Honesty and integrity are two of the U.S. Army’s core values.
At the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Youth Sports & Fitness in Germany, the staff is committed to helping the more than 3,500 children who participate annually in its programs embrace those values, as well as many others.
For its outstanding work it is one of this year’s recipients of the prestigious Excellence in Youth Sports Award. The Excellence Awards, created by Athletic Business and the National Alliance for Youth Sports, recognize programs for conducting diverse activities that focus on providing safe and positive experiences for all participants.
In soccer, where players traditionally receive yellow and red cards for negative actions, you’ll find Stuttgart officials showing kids green cards during games when they display good sportsmanship. This results in children trying just as hard to score goals as they are to be acknowledged for being a good sport.
“We have seen an improvement in sportsmanship, fair play and friendship between our youth athletes,” says Bradley Ficek, director of youth sports and fitness at the base. “Honesty and integrity are core values of the Army and this implementation of the green cards has driven these values to the forefront of our league.”
The green cards are used at the younger levels of play, which helps establish strong sportsmanship values in all the players.
“For example, if a ball is kicked over the touch line, and the official awards the ball to a player on Team A, but the Team A player says they kicked the ball out of bounds or touched the ball last, a green card would be issued to that player and the ball given to Team B for a throw-in,” Ficek explains. “The official recognizes the player for his fair play and issues a green card in the same matter that the referee issues a red or yellow card, so in these cases the official is not always the bad guy only issuing red and yellow cards.”
Since issuing cards is specific to the sport of soccer, staff and site managers make it a point to recognize athletes or teams that exhibit positive sportsmanship during other sports programs. During camps and clinics at Stuttgart, those athletes that have gone above and beyond in being a good sport during the sessions are recognized on a daily basis.
Youngsters have a variety of sports to choose from to participate in, including baseball, softball, track and field, soccer, cheerleading, cross country and wrestling.
And for those children whose interests are with less traditional type sports, the staff has that covered too with opportunities to participate in bowling, bocce ball, disc golf, table tennis – and even cricket.
Plus, the staff offers training camps to help prepare youngsters for the upcoming season.
“We are proud of many things about our program and one that stands out is our implementation of preseason conditioning/skill development training camps before the start of our sports seasons,” Ficek says. “Of course it’s a lot more work in preparation for our staff, but an easier transition into the season for players, coaches and administration. Our youth get to practice skills and train before they start their season, so they are able to build muscle resiliency and work on core groups of muscles that they will use during that season.”
These pre-season camps are beneficial for the adults, too.
“Our coaches are able to brush off their dust as they are able to see how our staff leads dynamic warm-ups, skill drills and how to work with children, as well as build their knowledge,” Ficek says. “The same goes for our administrators. We are able to evaluate the skill levels of the youth during these preseason trainings, helping us create balanced teams.”
By emphasizing participation and sportsmanship, children are developing a lifelong love for sports – and for being model citizens, too.
The U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Youth Sports & Fitness will receive the Excellence in Youth Sports Award on Nov. 18 in Orlando, Fla., during the annual Youth Sports Congress that is held in conjunction with the Athletic Business Show.
Developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business, the award recognizes programs for conducting diverse activities with a focus on providing safe and positive experiences for all participants, including children, parents and coaches.The five winners of the 2016 Excellence in Youth Sports Award are being announced in this space over the next five days.