Airmen bring soccer to arena

Airman Basic Mario Prince, soccer player for the Special Tactics Training Squadron Team, attempts to weave through players from Team Red during an arena soccer game at the Riptide Fitness Center’s hockey arena on Hurlburt Field, Fla., April 12, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

Airman Basic Mario Prince, soccer player for the Special Tactics Training Squadron Team, attempts to weave through players from Team Red during an arena soccer game at the Riptide Fitness Center’s hockey arena on Hurlburt Field, Fla., April 12, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

1st Lt. Jennifer Brown (left), and Shana Cumberworth (right), both soccer players for Team Red, intercept a member of Special Tactics Training Squadron Team during a soccer game at the Riptide Fitness Center’s hockey arena on Hurlburt Field, Fla, April 12, 2013. . (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

1st Lt. Jennifer Brown (left), and Shana Cumberworth (right), both soccer players for Team Red, intercept a member of Special Tactics Training Squadron Team during a soccer game at the Riptide Fitness Center’s hockey arena on Hurlburt Field, Fla, April 12, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

Senior Airman Ian Brooks, soccer player for the Special Tactics Training Squadron Team, attempts a shot at the goal as Shana Cumberworth, soccer player for Team Red, attempts to intercept during an arena soccer game at the Riptide Fitness Center’s hockey arena on Hurlburt Field, Fla, April 12, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

Senior Airman Ian Brooks, soccer player for the Special Tactics Training Squadron Team, attempts a shot at the goal as Shana Cumberworth, soccer player for Team Red, attempts to intercept during an arena soccer game at the Riptide Fitness Center’s hockey arena on Hurlburt Field, Fla, April 12, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

First Lt. Jennifer Brown (left), soccer player for Team Red, attempts to gain control of the ball from opposing members of the Special Tactics Training Squadron Team (right), during an arena soccer game at the Riptide Fitness Center’s hockey arena on Hurlburt Field, Fla, April 12, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

First Lt. Jennifer Brown (left), soccer player for Team Red, attempts to gain control of the ball from opposing members of the Special Tactics Training Squadron Team (right), during an arena soccer game at the Riptide Fitness Center’s hockey arena on Hurlburt Field, Fla, April 12, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Hurlburt Field's first arena soccer season has been extended for five weeks, granting the wishes of more than 100 soccer enthusiastic Airmen and other personnel from Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Originally, the soccer season was scheduled to be eight weeks - ending April 12, but since many of the players wanted to continue playing, with several participants volunteering to take it over, the event coordinators have decided to "keep the ball rolling".

"Our hope is that this becomes a regular seasonal sports event here on Hurlburt Field, and that everyone who comes out has fun playing soccer of a little different sort," said Lt. Col. Michael R. Pettit, test director for the 18th Flight Test Squadron and coordinator for the event.

More than a dozen teams participate in the soccer league, ranging from teams made of spouses and Airmen from Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., that regularly play together to players that don't belong to any team, but show up weekly to play with whatever team they can.

The game is played much like an indoor soccer game, except there are no goal-keepers or any other soccer positions in the game for that matter. Also, games are played in a hockey field-version of an arena complete with a 3-foot surrounding wall and hockey goal posts for scoring, which means the ball rarely goes out of bounds. All these aspects of arena soccer make it a much more intense and quicker game than playing the game outdoors.

The idea for soccer in an arena originally came to Pettit while he was on a deployment and grew from there.

"We had a group that started playing soccer in a small hangar with some hockey goals because that's all we had. It was great exercise and a lot of fun," said Pettit. "When I got here, I saw the outdoor hockey rink and was sure others would find the game just as fun."

Pettit and others who shared his passion for the sport advertised the information about arena soccer in fitness centers and e-mails to first sergeants throughout Hurlburt and Eglin.

Their attempt to spread the word received widespread feedback and now they have 15 teams in a sport that is growing in popularity and continuing to attract Airmen and other soccer enthusiast.

"We don't have access to referees, but since everyone's primary focus is to have a good time and play soccer, it hasn't been a problem," Pettit said.