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By: Travis Cornwell

One of the many benefits of living in the state of Florida is the ability to be outside all 12 months of the year. You don’t have to worry about a cold winter and all the snow keeping you indoors. You can enjoy all aspects of life in the great weather Florida offers, whether it is just relaxing and reading a book on the beach, clearing your mind on a long walk, or full-on competitive sports. Whatever it is, you can find
it right here in our backyard.

One place that offers a variety of outdoor and indoor amenities is G.T. Bray Park, located in Bradenton and just minutes away from Anna Maria Island. Their Recreation Center has it all. You can get your heart rate up with a workout or a swim, take your dog for a walk, or find your competitive spirit there. They have beautiful trails to walk and bike on, which weave their way around the park’s numerous ball
fields and soccer fields. While continuing to edge across the skate park and tennis courts, the trails finally work their way over to a disc golf tee box. At the center of all this is a newly built facility featuring 20 pickleball courts.

Pickleball is spreading through the country like wildfire. To be blessed with such a state-of-the-art facility in our community is truly something special and something we shouldn’t take for granted. Just this past November, Sun Outdoors Sarasota offered their first-ever pickleball tournament in our area. It included both Mixed Doubles and a Men’s and Women’s Double Elimination. Let’s not forget
about our friends to the west in Lakewood Ranch who opened an indoor pickleball facility either — not to mention all the coverage this game got on an episode of “The Golden Bachelor.”

If you’ve never played pickleball before, G.T. Bray is a great place to start. You can also explore other new activities at the park and see what you may like. You may just surprise yourself.

Another way you may find a new passion is by getting involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Their mission is to lead every athlete into a growing relationship with Christ and his church. They are located throughout our community, including G.T. Bray. Whether you’re a coach, athlete, or mentor you are welcome.

The FCA also hosts many events throughout the year. Their most recent one was held this past November at the IMG Legacy Hotel. Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger was the Keynote Speaker at the event. Rudy talked about life, faith, and the importance of sports. He shared his story with everyone who attended. His message of “Don’t give in, give out” stuck with everyone that night.

Many things in life bring people together but nothing is more powerful than sports and faith. Find your way within your community as there is a place for everyone. Enjoy our weather and appreciate all the things your community has to offer for you. Remember, it’s right in your backyard.

Photo Credits:
Manatee County Government & FCA

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