Garrison CYS slam dunks service, named one of five best in US

In a full court press against the coronavirus pandemic, Baumholder Child and Youth Services slam dunked its reimagined youth sports program during the COVID lockdown and scored a national award.

Baumholder’s Youth Sports and Fitness Programs won the “Excellence in Youth Sports” award from the National Alliance of Youth Sports in a ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 27.

Members of the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz command team and Baumholder Youth Sports and Fitness Program pose for a photo with the “Excellence in Youth Sports” award at the Baumholder memorial Nov. 10. Pictured from the left is, Jae J. Kim, Baumholder deputy garrison manager; Andhia Campos, Randy Ault, Marcel Fisher, Whitney Clemmons, and Henry Wilkerson, CYS staff members; and Lt. Col. Jeremy A. McHugh, acting garrison commander. The Child Youth Services program earned this accolade from the National Alliance of Youth Sports recognizing them as a top-five youth sports program in the United States.

This award is given to five United States youth sports programs worldwide. NAYS is a non-profit youth sports organization whose mission is to empower and educate youth sports leaders so children have a safe and positive athletic experience.

“We competed against very large organizations like the YMCA and AYSO (American Youth Soccer),” said Marcel Fisher, Baumholder youth sports and fitness director. “This award is a big deal as it highlights our youth sports program at Baumholder as one of the best in the country.”

Fisher said Baumholder’s CYS received this award because of its ability to continue to provide, and even grow, the youth sports program during the peak of the pandemic.

“Admittedly, the goal we set was a towering one,” said Fisher. “Some of the hurdles we had to overcome were low staff, low resources, and mental fatigue, but we had to face these challenges head on so we could continue to serve the children in the community.”

Fisher said he and his team designed creative ways for the community’s youth to stay active.

“We had to get to get out of our comfort zone during the pandemic with the goal to provide a safe way for kids to continue be active,” said Fisher. “We had to get creative, and that is what we did.”

New programs included:

A Virtual Start Smart program that introduced popular sports to children ages 3-4;

Healthy habits videos highlighting healthy snacks and how to make them;

A virtual basketball skills camp offering a “pick-up and play initiative” for families to check out equipment. This allowed children to play remotely from their living rooms, backyards, or garages;

Skill Development camps that taught golf, archery, soccer and cross country; and

“Fun Fridays” meet-ups between the community’s youth to participate in disc golf, bowling and wall climbing.

The program’s virtual content netted 3,600 views and 615 enrollments for the skill development clinics and Start Smart. Fisher said the new clinics were well received netting 224 fall enrollments, which is the highest single-season enrollment the staff can recall.

“The most challenging aspect of this was creating ways the youth could still be active in our sports programs,” said Fisher. “We did not possess a lot of virtual content creating experience, so we had to create video products.”

Fisher said innovation and hard work by his team led to the success, including contributions from:

Whitney Clemmons, assistant director, who created and started virtual basketball skills camp along with camera operations and video editing;

Andhia Campos, fitness specialist, who led the exercise and start smart instruction during the virtual basketball camp, created warm-up and cool-down exercises, and edited videos;

Randy Ault, equipment and facility assistant, who prepared and organized sport equipment bags and revived and improved a CYS facility in Baumholder; and

Henry Wilkerson, Landstuhl’s fitness specialist, who was the basketball coach during the virtual basketball skills camp. He created individual drills and more.

For Campos, the most challenging aspect was learning a new skill.

“Having to learn how to edit a video, cut out content, and move it around, adding sounds and music at precise moments of the videos, and having to figure out how to increase or lower the sounds was something that we had to learn to do in limited time,” said Campos. “This challenge was overcome by trial and error, and by conducting research online.”

Fisher said the award is just the start.

“We are a small, but a very mighty program,” said Fisher. “We care about the community’s kids and this award shouldn’t be an exception. It should be the expectation. We are going to strive to make sure that Baumholder is one of the top youth sports programs in the world.”

Jennifer Hodges, Baumholder’s Child and Youth Services coordinator, lauded the work done by the Baumholder FMWR professionals.

“This is a true team effort,” said Hodges. “This program showed potential when I first came on board but it needed blood, sweat, and tears. The team has put forth that effort, and this award exemplifies that. It is so exciting.”