TAMPA, Fla. – Being named the first coach of the Tampa Bay Strikers indoor soccer team is like the best of both worlds for Martin Gramatica.
After all, the former Buccaneers kicker is not only passionate about soccer, but the team’s home venue will be the Yuengling Center on the campus of the University of South Florida.
It was at USF where Gramatica’s wife played tennis and where his younger brothers, Bill and Santiago, kicked for the Bulls.
“I couldn’t say no,” he said of the opportunity. “I wanted to be a part of this. I wanted to be a part of bringing indoor soccer back to Tampa and at a great arena. I spent a lot of time at USF. To be able to return to the campus, yeah, I am super excited to be a part of it.”
Gramatica was introduced July 25 as coach of the Strikers’ men’s and women’s teams of the National Indoor Soccer League. The league was founded in January 2021 and debuted last year in four cities, each of which has men’s and women’s teams.
Though he has not coached professionally, the 46-year-old husband and father of three intends to bring the same set of coaching dynamics to the Strikers as the youth teams he has guided for the past 15 years.
“At the end of the day, my philosophy is that you create a relationship with your players,” he said. “You get them to know that you are genuine and that you want the best for them. I am going to coach professionals the same way I coach youths. I create a relationship where they trust me and they know that I want the best for them. I don’t feel as though I need to change anything because I will be coaching grownups.”
Gramatica, who was nine years old when his family moved from Argentina to LaBelle, about 30 miles northeast of Fort Myers, was strongly influenced by the coaching of Bill Snyder and Tony Dungy. It was under Snyder at Kansas State in 1997 that he won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker. After being selected in the third round by the Bucs in 1999, Gramatica spent his first three seasons in the NFL under Dungy.
“One of the things I have always said is that, no matter the sport, you always take away something from your coaches,” said Gramatica, who spent a decade in the NFL (1999-2008) kicking for five teams and was a member of the Super Bowl-winning Bucs in 2002. “Bill Snyder took me as a kid out of high school and taught me the right way. He is an amazing person and was an amazing coach. Then when I got to the NFL, I was spoiled by having Tony Dungy. Your performance on the field was important, but he cared more about what kind of people we were.”
That is the blueprint Gramatica will abide by at the helm of the Strikers.
“That’s exactly what we want to do,” he emphasized. “Obviously, competing and competing to win will never change. We also want to build a team with good character players. As far as off the field, they need to be great people.”
Being named coach of the Strikers adds to Gramatica’s considerable resume of business and sporting interests.
The Gramatica Foundation, which he and his brothers founded and operate, strives to improve the quality of life for combat-wounded veterans with the building and rehabbing of energy-efficient and mortgage-free homes.
“It’s a no-brainer to say ‘thank you’ to our men and women who do so much for us,” he said.
The brothers also founded SIPS International (Structural Insulated Panel Systems), a firm that provides a full line of services in promoting environmentally-friendly building materials, which have been used in assisting the Gramatica Foundation mission.
Six months ago, Gramatica joined Tampa-based Life Guard Imaging as the company’s vice president of business development. LGI performs annual scans as part of a long-term preventative program to combat heart disease and cancer.
Also, this season will mark his fifth as a commentator on the Bucs’ Spanish radio broadcasts.
While all of the above keep him going, Gramatica is anxious to get started with Tampa Bay’s new indoor soccer team, which will begin its season in December and play a 24-game schedule with men/women doubleheaders.
“It has been awesome so far,” he said. “I have had friends reach out and congratulate me and players reaching out saying they want to be on the team. I am so excited.”
The Strikers will be the bay area’s first indoor soccer team since the Tampa Bay Terror of the National Professional Soccer League played at St. Pete’s Bayfront Center for two seasons in the mid-1990s. The Tampa Bay Rowdies were a member of the North American Soccer League’s indoor circuit for a decade starting in 1975. The Rowdies played at the Bayfront Center, on the fairgrounds at Expo Hall and at the Lakeland Civic Center.
“Indoor soccer is a very fast-paced and exciting game,” said Gramatica. “I hope that this helps grow the sport, both indoor and outdoor, in Tampa.”