BEYOND FOOTBALL IN GREATER GAINESVILLE
While best known for the University of Florida Gators, you don’t have to be a fan or a university student to enjoy the athletics Greater Gainesville has to offer.
Gainesville, Florida, is home to some of the greatest sports teams in the nation. From UF’s number one ranked men’s baseball team to an unstoppable women’s volleyball team, there is no shortage of opportunities to see amazing sports in action. But what if you want to do more than just cheer from the sidelines? Greater Gainesville has many sports teams to join for residents of all ages. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to enjoy all that Gainesville has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a friendly kickball league, swimming or soccer team, Gainesville will offer you options.
The City of Gainesville hosts an extensive list of sports programs every year for the youth in the community. Children four to 14 can choose from cheerleading, tennis, football, softball, baseball and basketball. The programs run year-round and practices meet after school. In the summer, special sports camps are available. In addition to the typical youth leagues, the City of Gainesville partners with a local non-profit organization, Noah’s Endeavor, to sponsor adaptive sports programs for children with special physical and developmental needs.
The fun isn’t limited to just children. There are multiple leagues for adults in the area, as well. Anyone 18 years or older can join a league put on by the City of Gainesville, which includes co-ed softball, volleyball and basketball. The games are at night so even the busiest of workers can get involved. Have a group of friends who want to start a team? All you need to do is register with the City of Gainesville’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department. These adult sports leagues are a great way to connect with friends, meet new people and get your mind off of the daily stresses of life for a couple of hours.
In addition to children and adult leagues, the City of Gainesville also sponsors programs and activities for senior citizens. Residents over the age of 60 can engage in outdoor activities every day of the week. The activities, which take place at the Thelma A. Boltin Recreation Center, are completely free.
Most Gainesville residents are well-acquainted with Gator football, but more obscure sports have also been gaining popularity in recent years, and Greater Gainesville has been quick to jump on the trend. Gainesville has two Ultimate Frisbee courses that are certified by the Professional Disc Golf Association: Jonesville and Northside Park. Gainesville Chain Hawks Disc Golf Club hosts events and tournaments year-round at the parks and engages people from around the county. They don’t require any experience to get involved, just a passion to learn.
Gainesville has activities for everyone, including the daredevils and adrenaline-junkies. At Sun Country Sports Center, you can climb a 2,500-square-foot rock wall made to feel like a real mountain. Race a group of friends up the wall, take lessons, join the climbing club or even make a family fun day out of it.
Your climbing doesn’t have to be limited to an indoor gym. Canopy Climbers of North Central Florida is an organization that teaches people how to climb trees. The purpose of the organization is to help people connect with nature and each other in a safe, challenging and fun environment. Anyone eight and older can spend a day or two learning how to safely defy gravity and climb trees they can brag about.
Greater Gainesville is a thriving community rich in health and fitness. You don’t need to be a university student or Gator fan to enjoy the activities and sports that are offered. Whether you’re just learning how to throw a Frisbee or are passionate about competitive swimming, you’ll be able to find a group of people as dedicated as you, right around the corner.
For a complete listing of athletics opportunities in Greater Gainesville visit guidetogreatergainesville.com/directory.
Welcome to the Heart of Florida Athletics
AMBASSADOR, FLORIDA GATORS ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
FORMER FLORIDA QUARTERBACK AND HEAD COACH
I visited Gainesville, Florida, as a high school recruit in March of 1963. I left Johnson City, Tennessee, when it was about 40 degrees and arrived in Gainesville when it was around 72 degrees. Immediately, I knew this was a wonderful city and state to go to college, play football and hopefully, someday, live for a long time.
Being a student athlete here for four years was the best. Coach Graves, our head coach, and his staff were outstanding coaches and role models. My teammates are still some of my best friends in life.
I was fortunate to play 10 years in the NFL. My family would always return to Gainesville in the off-seasons to enjoy our friends, our church and Crescent Beach.
My path in life has taken me to several wonderful places to live. Now that my coaching career is history, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to return to the University of Florida and Gainesville to help promote our university and our city.
I see so many Gators that really enjoy retiring in Gainesville so they can not only attend lots of Gator games in all sports, but also enjoy the entertainment that our city provides.
10 Gator Teams Among Nation’s Final Top 10 in 2019-20
Gator Teams in Top 10 (COMPLETED SEASON)
No. 6 Football No. T9 Volleyball
Gator Teams in Top 10 (SUSPENDED SEASON)
339 Gators earned a spot on Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Rolls in 2019- 20 – 255 on the SEC Academic Honor Rolls and 84 on the SEC First-Year Honor Roll. Florida is the only program to place 100 or more student-athletes on the Academic Honor Roll each of the last 23 years.
116 Graduates combined for fall 2019, spring 2020 and summer 2020 semesters. Master’s degrees earned by 18 and 28 graduated with honors.
3.19 Combined grade-point average for all Gators student-athletes for 2019-20 academic year. 3.40 (all-time record!) for spring 2020; 3.12 for fall 2019.
88% Graduation Success Rate for UF program to place 100 or more studentathletes on the Academic Honor Roll each of the last 23 years.
14 Times a Gator named CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year. Gator softball’s Kendyl Lindaman is the latest as the 2020 recipient.
Gators Giving Back
As COVID-19 swept across the world this past Spring, its impact was felt by all. During this time many current and former University of Florida student-athletes had the opportunity to give back to a community that so desperately needed it.
Shana Hudson (Women’s Soccer, 2004-07)
Shana Hudson, a former standout defender for the Gators from 2004-07, was on the frontlines of COVID-19 in New York City serving as an ICU nurse. Hudson, 34, was set to start a job in mid-March as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist but after her start date was delayed opted to instead sign a four-week crisis-relief contract as a traveling nurse to help battle the virus in the Big Apple.
Chris Guido (Football, 2009-12)
Former Gators long snapper, Chris Guido, was also on the frontlines of the pandemic serving as a pediatrics resident at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C. Guido, who earned both a health science degree and a medical degree from UF, spent timing testing and caring for pediatric patients. He plans to be a general pediatrician when he finishes his residency in the summer of 2021.
Rebekah Zaiser Blickendorf (Gymnastics, 2007-2010)
2010 All-American, Rebekah Zaiser, now known as Dr. Rebekah Blickendorf, played a crucial role during the pandemic as an emergency medicine physician. Based in Indianapolis the former Gators gymnastics standout (and new Mom), and her husband Dr. Matt Blickendorf, provided care for many.
Bair Diamond (Football, 2012-2015)
As part of UF Health’s Gator Sitters program, the former football walk-on Bair Diamond paired with hospital staffers in need of child care, pet care or household duties with student volunteers. During a hectic and unprecedented time for those in the medical field, Diamond helped alleviate some stress by volunteering as a baby sitter. At the onset of the pandemic shutdown, he also was part of a team of students dispatched to The Villages to assist in COVID screenings.
To learn more about these Gators and their stories, visit https://floridagators.com/tags/pandemicprofiles
Fitness & Sports IN GREATER GAINESVILLE
Being home to the world-famous athletics program at the University of Florida, it’s no wonder fitness and sports facilities abound in Greater Gainesville to serve people of all ages, skill levels and conditioning goals.
Gainesville Health & Fitness Center (GHFC) joined forces with the UF Health Sports Performance Center to provide fitness, health assessments and training for individuals of every background and musculoskeletal need. Whether you rarely leave the couch or are an ultra-marathoner who dreams of crushing your personal best time, local trainers and physicians alike realize there is no one-size-fits-all approach to personal health and athletic performance and will customize a diet and exercise regimen to meet your individual needs. GHFC has three locations in Greater Gainesville. Xceed Sports Performance prides itself on blending science with sport, focusing on the areas of speed, strength, stamina, power, elastic energy and mental preparedness to take you to the next level in whichever sport is your focus.
And, let’s not forget about recovery. With a number of sports massage facilities and saunas, including some with infrared technology, soothing those aching muscles after an intense workout has never been easier. Want to fight off fatigue and take your healing to the next level without the excruciatingly uncomfortable 20-minute ice bath? Look no further than Cryotherapy. Three minutes at minus -230 degrees Fahrenheit delivers immediate relief from muscle pain, sprains, swelling and joint stiffness, as well as improvements to sleep quality and restlessness.
If you prefer group training to an individual focus, why not enjoy one of the CrossFit, Pilates, or Ayurveda Yoga studios? Whether you want a casual environment where new friends and camaraderie take center stage or a butt-kicking, heart pounding experience to test your limits with intense boot-camp like routines, Greater Gainesville has a groupcentered fitness routines to expand both your network and your athletic potential. With over 19 martial arts studios and dojos, self-defense and graceful technique flourish in the disciplines of Judo, Karate, and Jiu Jitsu. Newer to the scene are studios and groups devoted to Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art that gracefully merges dance, acrobatics and music. Initially developed by slaves to disguise their fightpracticing moves, Capoeira has a modern-day allure and beauty that truly makes this martial art stand apart from the pack.
Speaking of dance, Greater Gainesville has a variety of studios, lessons, and classes tailored to different styles. From ballet to belly dancing, Irish step dance to Hip-Hop, the intimacy of the Tango to the group synchronicity of line dancing, expand your fitness horizons in a world that does not feel like exercise.
If you prefer a non-talking partner to strengthen your core and warm your heart, there are a multitude of Equestrian centers to choose from. The joys of bonding with horses on a simple trot or causal ride are just as accessible as rigorous racing, jumping and obstacle course training.
If it’s solitude you’re after, no better place than heading out to the links to enjoy the beautiful fairways nestled aside Gainesville’s spectacular natural backdrops. With two famous Country Clubs and three lush courses open to the public, a day of golfing is arguably the most relaxing way to stay in shape and release serotonin. If you prefer a bit more adrenaline in your fitness routine, an indoor climbing gym, multiple archery ranges, and the Canopy Climbers, a tree climbing collective that will have you defying gravity and reaching aerial heights among the foliage, might be just the thing.
From junior golf leagues to fast pitch softball, lacrosse and swimming to soccer and volleyball, youth athletics are well represented in Greater Gainesville and will keep your kids busy after school and during the summer months with a variety of camps to choose from. There’s plenty for the adults as well with co-ed softball, swimming and tennis leagues, flag football, Frisbee golf tournaments, and even a chance to indulge your inner child with a round of kickball.
Whether you prefer a gym to a golf course, martial arts to dance, a bow-and-arrow to a horse, or a group exercise routine to an individualized focus on your unique athletic ambitions, Greater Gainesville has a variety of fairly priced sports and exercise options and excellent professional trainers to help you meet your physical fitness goals.
For a complete listing of fitness & sports opportunities in Greater Gainesville visit guidetogreatergainesville.com/directory.