LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Growing up, Amy Rhodes was called “Tank” on the field, on the court or anywhere else where she could show off her athletic prowess.
She was known for being an aggressive athlete, for taking on everything in her path.
She is taking that courage into her new chapter – as the youngest and first female to own a Florida Basketball Association (FBA) team.
“Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am young but I am determined and I do know what I’m doing,” she said.
Rhodes was born in Indiana and moved to Florida as a child. She dreamed of playing sports professionally and was close to joining the Team USA volleyball team in 2017.
On Valentine’s Day that year, she suffered a career-ending knee injury on a softball field.
“The second I went down and I was laying there – something just said to me, this is it. Your sports career is over,” she said.
Rhodes had to rethink her whole future.
After a period of what she described as depression, she started coaching and enrolled at Southeastern University in Lakeland as a criminal justice major.
She works as a manager of the Southeastern University football team.
Her work with the FBA began after consistently attending games.
“There were just a lot of things I was looking at that I was like, ‘OK, if I was a coach or if I was an owner, I would do this…,” she said.
It wasn’t long before she approached the league’s president.
“I walked up to him and I said ‘So what do I need to do to own a team?” she said.
“To be honest, I didn’t take her all that seriously,” said Mark King, president and chairman of, Florida Basketball Association.
The FBA was formed in 2012 as a semi-professional basketball league.
King describes the league as a stepping stone for players, coaches and referees who want to move up in the sport, including overseas.
There were eight teams in the league last season, including the Tampa Gunners and St. Pete Tide.
King said Rhodes presented a strong business plan and a check to launch her new team, the Lakeland Royals, the league’s ninth team.
“For Amy, to give her an opportunity to do something that isn’t really an opportunity given to females, they don’t take them seriously, they cast them aside. They don’t look at them the same,” he said.
In a way, “Tank” is back.
She’s returned to the basketball court and is as aggressive as ever, recruiting players with her coaches as the youngest and first woman to own an FBA team.
“It’s just an incredible feeling to be a part of history, to build that legacy because that’s something that nobody can take away from you,” she said.
Rhodes has already taken note of some prospective players’ reactions when she introduces herself as the team owner.
“They’re like, ‘wait a minute, you own it? Who’s your partner?’ I’m like, ‘There’s no partner, it’s me. I own it’,” said Rhodes. “A lot of people want to hear that they’re being recruited by a man. I’ve seen it on some of the athlete’s faces.”
Rhodes said it costs between $10,000 to $15,000 to launch a new team.
As team owner, Rhodes wants players and staff to be involved in the community, mentoring and coaching young athletes.
The 2022 FBA season kicks off in March.
The Lakeland Royals will be coached by Charles Jeune. Rhodes is still working on recruiting her team and securing a home court.
Tryouts are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 13 at 8 am at Simpson Community Center in Lakeland.
Athletes have until Monday at midnight to register online at the team’s website.