SportsEvents Magazine

NOV 2016

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Page 36 of 59 November 2016 37 pros, some are specialists [they've focused on beach soccer their entire lives] and some are college athletes who didn't go pro. They're high-level athletes but not playing at a professional level." Though the sport has grown exponential- ly in the past 20 years, beach soccer does not have a standalone governing organiza- tion, according to Moorhouse. But two well-established, large-scale beach soccer competitions held on opposite coasts bring youth and professional teams together to fuel interest in and grow the sport: the Beach Soccer Championships in Oceanside, CA, and the NASSC in Virginia Beach. Gino Rossi, president of the Beach Soccer Championships, said his event — now in its 10th year — draws more than 300 youth teams and 16 professional teams from eight countries. The tens of thousands athletes and spectators it brings in contrib- ute a $3.5 million economic impact to the city and a $6.5 million economic impact to the county. "We stay focused on our mission to bring fun back into youth sports," he said. "But it's not just a bunch of kids playing soccer. It's a bunch of kids playing soccer with a purpose to be as good as some of the best players in the world." Some fear that beach soccer may contribute to more injuries than its grass-surface counter- part, but Rossi said that FIFA has confirmed that it's safer than people may think. "Without protective gear, kids are less aggressive," he said. "They build strength by running on the sand, but experience less wear and tear on the joints." The fast-paced action of beach soccer — which features "a lot of scoring" in just 36 minutes — makes the game exciting from a spectator standpoint as well, according to Rossi. NASSC's Whalen described it as "a lot of spirited aerial competition" because pro teams in particular rarely let the ball touch the ground. Since 1994, the NASSC has grown from just 26 teams to more than 1,000 teams from 20 states and 20 countries. Created to support the development of a new soccer complex and additional tournaments, the NASSC is now the primary fundraising annual event for the Hampton Roads Soccer Council, which oversees the state-of-the-art soccer complex in Virginia Beach. NASSC has garnered many state, region- al and national accolades. It's one of the "top 20" summer events by the Southeast Tourism Society and one of the top 100 free summer attractions in the USA by Cosmo- Girl magazine, to name just two. But Whalen has his sights set on bigger things for beach soccer. "It's taken 90 years [for beach volleyball] from just getting going to getting to the Olympics," he said. "We have a few years to get to 90, but we're headed in the right direction." That ultimate destination? "My pre- diction is that beach soccer will be in the Olympics," Whalen said. "It's perfect for it." n t SPORT Report

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