Tackle football a popular new option in Kaiserslautern
Stars and Stripes August 9, 2009
LANDSTUHL, Germany — It didn’t take long to find out how popular tackle football was in the Kaiserslautern area.
Sign-ups for the first-time offering in the community began in June, and “People were lined up for 30 minutes before the sign-ups opened,” said Andre Litsey, father of wannabe running back Dre.
Kaiserslautern youth sports planned to have two teams — one for 9- to 11-year-olds and one for 12- to 14-year-olds.
“We ... immediately expanded to four,” assistant youth sports director Kurt Nusshag said recently by telephone. “They filled up within a few hours.
“We now have a waiting list.”
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern joins Ansbach, Bamberg, Baumholder, Grafenwöhr, Heidelberg, Hohenfels and Mannheim as communities in Germany offering tackle football to youngsters.
Practice begins Monday, with the season to open a month later.
“There’ll probably be two divisions in each age group, East and West,” Nusshag said about the composition of the eight-community league, “with playoffs between the two divisions.”
Kaiserslautern-area parent Natalie Litsey said the Kaiserslautern program fills a void.
“Our last assignment was Hawaii,” she said, “and we were a little disappointed there was no tackle program here.”
The Litseys weren’t alone, according to Nusshag, whose organization immediately began moving to satisfy its patrons.
“We knew there was a big demand for it [tackle football],” Nusshag said. “A decent amount of families came up and asked for it, and we knew many families were traveling to Baumholder to play. We thought a big community like Kaiserslautern should have a program.”
Had Kaiserslautern gone another year without a tackle football program, the Litseys said they would have joined the Baumholder caravan this season.
“We played flag football last year in Landstuhl,” Andre Litsey said. “We would have driven to Baumholder this year if this program hadn’t been offered.”
According to Nusshag, Youth Services will provide all the equipment necessary, a major savings for military families.
“In Hawaii, it costs $400 per child to play,” Andre Litsey said, “We even bought our kids their own helmets.”
Talk of helmets and pads poses the inevitable question of possible injury, but volunteer coach Darryl Harris downplayed the notion at a recent youth football clinic in Landstuhl.
“We teach kids how to play safe — how to play right,” he said. “That mitigates any injuries. We won’t have as many [injuries] as soccer and baseball.”
Harris, who said he’s been coaching for 19 years and coached flag football here last year, said he wasn’t surprised by the number of youths in his community who wanted to play tackle.
“The community was clamoring for the sport,” he said. “I knew it would take off like a rocket, and it did.”