So what does a kid do when they don’t have to sit in a classroom for endless hours a day? Give them a little sun, sand, water and the void of summer’s free time is filled with fun. Throw in a few balls, great park facilities, a soccer coach or two and magic happens.
Tony Smith is one such coach and he’s also the proprietor of the facilities that make Tigertail Beach so enjoyable. Tony has lived on Marco Island for 24 years. Although the beach facility is run by Collier County, and touts some new boardwalks thanks to tourist tax dollars, offerings at the park, including Beachside Café and Tigertail Beach Rentals, have long been privately operated by Tony.
No matter how hard one tries to get Tony to talk about himself and his achievements, he doesn’t wish to do so. He maintains it is about the kids. And, Tony has coached hundreds of them! He started coaching soccer on Marco Island for the YMCA just because he had kids. Since then, he’s coached at Marco Island Charter Middle School with Jackie (Sauter) Lightell, Marco Island Optimist Club, held camps with the Parks and Rec Department and now coaches at Lely High School. One thing is certain; he wants the kids to have fun. “If they enjoy themselves and respect each other as a team, they will play better.” Smith’s positive attitude and encouragement brought out a few players from Lely’s soccer teams who were out making good use of the net kicking the ball around.
Nuria Ferreira, a senior and member of the Lely High School girls soccer team, said she comes out not just for the fun, but for the team bonding. Nick and Santi Ruiz, friends of Nuria’s, “grew up playing soccer and are like family.” Not only did their dad play soccer, but coming from Uruguay, they’re almost expected to play. Denise and Amy Molina also played on Tony’s soccer team at Lely but had moved to Texas. When they came out, Tony was delighted to see them. “It was so sad when theymoved. Those girls are so respectful, they’re so talented and they understand the whole ‘team’ concept…this is why I coach.”
Connor Bowden, known for his great skim boarding, works for Tony at Tigertail Beach Rentals when needed, as does Sergio Sanchez. Connor, who is a senior at Lely and Sergio who just graduated, were both coached by Tony in the past. “They invite a few friends to come out to kick the ball around and the next thing you know they’re having a great time. It’s not about fundamentals, it’s about the fun. You get a great feel for the ball playing barefoot in the sand.”
Tony would rather discuss the kids than the 51 straight games he and Jackie watched their teams win. Nor does he want to elaborate on State Farm’s Good Neighbor Coaching Sportsmanship Award he’s received. In between renting kayaks and paddle boards, Tony explained to one would-be soccer player, “not much you can do wrong, the ball is already on the ground!” It’s that good sense and lighthearted humor that makes Tony such a great coach.
Visit Beachside Café for a nice breakfast or lunch outdoors on the deck. They feature breakfast items like bagels, and for lunch Angus burgers, wraps and more. They’re open daily. Tigertail Beach Rentals is your place for kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats, cabanas and beach chairs. It is within walking distance to area condos, but far enough away you can enjoy the unspoiled tidal lagoon. You may catch a glimpse of some great native wildlife, and if you happen to run into Tony, you may, just for a moment or two, have the chance to hear a bit about his numerous accolades or life across the big pond. To reach Tony at Tigertail Beach Rentals call 239/642-8414.
Smith, with the assistance of Coach John Patterson, has just wrapped Marco Island’s Parks and Rec Beach Soccer Camp. The Parks and Rec Department hosts many other summer enrichment camps, such as theater camp, Mickey’s sailing, martial arts, tennis, junior chefs and more. For further information about the camps held throughout the summer, contact Parks and Rec at 239/642-0575.