By Robyn Mack
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs
National Signing Day happens every February. Like the NFL draft, it’s a day anticipated by families, fans and sport media. It’s the first day high school seniors can sign a binding Letter of Intent to play football at the NCAA school of their choice.
This year, former U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart athlete, Kingston Davis, committed to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he is enrolled and expected to play running back this season.
Last year, his best friend and former teammate, Jeff Kaczmarek, signed to Taylor University in Upland, Ind. Following a red-shirt season, Jeff will take the field as a defensive back.
Getting to their collegiate careers is a long way from where they first bonded – the Child, Youth and School Services fields – yet, the duo credits their CYS play for skills development and learning opportunities.
“My favorite memory from playing in Stuttgart has to be winning the CYS football championship in 2010 with Leroy Davis, Kenneth McDaniel, and my dad, Gary Kaczmarek, coaching me,” Jeff said. “Stuttgart had never had a tackle football team below the high school level and it took a lot of work by some great adults to establish one.”
“Our parents fought hard for us to even have a team,” recalled Kingston. “Prior to the commander’s approval, we had to travel to Heidelberg four times a week for practice in order to qualify to play. After [we got] approval we were able to form a team representing Stuttgart. We only had 21 kids on our team, but went on to win the [Installation Management Command] title by beating Bamberg which was a much bigger team in the championship game.”
“We went 10-0 and had a great experience of triumph and overcoming adversity,” Jeff added.
CYS does a lot of great things for athletes here,” said Gary Kaczmarek, a current U.S. Africa Command contractor and former football coach during the 2008 to 2012 seasons at Stuttgart CYS and Patch High School. “I believe many students who play over here may never consider playing back in the states which is a great opportunity for them to continue to play, compete, learn the sport and learn teamwork.”
“Playing CYS sports allowed me to develop the necessary fundamentals of the game. It taught me life lessons about healthy competition and how to work as a team with others,” Kingston said.
Current CYS athletes are on the right track in skills development, according to Kingston and Jeff. However, the teammates have some other tips for current youth athletes that aspire to collegiate fields.
“Concentrate on being coachable, being a good listener and learning from good coaches,” Kingston said. “Take your game to another level by coming up with a plan and sticking to it to develop your skills. Eat, drink and sleep your sport to learn the fundamentals of your position and the positions of everybody on your side of the football.”
“Don’t be complacent with where you are,” Jeff added. “Remember that even if you’re the best player on your team, there are hundreds of athletes waiting for the same opportunities you are, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to separate yourself. With that said, when you talk about playing in college or even professional a lot of people, and even coaches, will look at you like you’re crazy. You have to protect your dream and realize that with hard work and faith anything can happen.”