Youth tackle football kicked off its second season in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart with 74 participants, about 32 more players than last season.
In its inaugural season, USAG Stuttgart Child, Youth and School Services fielded a bantam team for 9- to 11-year-olds and a junior team for 12- to 14- year-olds. This year, the program boasts one bantam and two junior teams.
“The community support has been really great,” said Caitlin Smith, CYS Services sports director. “This is something Stuttgart has wanted for a long time.”
“Technically, this is our first year,” said Kenneth McDaniel, the coach of the junior Cowboys. “Last year most of the support — the training camp, uniforms and equipment — came from Heidelberg. We didn’t even have home games. Parents had to car pool to all the games.”
And yet despite all this, the Cowboys went undefeated, winning the Western Conference and the Installation Management Command Europe championships.
“This year, the CYS [Services] program has gone full force, with equipment, uniforms and tackling dummies. We had our first home game Sept. 10 and there was a huge turnout … people who didn’t have kids even came out to watch,” said McDaniel.
The teams practice at Robinson Barracks, and coaches, parents, teachers and CYS Services have pooled their resources to set up an “after school, before practice” study hall on RB for players.
“We’re trying to make this program not just about football, but about developing the players overall, not just as athletes, but student athletes,” McDaniel said.
Attending study hall is highly encouraged, according to Tederail Walker, coach of the junior Eagles. “It keeps them out of trouble and besides, by the time we get done with football practice at 7 p.m. or so, what kid wants to go home and do schoolwork,” Walker said.
Players are expected to keep up with their school work and attend three practices a week, in addition to learning football strategy, said bantam Saints coach Raul Jurado. “It’s a big commitment.”
With only six regular season games, it doesn’t seem like a lot of time to build a team, especially for Coach Jurado, whose team is relatively inexperienced.
“It takes about four games to grasp the total concept of football … that it’s more than scoring touchdowns. There are first downs, penalties. You have 11 kids on the field playing 11 different positions. They have to understand everyone’s responsibilities,” Jurado said.
“But the kids have a pretty good grasp of what we’re doing out there,” Jurado said.