Staff Sgt. Dominic Budzisz, a volunteer youth coach and referee, is manager of the U.S. Combined Services rugby team.

Staff Sgt. Dominic Budzisz, a volunteer youth coach and referee, is manager of the U.S. Combined Services rugby team. (Rusty Bryan / S&S)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Just as the recruiting posters proclaim, Dominic Budzisz of Heidelberg’s 266th Finance Command, joined the Army 20 years ago to see the world.

And because of his enthusiasm for sports, he’s seen even more of it than most soldiers.

“It’s worked out great,” Budzisz, a staff sergeant, said Tuesday evening as he put his team of 8- and 9-year-old soccer players through a scrimmage at Patrick Henry Village. “The good thing about the military is that there are so many opportunities for sports in your off-duty time.”

In Budzisz’s case, don’t confuse “off-duty” time with “free” time. He doesn’t have any.

Just two weeks back from coaching the U.S. Forces-Europe team at the USA Rugby military club championships in the States for the second time, Budzisz, a former fly-half, has been picked to manage the U.S. Combined Services Team’s summer rugby tour of Europe in July.

“We’ll be playing in Amsterdam, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Heidelberg and Paris,” Budzisz said. “What other soldiers get to travel to all those places?”

In addition to his rugby duties, Budzisz, a single father of an 8-year-old, coaches youth fall and spring soccer and basketball, conducts rugby clinics at Heidelberg High School, helps out with the local German rugby club HRK, and officiates in six sports at youth and adult levels.

“You have to give up all your free time,” he said as he explained how he manages so many activities. “But wouldn’t you much rather be out here than on the couch somewhere watching TV?”

Budzisz hastened to add that support from his unit was crucial to continuing his sports-filled existence.

“I couldn’t do it without support from my unit,” he said, adding that without the help of Col. Kevin Troller, the 266th commander, “it wouldn’t be possible.”

Commanders like Troller, Budzisz went on, have an incentive other than mere kindness to allow their soldiers to volunteer their time.

“When they see that in supporting you, they’re supporting other soldiers, giving them a chance to participate, they’ll usually help out,” he said.

For an event such as the Combined Services Team’s tour, the support structure reaches the military’s top levels, Budzisz said.

“They’ve arranged for a single plane to take all the stateside players from Cherry Point, N.C., to Frankfurt,” he said. “For 12 days, we’ll stay in barracks — French, British and Dutch.”

Missed duty time usually requires the participants to use leave or obtain permissive TDY. Budzisz said that his busy schedule requires other adjustments.

“I’ll go in early or stay late,” he said. “I never schedule a practice before 6 o’clock, so that I won’t have to leave work early.”

After his experiences at the rarefied levels of top-level rugby, youth soccer might seem a comedown, but Budzisz doesn’t see things that way.

“I like dealing with kids better than with the big guys,” he said. “You have to coach kids differently than you do adults. Competition is competition, but we try to teach the fundamentals so that they can excel at the team game and have fun. If you keep it fun, they’ll keep playing.”

Despite the emphasis on fun, Budzisz gives youth soccer all he has.

“He puts the passion into the game,” said Bianca Delpino, mother of 9-year-old Danny, one of Budzisz’s strikers.

Danny and his brother Tommy, 11, also play rugby at the HRK club. “Right now, it’s my favorite sport,” Tommy said of rugby.

Budzisz, who took up rugby as a club sport at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, ended his playing days last year when his European side won the 2003 military club championship — the first time a Europe-based team had done so.

“I got too old and slow,” he said with a laugh. “Chasing those 18-year-olds around the field got to be too much.”

As manager of the Combined Services Team, he’ll be chasing down problems of various types.

His duties include coordinating logistics and travel; arranging for competitions and training facilities; working as liaison with the U.S. Department of State, local commanders and USA Rugby, the sport’s national governing body; lining up fund-raising, physiotherapist coverage and meals; and meeting with foreign military and civilian dignitaries, Kevin Sinibaldi, director of teams for the U.S. Combined Services Committee, wrote in a letter to Budzisz unit.

And before and after the tour, which reaches Heidelberg on July 14, he’ll still be coaching. He says it’s in his blood.

“My great-uncle was Eddie Casey, first coach of the Washington Redskins in 1919,” he said, “and one of my grandfathers coached at Loyola Marymount. Somewhere, there will always be kids who need a coach. I will be coaching the rest of my life.”

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