GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Lack of adequate outdoor sports facilities at Grafenwöhr means some children will miss out on playing their sport of choice or not will not be able to participate in spring sports at all.

Dan Fraizer, youth sports and fitness director for U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, said Friday that the lack of sports fields for young people at Grafenwöhr is the reason youth teams are not able to accomodate all the children who want to be on a team.

This spring the garrison will offer youth baseball, softball, T-ball, soccer, and track and field, he said. However, parents at Grafenwöhr who don’t register their children quickly after sign-ups start for sports teams often find that teams are full.

Fraizer said Grafenwöhr has only one soccer field, at Camp Aachen, and one baseball diamond, next to the library, for youth sports, although two more baseball diamonds will be available at the new Netzaberg off-post military housing area in June. Ironically, sports fields set aside for adults at the base are often vacant.

At nearby Vilseck the situation is better, with several soccer fields and baseball diamonds available for youth sports, he said.

There is also a shortage of coaches for youth sports, Fraizer said.

“There are still a couple of teams that are missing coaches and some teams that could use an assistant coach,” he said.

Katie Gilman, a 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment spouse, said she volunteered to coach bambino baseball this spring because it was the only way to get her child on the team.

Devonda Summers, whose husband works as a military dentist in Bavaria, said she’s coaching kids soccer because of the shortage of volunteers.

“My daughter was in the 3- to 5-year-old age group that had no coach,” she said, adding that female coaches are more involved in things like cheerleading back in the States.

Another Stryker spouse, Bethany Morris, who volunteered to coach junior soccer, said she just wanted to get involved. Although she’s never played soccer, she said her brothers did.

The deployment of many soldiers assigned to Grafenwöhr and Vilseck is partly to blame for the shortage of coaches, Fraizer said.

“Lack of knowledgeable volunteers is another issue. Often people are nervous to step forward and do it because they are a little unsure of themselves,” he said.

Youth sports coaches don’t have to be experts on the sport they coach, Fraizer said.

“If they just have a general knowledge about the sport and a desire to do a good thing for the kids that is all we are looking for,” he said.

Maj. Brett Henson, a youth coach at Grafenwöhr, said he volunteered to coach T-ball for his daughter’s team after coaching another daughter’s soccer team.

He agreed that deployment meant fewer males available to coach. “When I was here in 2004, 3rd Brigade (of the 1st Infantry Division) deployed and there was the same problem,” he said.

But youth sports is an important part of the lives of children of deployed soldiers, he said.

“It gives them something to do after school and it is something they can call or e-mail mom or dad about,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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