By Hannah Wallace September 30, 2006

Before she stepped onto the pitch six years ago, Len Rodkey had never played or even watched soccer. But when a friend asked Rodkey to join a group of women soccer players from Sarasota and Bradenton, she said yes.

"After the first day, I didn't think I was coming back because I was in so much pain," Rodkey recalls, laughing.

Her teammates advised her to take an aspirin, and now, she's one of the old-timers advising new girls to pop one before their first match.

"I met an excellent group of girls, and it's been lots of fun ever since," says Rodkey.

For nine years, Rodkey, now vice president of claims operations, has worked for Unisource, a third-party administrator for worker's compensation insurance. The company has several Southeast locations, with Sarasota as the home base. Although Rodkey enjoys her work, she says that being in the office all day makes her long for physical activity. She's just taken up golf and also does kickboxing at the YMCA. But starting out with the soccer league was intimidating, she says.

"Most of the players had played collegiate level or high school," says Rodkey, 37, whose high school sport had been volleyball. "I was running out of breath."

And now? "I have my moments," Rodkey modestly admits.

Sarasota Ladies Soccer is made up of six teams that meet Sunday mornings for matches, with practice half an hour before the game, and for optional 90-minute practices Saturday mornings. Rodkey, a defender for the Unisource Blue team, sometimes brings her husband and their nine- and seven-year-olds to cheer her on.

"I want the kids to see me doing something they might consider doing themselves," she says.

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