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With just weeks to go until the youth sports winter season kicks off, some Army garrisons are having trouble finding coaches to lead their various teams.

While finding people to volunteer their time for these unpaid positions is always something of a hassle, sports directors say, this year is especially hard for some communities.

Deployments and troop drawdowns have stripped them of their usual volunteers and potential replacements, making it harder than usual to find coaches.

In Hanau, a community that’s scheduled to close in less than a year, the paid youth services sports staff filled in as soccer coaches in the past, but the shortage now is worse than before, said Kipp Powell, the community’s youth sports director.

“If all else fails, we’ll have to do the same thing we did for soccer,” Powell said.

He’s reluctant to do that, though — it has created problems in the past because some parents perceived a conflict of interest.

Powell hopes to avoid that trouble this season by recruiting volunteers from the community.

“Six coaches would be awesome,” he said.

He already has some coaches lined up, and two volunteers are undergoing a mandatory background check. If they pass, then they have to go through a half-day course to certify them as coaches.

“They get it all for free,” said George Robinson Jr., youth sports director in Darmstadt, speaking about the certification.

The community he works in, like Hanau, will soon close.

Finding volunteers to coach has always come down to the wire in Darmstadt, Robinson said. This year, it’s just a little closer to that last moment than it has been in the past.

With practice scheduled to start Jan. 2, he still needs a coach for the 12- to 15-year-old basketball team. A couple of people have called to say they’ll do it, he said, but nobody has come in to fill out the paperwork.

Though it seems dire, “we won’t cancel the season,” he said.

At Baumholder, youth sports director Daniel Washington attributes his recruiting problems to 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division’s upcoming deployment.

It’s a recurring problem.

“We’re one of those communities that goes through a lot of deployments,” he said.

While Hanau and Darmstadt offer three winter youth sports — wrestling, cheerleading and basketball — Baumholder also offers skiing, snowboarding, racquetball, swimming and bowling, which makes finding enough coaches that much more difficult.

Though all but one team — a basketball team — has a coach, about 30 percent of the teams have just one coach, Washington said. If that coach gets deployed or, for some other reason can’t make a game or practice, the team suffers, he said. For that reason, he usually tries to get at least two coaches per team.

“The more the merrier,” he said.

While about 80 percent of former youth sports coaches return, it’s somewhat difficult to get new coaches, he said.

“A lot of them have an initial fear,” Washington said. But once they’ve done it, most find coaching is not overwhelming, he said.

Not all communities are having a hard time, though.

The Ansbach community, for example, has had almost no problem finding coaches, despite the deployment of its major unit, the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The reason, said one person who helps wrangle volunteers, is because they recruit aggressively.

“I threaten them,” joked the woman, who asked not to have her name published.

While she doesn’t actually threaten people, she said she and others are not shy about approaching people at the commissary, in the parking lot or at church to persuade them to volunteer.

“I’ve got a woman here who never coached basketball — didn’t even know a basketball was round,” but she’s agreed to step up and coach, she said.

“That’s the kind of community this is.”


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