that they use Goldwell color – one of the most expensive professional coloring brands on the market today. Goldwell is considered one of the top five color brands in the world. To top this off, every color service gets a gloss treatment, free of charge. The added gloss gives an additional shine and longevity for those that are often outside or enjoy swimming.

While Cost Cutters is a national franchise, the store on Marco is locally owned and has been in operation since 2006. This salon is conveniently located in the Marco Town Center next to the Dunkin’ Donuts. They’re open Monday-Friday: 9 AM-6 PM and Saturday: 9 AM-4 PM. Although they do not take appointments for haircuts, you are encouraged to call an hour ahead to have your name placed on the list. Appointments are taken when having any color or chemical service done. Contact Cost Cutters at 239-642-1115.

Cost Cutters is a great place to go for quality hair service at reasonable value pricing. They are always looking for new customers. Check out all of their super specials on Facebook at: Cost Cutters of SW FL.

The Arlington Welcomes Its First Residents

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:24pm

Donna Fiala

The Arlington upscale retirement community has officially welcomed its first residents. Wonderful people they are! Mr. and Mrs. Chaulk were delightful, well read and traveled, and we all enjoyed their sense of humor immensely. They bought one of the gorgeous villas that look more like a mini-mansion than anything else. It even comes with its own golf cart for riding around the community. The following day, and each day afterward, more residents are moving into the villas. Another couple that will be moving into their villa, upon arriving back in Collier County, is Tony and Connee Zeman, our wonderful friends from Lely Resort. I understand there are a number of residents who are coming from Marco Island and Lely Resort, so it will be like a reunion of marvelous people!

  • My daughter and I went to lunch at a great little breakfast and lunch place, and while we waited in a very long line to be called (mind you, this is the 11th of October – it’s not even season yet!) the hostess I spoke with said they keep daily records of the number of guests eating with them, and they are averaging over 100 people a day MORE than last year! When season gets here we’ll have to eat at our friends’ houses because there won’t be any room for us! But, I guess we should count our blessings because this winter is predicted in the Farmer’s Almanac to be as bad or worse than last year for those living up north. I cannot blame them for wanting to come down here. Let’s face it – most of us came here from someplace else. What drove us? Mostly the weather, the sun, the water, the sunsets, the beauty. In some cases the parents moved here first and the family followed after visiting regularly, because once you visit, you long to come back again and again. It wasn’t like that for me though. My husband and I (and our friends) came to Largo, Florida to visit his parents, and our friends asked us to come to Naples to visit their friends for one day. I had a sick little boy, but they insisted, so I acquiesced, but only for one day! That night, after my husband and his buddy enjoyed a few spirits (nice way of saying that, isn’t it?) and I was packing to leave the next morning, my husband said “whatcha doing?” “Packing” was my reply. “No, you’re not leaving,” He said “I’m leaving you here to find a house, I’m going back to sell our house and the business. We’re moving!” Just like that! No conversation. No plans. Nothing. He left me here to find a house and buy it, then to go back to Cleveland, pack up and move! That was January 1974. We moved in on June 12, 1974. He has since passed, but I’m still in the same house, and most of my kids and all of my grandchildren are right here, thank heavens. I have one son in Albany though, who gets home at least once a year. I’m not sure why I told you all that, so please forgive.
  • Dr. Debi Lux has been working with the City of Marco Island and the City of Naples, and will soon make a presentation to Collier County, to get approval to hang banners in public places honoring our veterans. What a terrific way to tell our veterans we appreciate all they have done for us, and the sacrifices they have made! We should begin to see them appear around Marco Island and other parts of the county in November, in time for Veteran’s Day! In the county she is hoping to feature them in the Fred Coyle Freedom Park and the North Collier Regional Park, to name a few, if they are approved.




SKYFUN (Full disclosure: The writer is a retired airline executive)

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:20pm

In memory of Monte Lazarus and his contributions to Coastal Breeze News, we are publishing many of his humor columns again in coming editions. They will bring as many smiles now as they did when first printed. Enjoy!

By Monte Lazarus

Dear SKYFUN Customer,

We value your membership in our Fun In The Skies Club, and are pleased to offer the following new amenities on your upcoming flights. Please continue to enjoy yourselves on our retro propeller-driven aircraft. No longer do you have to worry about missing the joy of lingering in the sky. With SKYFUN your trips are leisurely and thrilling!

You’ll be happy to learn that we have successfully launched our program to permit you to avoid “pat downs” and full body scans before boarding our aircraft. For a modest $5 fee you can bypass these security stops. Passengers electing this popular option will board the aircraft nude, and dress in our snug restrooms aboard the aircraft.

We are not increasing restroom charges. They remain at $3 per visit (two visits for $5). Passengers choosing the nude boarding option will not be charged an additional fee for dressing in the restroom. However, we request that those passengers kindly use the restroom for dressing only, and do not otherwise use the facilities under this option.

Passengers who check baggage will only be charged a small $10 fee (per bag) at baggage claim at their destination. This is not only a convenience, but assures the security of your checked luggage.

If crying children disturb you, there is now an option of purchasing a seat in a Child-Free Zone. For only $25 you can be guaranteed complete tranquility aboard one of our delightful SKYFUN flights.

We have been able to reduce our seatbelt charge to $3 because our Purchasing Department alertly found a supply of slightly used Chinese seatbelts at an excellent price. This is just another example of SKYFUN looking out for our passengers!

Our passenger surveys inform us that our customers do not like “airline food”. We are delighted to respond with an added amenity. We shall no longer serve any food or disturb you by offering snacks. You may purchase sandwiches and drinks in our boarding area at very reasonable airport prices.

For your amusement, and adding to the ambiance of our antique aircraft, we are revitalizing the duct tape on our seats. The tape will now be in brilliant colors instead of the traditional silver-gray.

Our in-flight magazine (“SKYCAPERS”) will continue to be placed in your seatback. The magazine is available from your flight attendant for a $3 charge (plus shipping and handling of $7). This superb magazine features 73 pages of advertisements, a crossword puzzle, a free detailed map of Montenegro, and a message from our beloved Chairman.

Our outstanding flight attendants can provide you wit convenience sacks (“barf bags”). They are free. However, there is a small $2 disposal charge for used sacks. We encourage passengers to be aware of this amenity since our antique aircraft fly at very low altitudes to enhance your viewing pleasure, although low altitude flights occasionally tend to encounter turbulence. As small children have learned, bouncing is fun!

We have updated our SKYFUN CLUB. Our lounge is located in our major hub at Boise, Idaho and is a quick half-mile walk from the terminal. The lounge is replete with photographs of the nationally famous Boise State football team. Team posters are available for purchase at the check-in desk. The lounge also has soft drinks and peanuts for sale. Passengers fortunate enough to travel through Boise will be thrilled to see the new lounge. We are planning a second lounge at our other hub in Dubuque, Iowa. Our club membership remains at $50 a year.

SKYFUN is devoted to public service, and we ask you to join with this noble effort. In growing season we may divert one or more of our fleet of six aircraft for crop dusting use. Dedicated SKYFUN customers can enjoy the comfort of serving our nation’s need for productive agriculture as we put replacement aircraft in service from time-to-time. Every dollar earned from crop dusting goes directly into SKYFUN’s coffers to maintain the highest quality of service for you – our beloved passenger.

Cordially, Rufus Ricketts

Senior Vice-President, Marketing and Chief Pilot


Monte Lazarus was active in a variety of organizations and civic-minded duties, he made numerous contributions for the betterment of Marco Island and its residents.




Letter to the Editor: Marco Island Academy Land Purchase

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:19pm

Marco Island Academy Land Purchase

“The Board of Directors, Administration, staff and students of Marco Island Charter Middle School congratulates Marco Island Academy and Ms. Jane Watt for their successful purchase of the land which they have been leasing since the opening of their school. We also thank Bill and Karen Young who kindly lent the funds which made the purchase possible. Success of a public Charter High School will benefit all the students and citizens of Marco Island in particular and Collier County in general.

We now anxiously await the District School Board’s final sale of Tract-K to the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation which will use it as a passive park to preserve the environmental integrity of it as a bald eagle nesting sanctuary. The proceeds from this sale minus closing costs will be distributed in accordance with the Settlement Agreement and Release which was entered between the Deltona Corporation and the School Board of Collier County, Florida and filed on January 3, 1990. This agreement provided that “if Tract-K is sold to a third party the proceeds of such sale shall be applied by the School Board for the benefit of the public school student populace of Marco Island and Marco Shores or both, in schools where they attend on Marco Island, Marco Shores or elsewhere in Collier County.

As a result of this sale, ALL Collier County Public Schools where Marco Island and Marco Shores resident children attend will get a prorated share of the proceeds according to formula worked out between the parties to the contract. This is great news for those Collier County public schools where our children attend and it is indeed great news for Marco Island Charter Middle School and Marco Island Academy who will be sharing a substantial part of the proceeds from the sale.”

Tarik N Ayasun
President , Board of Directors
Marco Island Charter Middle School

Historic Site #8: Rosemary Cemetery

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:18pm
1000 Pine Ridge Road

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

There are 60 people buried in Rosemary Cemetery, which was established by E.W. Crayton in 1931. Many of the decedents were early pioneers to the area and were considered founding fathers of Collier County. In 1976, the site was donated to Collier County. The Board of County Commissioners designated this site as locally significant in 1993 and provided funds to restore the cemetery.

For more information about Rosemary Cemetery, go to:

In their effort to increase public awareness of the importance and significance of Collier County’s historical and archaeological heritage, the Historic and Archaeological Preservation Board of Collier County produces a 28-page booklet featuring historic sites in Collier County. The 44 sites highlighted in the book are grouped together by proximity and shown on a locator map.

Historic Designation Process: the designation of specific sites, structures, buildings, districts and properties may be initiated by the Preservation Board or the property owner. Consideration of the Preservation Board’s findings and recommendations, and upon the consideration of the criteria and guidelines contained in the Land Development Code, the Board of County Commissioners either approves or denies the petition. The Board of County Commissioners has designated many of the sites and structures as locally significant.

For more information go to and click on Historic Archaeological & Preservation Board under Advisory Boards. Also see (Naples); (Marco/Goodland); (Everglades City); and (County).

Marco Island Historical Society Opens New “Modern Marco” Exhibit

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:15pm

By Samantha Husted

MIHS Curator of Collections Austin Bell.

On October 8, the Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) opened their newest exhibit titled, “Modern Marco” to celebrate 50 years of Island modernity. Though Marco is much older than 50, it’s actually about 6,000 years old, the exhibit starts its timeline in the 1960s when the Mackle brothers first came to the island. It was around this time that they decided to commercialize Marco and make it more accessible to the public, thus bringing in the modern age.

“The Mackle Brothers are responsible for the design and development of the Marco Island paradise that we enjoy today,” said Pat Rutledge, board president and executive director of MIHS. “Our newest exhibit, ‘Modern Marco’ is a fitting tribute to their vision.”

This is the second installation of MIHS’ three primary long-term exhibits. Company Creative Arts Unlimited is responsible for the design and fabrication of the display. All together it took about 11 months to complete. Modern Marco traces important events from the opening of the S.S. Jolley Bridge in 1969 to the construction of the Esplanade in the early 2000s. The installation also follows the changing technologies, fashions and the landscape of Marco over the past 50 years. It includes original artifacts and images from the MIHS collections and successfully captures the essence of the 1960s.

Herbert Savage, Deltona Corporation Architect and Pat Kaufman, MIHS Board

“I think for many people who lived or grew up on Marco Island during that era, it’s an opportunity to stroll down memory lane and reflect on just how much has changed here in five short decades,” said Austin Bell, curator of collections. “To be a part of the history on display, it must be thrilling to see it all come back to the forefront in one place.”

If you didn’t grow up on Marco, the exhibit is still worth a visit. Marco’s story is unique and this is the first time it has been displayed in such a way. Modern Marco is fun, it’s interactive and perhaps most importantly, it places Marco in history. So go and learn how Marco went from a town of 600 to a city of 35,000 in 50 short years.

Ribbon cutting at the Marco Island Historical Society’s Modern Marco exhibit.

The Marco Island Historical Society is located at 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Marco Island. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 4 PM. For additional information go to the MIHS website at or call 239-642-1440.



Attention Southwest Florida Shoppers: Save Money, Live Better … and be in a Music Video?!

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:13pm


The USA Freedom Kids are in production on a music video for their fun and upbeat dance song, “National Anthem Part 2.” The Kids will be shooting a scene at the Walmart Supercenter located near Marco Island on Monday, October 19.

The Kids have already recorded several scenes, including one of their favorites with the Marco Island Police and Fire Rescue personnel. “It quickly became way more than a great scene for the video,” says Jeff Popick, the group’s founder and manager, “it was a party; and a truly terrific experience for everyone.”

“National Anthem Part 2” is now available on iTunes, and many other sites. The song is described as a high-energy dance song that combines elements of the “Star Spangled Banner” to help inspire and grow freedom and American patriotism.

The song is, of course, patriotic, but it also breaks new ground with its electronic dance musicality. EDM, as it is known in the music industry, has become a favorite style of music. In the case of the “National Anthem Part 2,” this creates something very special and unique – appealing to young and old alike. Our veterans absolutely adore these girls and the patriotic music. Our younger generation loves the fun music, while learning the importance and value of freedom.

The music video is choreographed by Tre Preston, who some refer to as the “King of Choreography.” Tre has been instrumental in creating dance routines for many A-list performers, and he has even served as the creative director for the best-selling pop group, Kidz Bop.

The USA Freedom Kids take New York’s Times Square. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

The USA Freedom Kids perform patriotic music that truly melt hearts, lift spirits and inspire a renewed appreciation of American freedoms. In addition to the single, they have a full album, which is scheduled to be released in early 2016. Bob Galloway, Walmart store manager says, “The USA Freedom Kids represent the best of America’s future. It is terrific to see kids who are proud of America. And, America is so proud of them.”

The USA Freedom Kids is a local group, based on Marco Island, but they’ve already made their way into New York’s Times Square when their first single, “National Anthem Part 2,” was launched. Popick reports that he is speaking with representatives from the campaigns of numerous presidential candidates about the Kids performing for them, but has declined to comment on which candidates. “Time will tell,” he says.


Come celebrate freedom with the USA Freedom Kids! For more information, please visit If you’d like to be in the video, you are encouraged to send an email to for more details.

Misunderstandings Regarding Veterans Community Park

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:11pm

By Dr. Gerald Swiacki,
Chairman Parks and Recreation
Advisory Committee

There has been a great deal of inaccurate and misleading information circulating, recently, regarding Veterans Community Park. As Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC), I would like to correct any misunderstandings.

Let me begin by reviewing some history regarding the property. The 6.85 acre property, formerly known as “The Glon Property,” was purchased by the City of Marco Island for $10 million in 2003. The intended purpose was to maintain green space and add a multifunctional park for the enjoyment of citizens and visitors. The previous Veteran’s Park at the corner of Barfield and Collier Boulevard was renamed Founder’s Park. The Glon property was named Veteran’s Community Park at the urging of then Councilwoman, Terri DiSciullo, to reflect the inclusive nature and use of the park.

Shortly, thereafter, a committee was formed of community leaders, concerned citizens and veteran’s groups to meet with urban designer Kimley-Horn to create a plan for the development of the park. After many meetings, with open discussion and input from the public, three option plans, each included three structures (cultural center, bathroom facilities, and an amphitheater) were submitted for the City’s review in June of 2009. The anticipated cost for completion of any one of the three plans was approximately $30 million. All three proposals included a portion of the park dedicated to a Veteran’s Memorial. Because of cost restraints and city priorities, minimal action was taken by the city to develop the property. Elkcam Circle, which ran through the park, was closed off, sodded and became part of the park.

A citizen’s committee, “Trees are Cool,” successfully raised money, by way of donations and state grants, and planted several trees around the perimeter of the park. The Veterans requested permission from the city, and it was granted, to raise money by voluntary contribution to develop the northwest corner of the park for the Veteran’s Memorial. This year the three-phase project has been completed.

At the present time the park has been used for various functions—the Farmers’ Market, Seafood Festival, Christmas Tree Lighting, two visits by the Vietnam War Memorial Traveling Wall, and a planned 50-year celebration of Marco Island on November 21, 2015. Otherwise, it has been underutilized as a passive green space for the enjoyment of all citizens and visitors.

During the past two years the focus of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee has been to acquire public approval and City Council support for a new Community Center at Mackle Park. Following the November 2014 Referendum, the City Council approved spending $3.5 million on a new building. Preliminary architectural design and renderings show a 12,000 square foot facility. This has been downsized from a desired 16,000 square foot building due to a protracted approval process, including a required referendum. This resulted in increased construction costs. The PRAC has been monitoring the progress of the Mackle Park Community Center, and has requested public input at our monthly committee meetings.

Additionally, since December 2014 PRAC has turned its attention to more closely monitoring the other parks in the system, and specifically to review and develop a program for the completion of Veteran’s Community Park. This has included a review of the 2009 plans, and it has obtained citizen input as to the needs and desires of the community for the property in 2015.

Meanwhile, the City Council has engaged the services of the lobbyist Ron Book in an attempt to garner funds for various city projects. During the 2015 state legislative session, Mr. Book was able to obtain $400,000 for utility projects, $100,000 for storm water improvement projects, as well as $1.5 million for beach re-nourishment. The county had only requested $125,000 for this project for Marco Island. Mr. Book was also able to get legislative approval for $ 2.5 million for a building at Veteran’s Community Park. The funding was to be 1/3 by the state ($2.5 million) and 2/3 by the city ($5 million). The governor, however, vetoed many proposals including this project.

At the present time, City Council has directed the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and the Planning Advisory Board to evaluate the need and purpose of a building, as well as future development of the property at Veteran’s Community Park.

During the past several monthly meetings of PRAC there has been citizen and committee input regarding the building and the park. At the present time the committee members feel that a $30 million expenditure for the park is not in the city’s best interest. The plan accepted by the city in 2009 envisioned a 14,000 square foot performing arts center, a 10,000 square foot band shell, a 1.3 acre amphitheater with concessions and bathrooms, and a 0.6 acre plaza. Instead, a 10,500 square foot multiuse building is being evaluated by the city and PRAC with a 4,500 square foot patio and an outdoor stage. Veteran’s programs, including the American Legion, would operate in one of the available medium sized meeting rooms. This would NOT be a “full time service” Veteran’s Building or a “full service Veteran’s health clinic or health facility.” The city would own and manage the building. There would be space available, as needed, for meetings and as a source of informational reference material for the veterans and all community groups.

At the present time, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is seeking citizen input regarding this building and future development of Veteran’s Community Park. This matter will remain on all PRAC agendas for the foreseeable future. The PRAC meets the third Tuesday of each month at 3:00 PM in City Council Chambers. The next meeting is at 3:00 PM on Oct. 20, 2015. We encourage all citizens with ideas and input to attend these meetings so that PRAC can develop a plan that matches the desires of the community. Although the city is positioning itself to apply for a state grant in fiscal year 2016, ABSOLUTELY NO FINAL DECISIONS HAVE BEEN MADE AT THIS TIME. Citizen input is valuable. We want to hear from you.


The Name Says It!

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:08pm

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

Organizers of the Marco Island Triathlon, The Fitness Challenge, immediately hypnotize all in their path. Their name is used to entice, The Fitness Challenge. Director Linda Gregory goes on with “Y NOT TRI…Accept the Challenge.”

Almost 300 from all across Florida, from Washington D.C. to Ohio, Oregon and even as far as Spain, accepted that challenge. Participants could run either as an individual under Clydesdale or Athena categories, or as part of a team of two or three. Teams were divided as male, female, corporate, mixed, family and special response.

The race should have consisted of a ¼ mile swim, 15-mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Wind and waves caused directors to cancel the swim, and instead add a run along the beach. Racers of all ages were there, from 15-year-old Martin Badov to 83-year-old Marco resident, Mary Ann Tittle.

Why do they accept the challenge? Besides the fact the event is held on a gorgeous beach at the Marco Island Marriott and runs through the streets of beautiful Marco Island? Why do they run and bike, and sometimes swim, these grueling triathlons? All along the sidelines, and at the finish line, it becomes all too obvious. There were t-shirts, which read “I do it for Michelle,” or the “Walcks ain’t walkers,” or the “fit ACMan team.” There were people cheering on their family members or friends all along the way. There are friends who run because of someone they know, or someone they love. Some, like Team Meow, do it For the Love of Cats; other people do it to support their favorite charity or organization. One thing is obvious, whether it be for a group, a cause, a friend, an associate, family or personal goal, each of the entrants has a reason they accept the challenge. That reason is what propels them to make their way to the finish line.

Congratulations to ALL who accept the challenge. This writer is in awe of your energy and determination.


Top 5 Overall Male and Female Individuals


  • Ross Lenehan
  • Vladimir Casanova
  • Oscar Corredor
  • Diego Corredor
  • Bill Quinsey



  • Christina Kolstedt (14 overall)
  • Julia Wreski (19 overall)
  • Michelle Bracci (44 overall)
  • Deb Morphy (45 overall)
  • Karen Tamson (59 overall)


Awards were also presented to the top three in each age group and the top three in each team division.



MIA Tech Club: Students Help Community With Technology Issues

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:02pm

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

Tech Club Member Connor Sorrick, 10th grade. In the background, from left: Max Rufatt, 11th grade and Aidan Kahn, 12th grade.

For the third year in a row, the Marco Island Academy Tech Club is giving back to the community by providing technology support to Marco Island residents, free of charge.

Teacher Kirby Rients leads the group of 15 tech-savvy students, grades 9 to 12. He tells us that the students do everything from “turning on an iPhone to complete system overrides and installing virus protection software.”

Community members can bring their technology problems to the school for a one- hour help session, if they need it. On a typical day, students assist with setting up smart phones, installing new programs on laptops, and answering questions about how to use Facebook and email.

Joey Politi is one of the Tech Club students that help MIA and the community with
technology issues.

The student’s technology assistance is not limited to iPhones and laptops. Mr. Rients tells us that two years ago a woman visited the Tech Club in her new car. She had purchased a number of upgrades, but was unable to make use of the new technology. The student synced her phone to the new car, connected the Bluetooth, taught her how to make a hands-free call, and set up her contacts on her cell phone to make the calls.

Mr. Rients explained that this unique outreach program allows the students the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills with the general public. He says it is a “way to include the community in what we have at MIA.” The club wants people in the community to know that the service is available to them, at “no cost.”

From left: Students Max Rufatt and Nick Figueroa. PHOTOS BY JESSICA HERNSTADT

Off-season the students focus on getting the school’s computers and 75 iPads current and in good working order. Tasks include all the updates and software installation, setting up the school’s computers for standardized testing, and troubleshooting. Although the school receives weekly computer maintenance from an outside company, the students fill in when problems arise.

Joey Politi, 11th grade, says he is in the club because “technology is such a big component in everyday life.” Max Rufatt, also a junior, says the Tech Club “helps so many people, both the people who come in, and the school.”

Many of the same students come back to the Tech Club each year, and new ones have been quick to join. Only in its third year, the club has already tripled in size. Why do they come back? Tenth grader Vincent Piranio put it simply, “I liked it, and it was fun.”

From left: MIA Tech Club’s Kalli Jacobs, Connor Sorrick and Vincent Piranio.

The club meets every other Wednesday from 3:15-3:30 PM at Marco Island Academy, 2255 San Marco Road, room 106. The next meeting, which is open to the public, is Wednesday, October 28.

For more information on the MIA Tech Club, contact Mr. Kirby Rients at or call 239-393-5133.

Teacher Kirby Rients leads MIA’s Tech Club.

Fundraising Underway for Annual Thanksgiving Luncheon for Low-Income Seniors

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:01pm

By Don Manley

Thanksgiving Day will once again be brightened for a group of low-income seniors thanks to the efforts of Marco Island realtor Sandi Sims and the volunteers and donors who assist her.

This year, as she has for the last 10 years, Sims will host a Thanksgiving meal with all the traditional fixins’ at a Marco restaurant for residents of the Goodlette Arms Apartments, a 250- unit, Section 8 development for seniors, located off Goodlette-Frank Road in Naples.

Costs for the meal and transportation for the seniors are all covered through donations from Marco residents and businesses, said Sims, who is with Keller Williams Realty on the island. She handles the organizing and fundraising, with the assistance of Dan Collardey, owner of The SpeakEasy restaurant and Island Eyes Investigative Services on Marco.

“It’s basically all from friends and acquaintances that I’ve met here on Marco, over the years,” Sims said of the fundraising, which is underway now. “I’m not a charity organization, so people can’t get a (tax) write-off. It’s just the kindness of other people. Everything is volunteers, all the cooks and all the waitresses, the people who help them get off the bus. I just have a whole group of people who come every year and help out.”

As with last year, she expects to serve about 90 Goodlette Arms residents at the Thanksgiving Day luncheon. An assortment of Marco restaurants have served the meal over the years. This year, it will be Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano, located off N. Collier Boulevard. Sims said the very first luncheon was held at that location, when it was occupied by the Fortunes eatery.

Sims said that all donated funds are expended on the meals, busses chartered from Naples Transportation and Tours, and stockings for all the residents “with different goodies in it.”

Residents who are not ambulatory are not forgotten. Sims said she expects to provide at least 30 dinners for the homebound.

Sims started her Thanksgiving charitable tradition after moving to the island in 2000. It was something she’d also done at the restaurant in Colorado that she managed before coming to Marco.

When asked how it feels to know she’s making a difference for others during the holiday season, she said mere words aren’t sufficient.

“I think you almost have to come and see how special these people are, how appreciative,” said Sims. “Many of them have no family or no family nearby. These people just make my heart happy.”

To donate, contact Sims at 239-404-2448 or, or Collardey at 239-821-3125.

Christmas Island Style Golf Tournament a Success

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 3:10pm

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

Barbara and Carmen Dasti at the luncheon following the tournament.

On Saturday, October 3, Christmas Island Style held its annual golf tournament, their first fundraiser for the 2015 Christmas season.

The tournament was hosted by the Marco Marriott’s Hammock Bay Golf Course. More than 90 hole sponsors and 100 golfers helped the group raise close to $14,000.

The co-chairs of the event, Wayne and Sue Purvis, Wanda Day, Gene Burson and Barbara Dasti worked hard to make the event the success that it was.

Although there were two hole-in-one prizes offered, neither one were won during the tournament. One prize consisted of $10,000 cash, sponsored by ARA Insurance, and a $70,000 center console fishing boat provided by the Rose Marco River Marina.

“This event would not have been possible if not for all of the volunteers that work on the Christmas Island Style events all during the holiday season.  Combine that with the generosity of our many businesses and individuals on the island to sponsor the event in you have a win-win for the entire community,” said Steve Stefanides, the Chairman of Christmas Island Style.

Steve Stefanides, chairman of Christmas Island Style.

Christmas Island Style never charges folks to attend their island holiday events, such as the boat parade, street parade, meeting with Santa and the tree lighting. Pre-holiday fundraisers, such as the golf tournament, are critical for the organization, and enable them to provide these programs to the public free of charge.

The next fundraiser for Christmas Island Style will be a festive Casino Night on Saturday evening October 17 from 6 to 9 PM at the Rose Historical Auditorium on the campus of the Marco Island Historical Museum on South Heathwood Drive. Admission for the event is $35 and attendees will be provided with game chips and a free drink, and will be able to bid on many excellent prizes with their casino winnings.


Community Steps Up to Assist Injured Musician Merrill

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 3:04pm

By Don Manley

Billy J & The Big Easy entertain at Merrill Fest.

The Goodland community and friends from near and far turned out in large numbers during the day-long Merrill Fest benefit held at Goodland’s Little Bar Restaurant.

Goodland musician Merrill Allen, who has entertained at the Little Bar since 1993, sustained second-degree burns over 60 percent of his body in a September 7 propane explosion on his boat, which was docked at the Old Barge Marina in Goodland.

Allen returned home recently after being treated at Tampa General Hospital Regional Burn Center. But he still faces a long road in recovering from his injuries.

Some of the items included in the silent auction for Merrill Fest.

Merrill Fest was the brainchild of Little Bar owner Niki Bauer, who was assisted by other Goodland residents and businesses in organizing the fundraiser and selling tickets for the 50-50 and pop-up raffles. The event also included a silent auction at Merrill Fest, which was held October 11.

Featured at the 10-hour long event was live music by provided by a multitude of local musicians, including Merrill Allen’s brother Jim, Ryan Darling, Konnie, Raiford Starke, Joerey Ortiz, Billy J & The Big Easy, and Taylor Freydberg.

Donations can also be sent to: Benefit for Merrill Allen, P.O. Box 653, Goodland, FL 34140

Monte Lazarus, Attorney, Veteran and Community Leader

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 2:57pm
September 19, 1930 – October 3, 2015

Monte Lazarus passed away on Saturday, October 3, 2015, at Avow Hospice with his wife and friends at his side.

In 1951, Monte received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, cum laude from the University of Wisconsin, and a Juris Doctor degree from the Yale Law School in 1954. At Yale he received the Munson Prize for the Public Defender of the Year. He was a member of the Florida Bar, Connecticut Bar, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Monte served in the U.S. Army in Europe in 1954-1956 as a legal non-commissioned officer, and received a commendation from the Commanding General, USAEUR for his performance of duty.

After serving in the U.S. Army, he was employed by the U.S. Aeronautics Board from 1956 until 1973. He received the C.A.B.’s highest award for Meritorious Service.

From 1973 until 1989, he served as an officer of United Airlines. From 1973 until 1975 he was Vice President of Public Affairs, and from 1975, until he took early retirement, he was Senior Vice President of External Affairs.

In 1979 he received the William A. Patterson Award, United Airlines highest honor.

In 1989 he moved to Marco Island, where he devoted himself to many civic, governmental and charitable activities. On August 11, 2015, he fulfilled his dream of being Marco Island City Magistrate.

Monte loved to read, write, plan, and take trips. His passions were classical music, Shakespeare, aviation, sports and travel.

There will be a Celebration of Life on Sunday, October 18th from 4 PM– 6 PM at Rose History Auditorium on Marco Island.

Donations can be made in Monte’s name to the Marco Island Fire & Rescue Scholarship Fund at P.O. Box 925, Marco Island, FL 34146, or a charity of your choice.

Optimist Ready to Rock Fall Sports

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 2:53pm


Collin Grensing. SUBMITTED PHOTO

When you think of Fall, you see kids and backpacks, preparations for Halloween and footballs being tossed, soccer balls kicked and kids playing sports.

The Optimist Club of Marco Island sports programs are in full swing again this year. As the Island’s only youth sports organization, the Optimist Club of Marco Island (OCMI) plays a vital role in sports development and helping to shape young kids through sports. With over 300 participants across many sports, the organization has become an integral part of the community for families who live here seasonally or year round.

“As you look around Marco Island, you begin to notice the increasing number of children that live here. It’s a misnomer that this is just a retirement community. We have so many kids who want and need a recreational outlet, its wonderful to see such great participation in everything we offer,” commented Patrick Baldwin, recreational travel and soccer league coach, as well as Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS) girls soccer head coach.

OCMI currently offers flag football, basketball and a recreational soccer program. The programs run from September to May, and include special events throughout each season offering hands-on developmental instruction and great experiences for the kids. For example, the basketball program was very fortunate to have former professional NBA player and current WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer come to talk to the kids about his experience playing and coaching. He then hosted a mini-clinic for all of the participants in the basketball program.

Recreational Travel U16 girls.

“We have been trying to bring a greater emphasis to the instructional side of our programs. Our sports programs are the feeder programs for the middle school and high school sports teams. Aside from the obvious benefits of participating to stay active and have fun, we want to try to help these kids learn the game early on whether it’s basketball, soccer or even the fundamentals of football through our flag program,” elaborated Jennifer Reeves, recreational soccer coach and program sponsor through Sunset Grille, as well as serving on the Optimist Club board.

Continuing the success of its Flag Football program, OCMI is in its second season with over 60 boys and girls from 7 to 11 years old. Most Saturday mornings, the OCMI Flag Football League has four games being played at Mackle Park. The mornings are filled with long passes, many smiles and a lot of touchdowns.

Over the month of October you will see a “Pink Out” across the fields, following the NFL’s efforts to bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“Flag football has been one of the fastest growing programs for the Optimist. We have almost doubled the number of kids playing in just one year. I’m sure it has something to do with tackle football safety issues and concerns over concussions, but I think, more importantly, the community we’ve developed around the sport with amazing coaches and supportive parents who really want the kids to have fun playing flag football, is the driver,” stated Bob Bruni, director of flag football.

The OCMI Soccer program was revamped last season to focus on offering a higher quality program with more instruction and fun, with less of an emphasis on being competitive. The program received Marco Island’s only Florida Youth Soccer affiliation, affording OCMI the ability to participate in coaching education opportunities, assistance with background checks and concussion education, and participation in FYSA-sanctioned leagues in Southwest Florida. OCMI runs a league on the Island for the children who want to learn the game of soccer, play with their friends, and stay active throughout the year. The league is a ten-week season with many fun events including a League Kick-Off event, as well as a season-ending Jamboree, where all of the business sponsors who support the program are recognized.

The Island league is the hallmark of the organization. There is a great draw of players and support, that Saturdays during December and January have become fun weekend gatherings for the community. “I get excited on a Saturday morning knowing I am spending the morning at Winterberry, coaching and watching all of the kids play soccer. It’s nice to see the kids progressing and playing each week, while having some good times with their friends and teammates,“ added JW Drott, recreational travel and league soccer coach and program sponsor, through JWD Trees.

U10 Girls Travel team. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

For those kids who are more passionate for soccer, the Optimist Club has built upon the OCMI league to give the kids more playing experiences. Through its recreational travel soccer program, the organization has expanded to roster five teams from just one last year. Lyndsi Koszo, soccer director elaborated, “We knew there was a strong desire to offer additional soccer opportunities in the Fall and Spring for those interested in playing ‘year-round’ soccer. Because of the limitations on fields here on the Island in the Fall, we had to find alternatives to help the kids continue to play. This is a program that anyone can participate in, if they’re interested. We are very proud of all of the kids who have come together this Fall, and the families who have committed to traveling to getting their kids out there to play.”

In early 2016, OCMI will start its Recreational Basketball League for ages 5 through 14. With over 120 kids participating, the program hopes to deliver another successful season focusing on development and helping to increase a love for the game of basketball. Bob Bruni, who also helps to spearhead the basketball program, commented, “Having Bill Laimbeer visit with us last year was really an amazing experience. He is a legend. And he took the time to encourage and work with the kids here on the Island.” Registration for the basketball program will open in mid-December.

The Optimist Club is run by a group of parent volunteers who have a vested interested in seeing youth sports thrive for the children of Marco Island. “We have a fantastic group of families who all pitch in, whether its coaching, running the programs, ordering and making uniforms, or working at our special events. Many forget that we all volunteer a large portion of our time, usually personal family time, to create a great experience for the kids. I can’t thank the people who are involved with OCMI enough. Most of us grew up playing community sports with some great coaches who helped to develop who we are today, and our passion for sports. We’d like to replicate our experiences and give back to the kids what we had,” elaborated Meghan Bonos, president of the Optimist Club.

On November 14th, OCMI is having a Mission Possible Tailgate Party sponsored by and held at Nacho Mama’s. All families who participate or have participated with the Optimist Club are encouraged to attend. The event will be held from 3-9 PM, and include an early evening buffet, a raffle with an exciting chance to win a one-week stay at a condominium on Marco Island, as well as other great games and prizes. All proceeds will benefit the Optimist Club of Marco Island. “We really wanted to have a fun event where the parents could get together and celebrate the successes of the kids in our programs. Too often, we all stand side-by-side at games and don’t get to know each other. We’re building these great programs together for all of the kids. We are extremely thankful that Nacho Mama’s has offered to host us and support our organization,” concluded Adam Campkin, recreational travel and league coach.


Last Call for OCMI Soccer Registration

Itís not too late to register for OCMIís Recreational Soccer season. Visit to join the 2015-2016 season, which runs November-February. Participants will be placed on teams by age, and all children ages 3 to 14 are welcome. Practices will begin in mid-November, and games start Friday, November 20. New this year, the soccer program will feature an opening day Kick-Off Classic, OCMI Day at a Marco Island Charter Middle School soccer game and an end of the Jamboree. For more information, visit the OCMI web site or email