Mayor Buddy Dyer and District 6 City Commissioner Samuel Ings got in touch with youth sports Thursday morning at the Hankins Park Recreation Site for the opening of a new futsal field by the Orlando City Foundation.
Futsal, for those uninitiated, is basically “hardcore soccer,” according to Orlando City Foundation president Kay Rawlins. Futsal is typically played with five players on each side, with a heavier ball and in a smaller, tighter space. The alterations from regular soccer, according to the Orlando City website, force players to be more agile and more creative to triumph over opponents.
Rawlins called the new field, which will house a joint futsal court and a new refurbished tennis court, a good thing, because it will help children with better exercise opportunities.
“Soccer is a very cardiovascular sport,” she said. “Child obesity is such a problem in this country. It’s good to get kids to run and teach them healthy habits.”
Addressing a crowd, Dyer thanked the city and Orlando City officials who had made it possible to refurbish the field and add a futsal court.
Ings pointed behind him to the suburban neighborhoods surrounding the park and said he had grown up near the area.
“I never had anything like this when I was a kid,” he said. “We didn’t do the soccer thing. It’s really making a difference in our community, and to have a well rounded community is so important to all of us. This is about the youth. Because we want them to be thoroughly enriched. Not only in the physical aspects, but also in their minds. We want them to be brilliant citizens not only in the City of Orlando, but also in the world, because we don’t know where this will take them. We never know what mind we have touched here today.”
Orlando City Foundation Community Program Manager Steve Wittek said some of their plans for the summer involve not planning too much – they want it to be a more free-form, loose and fun time for kids.
“We want an organic start,” Wittek said. “Rather than set rules off the bat. We want the summer to be more competitive. All of our six current rec centers can use this field for competitive games this summer. It creates a sense of community pride. It’s more fun and inclusive rather than rule-based.”
Children at the Hankins Park Recreation Site will have 12 weeks of soccer training at the futsal court this summer, according to a press release. The court is the second one the Orlando City Foundation has constructed in Orlando, with the first opened in February at the John H. Jackson Center in Parramore.
The event closed with a rather atypical ribbon cutting as a banner was stretched out in front of one of the soccer goals and the children attending the event from the nearby Legends Academy were instructed to kick soccer balls at the ribbon until it broke.