Varsity soccer gears up for season

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Siuta B. Ika
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Through Holloman's intramural sports programs, Airmen on base have been able to play their favorite sports against the other Airmen here who have decided to lace up their cleats or sneakers and hit the playing field. For most of the sports on base, games played are limited to the courts and fields around Holloman.

That's not the case for the Holloman Varsity Soccer Team, which is comprised of Airmen from around the wing, dependents and members of the German Air Force, who represent the base in tournaments and leagues outside of the installation.

"Our season is year-round like international soccer," said Douglas Grabowski, team co-founder and head coach. "We are currently scheduled to play in three pretty big tournaments and the fall season of the Mesilla Valley soccer league, which encompasses teams from El Paso, Las Cruces, Alamogordo and Ruidoso, to name a few."

The first tournament on the team's schedule, the Defender's Cup, will take place in San Antonio from Sept. 1 through 6.

"The Defender's Cup is an Air Force-sponsored tournament put on every year where we'll be competing against 12 to 24 other military bases," Grabowski said. "I've gone down there as a reserve, as a player and now as a coach. I've seen strong individual players that didn't gel together and play poorly, and we are in the process of gelling so if we continue on the path we're on, we have a strong case to do well down there. It will come down to the effort that these guys have put in."

To get ready for the Defender's Cup, the team has been on a grueling, soccer-filled schedule, said Kyle Lipscomb, co-captain and starting center defender.

"We are having practices four times a week, which usually run for two hours," he said. "Mondays and Fridays are our ball-skills days, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are our early morning conditioning days. Saturdays we play indoor soccer, so it's pretty much all around soccer. Besides that we are doing stuff on our own to hone our skills even further."

Besides the tournaments and local league, the team will play the German air force, comprised of many of the Sundowners, a team made up of mostly GAF members. The varsity soccer team's first meeting of the season with many of these Sundowners' players will take place Sept. 24 in the second annual Oktobercup.

Grabowski attributes the first annual Oktobercup with kick-starting the formation of Holloman's varsity soccer team.

"The ideas and core principles of the team were started in last year's Oktobercup," he said. "It was the first organized event that featured an American team versus a German team, but the team was kind of a one game team that trained only for a month to play that one game. Then the wheels sort of fell off."

Although the Germans defeated last year's version of the American team, when the varsity soccer team formed, members of the German team wanted their names on the roster of Holloman's traveling team.

"It's more exciting for me to play on this team because they have a lot of people with different skill-sets," said Philipp Menzel, co-captain and starting right defender. "The biggest difference between the teams is the communication, even with the Germans we still speak a lot of English, but this team works better with each other. And the team doesn't have just one strong point, but the camaraderie is especially strong. The guys know that everyone will be there for one another if they need something."

For Menzel and the other GAF members on the team, the varsity soccer team provides them an opportunity they didn't have on a GAF base.

"In Germany there aren't any base teams, just one German air force team and one German army team," said Menzel. "I love playing here and it's a lot of fun for all of the Germans."

The Germans weren't the only ones vying for roster spots, said Grabowski.

"During our tryouts, we had 70 interested members and right now we have 37 on our roster and that includes our two managers, German players and our two female dependent players," he said.

The larger number of players has proven to be a luxury, said Grabowski.

"With that many people we are able to practice in-game situations and with deployments, TDYs (temporary duty) and vacations, we are still able to have, at any time, 25 people at every practice," he said. "We also are able to have two squads in the Mesilla Valley league so we can play two games every Sunday."

The team has done more than just provide an outlet for soccer-loving people on the base, said Grabowski.

"Playing video games and mulling around your dorm or apartment gets kind of old, so I think it's evident that this has really impacted their lives in a positive way," he said. "This has really benefited people's lives and I can see it in their faces. People have told me 'thank you for getting this started because I wish this would have started four years ago when I first got here.' They also have said 'at first I didn't really like Holloman because I missed out on soccer but this has brought me friends, companionship and an organized way of life.'"

The team has also provided something else for the members to look forward to, Grabowski said.

"It's not just the one hour, three times a week, Air Force physical training, it's more like 10 hours a week just in practice time," he said. "I think that's the kind of thing that really gets you through the long weeks. Not too long ago we were doing base exercises every other week and it drains you, but when you have something like this, where you can really look forward to something and represent Holloman, it's really exciting."

Although the season has already begun, the team is always looking for interested individuals.

"We plan on having another tryout in the spring," Grabowski said. "The team is open to anybody on base -- dependents over 18, U.S. and German Air Force members. We are also hoping to start an all-female team to represent the base as well. Contact me and we will get you out to practice."

Grabowski would also like to extend his gratitude to the Domenici Fitness and Sports Center staff as well.

"Bradley George and Staff Sergeant Edwards have been instrumental in facilitating equipment use, field times and making sure our finances are in line," he said. "Without those two and their staff over there, we couldn't have done what we have. They made this affordable for a lot of people that otherwise, wouldn't have been able to."

For more information about the Holloman Varsity Soccer Team, contact U.S. Air Force Capt. Douglas Grabowski at 575-572-3742.