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Coaches taking varied approaches to rare bye week

By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 28, 2017

It was a preventative measure that proved to be unnecessary. But DODEA-Europe coaches are making the most of it anyway.

No DODEA-Europe athletic events are scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 7, a notable break from the organization’s usual heavy Saturday slate of football, volleyball, tennis and cross country. The normal DODEA-Europe schedule resumes the weekend of Oct. 14, just in time to start winding down a fall season that will culminate Nov. 4 with championship volleyball matches and football games in the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

DODEA-Europe’s decision to leave Oct. 7 open stemmed from an unpleasant experience in the spring of 2017.

In May, the congressional debate over a continuing budget resolution threatened the funding for numerous government agencies - including the funding that allows DODEA-Europe to transport its teams across the continent. Though a resolution was eventually passed, a number of scheduled DODEA-Europe athletic events were disrupted.

“It was chaotic and stressful for student-athletes, parents and school personnel,” said Kathlene Clemmons, who was named DODEA-Europe athletic director this fall but had worked closely with predecessor Karen Seadore for years.

The bill Congress passed this spring funded the government only through September. So DODEA-Europe avoided scheduling events for the weekend of Oct. 7 to avoid what Clemmons said might have been an equally “problematic” situation this fall. But when President Donald Trump and Congress struck a deal in September to avert another debt crisis - or at least postpone it until December - Clemmons said the abundantly cautious decision turned out to be “a moot point.”

While the open week ultimately proved unnecessary, it remains on the schedule as a late-season aberration for student-athletes and coaches to confront.

“This is uncharted territory,” Stuttgart football coach Billy Ratcliff said.

Coaches plan to navigate that territory in a variety of ways.

Brussels volleyball coach Mari Brown plans to ramp up her team’s practice sessions because her players have the full weekend - and notably, the federal holiday of Columbus Day on Monday, Oct. 9 - to recuperate.

“This week is one that will be difficult for us to recreate the intensity of a match,” Brown said. “But that is what we intend to do.”

Kaiserslautern cross country coach Thomas Manning, however, is taking a different approach. He’s scheduled an informal race on the Thursday before the idle Saturday.

“It will be a fun opportunity to test our fitness in a less intense setting,” Manning said.

Stuttgart tennis coach Adrienne Smith’s plans fall somewhere in between. Her Panthers will “train hard and heavy like we always do,” she said, but they’ll also take advantage of the day off for some quality time as a group.

“Our team is like a family, and families spend time together,” Smith said. “We will have some fun and improve team spirit.”

Spangdahlem tennis coach Mark Sullivan said the break would allow his players to “catch up or get ahead on academics.” He’ll pursue a similar goal on the court.

“The break does allow us to hone skills as opposed to prep for upcoming matches,” Sullivan said.

Some coaches, however, plan to deploy that extra time for that exact reason.

“This will give teams time to really prepare” for the following weekend’s games, Wiesbaden football coach Steve Jewell said. “Usually in a week you have limited time to add or refine both offensive and defensive adjustments.”

Until they take on those future opponents, however, coaches will simply make the best of the bye.

“Since we have no choice,” Ramstein football coach Carter Hollenbeck said. “We might as well embrace it.”

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

The start of a varsity boys 5-kilometer race during a cross country meet with Lakenheath versus Alconbury at RAF Lakenheath, England, Saturday, September 23, 2017.
WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

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