Soldier Engages Community Through Game

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Staff Sgt. Gretta Smith, an executive administrative assistant with the 108th Training Command (IET), and her teammates “bring it in” after a practice kickball game Nov. 15, 2015 at Clanton Park in Charlotte, N.C. Smith plays with an all-female kickball team, which is part of the “Ladies Under the Lights” kickball league, as a way of interacting with her community. Photo by Sgt. Javier S. Amador, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The ball bounced slightly as it made its way towards Staff Sgt. Gretta Smith who at just the right time connects with her right foot, sending it sailing through the air. Immediately, she’s off, sprinting her way to first base only to be denied by a teammate who handily catches the ball. With that, everyone on the team breaks out in smiles and laughter and the next player moves into kicking position.

The team expected to play another team at Clanton Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, Nov. 15, but at the last minute the opposing team forfeited. Rather than simply pack up and go home, they turned the occasion into an impromptu practice session, all with a contagious display of enthusiasm. 

Smith, an executive administrative assistant with the 108th Training Command (IET), sees the time she spends playing kickball with her teammates as an opportunity to reach out to others in in her community as a citizen as well as a Soldier.

“This is where you work. This is where you live. You should be involved in where you are,” said Smith, “Besides keeping you in shape it broadens your horizons as far as meeting new people.”

George Howard is the founder of the all-female kickball league known as “Ladies Under the Light”. He explained the league is part of a newly formed franchise of the Goombay Adventurers and Goombay Sports, an organization that was originally founded in Washington, D.C. It is one of the most well-known outdoor adventure and team sports company for urban professionals.

Staff Sgt. Gretta Smith, an executive administrative assistant with the 108th Training Command (IET), kicks the ball during a practice kickball game Nov. 15, 2015 at Clanton Park in Charlotte, N.C. Smith plays with an all-female kickball team, which is part of the “Ladies Under the Lights” kickball league, as a way of interacting with her community. Photo by Sgt. Javier S. Amador, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs

Since 1988, it has provided adventure and sports leagues for youths and adults across the country a chance to network with others in new or non-traditional outdoor activities with additional goals of enhancing its participants’ self-confidence, strength, teamwork and overall health, all benefits which have led to real, life-changing events for some.

“We are a sports and adventure league and we mainly set up events to keep us outdoors, primarily for urban professionals. We have kickball, volleyball, dodgeball, (activities) designed to keep urban professionals doing something other than the norm,” said Howard, “In the Washington D.C. area, I’ve seen some miraculous things happen. I’ve seen marriages happen, I’ve seen great networking opportunities happen and I’ve seen people get jobs.”

The Charlotte, North Carolina, franchise is relatively new, having only been formed in 2014, but despite being new, they are seeing steady growth and feature both all-female and co-ed teams.

“Last year, our first year, we had roughly around 80 people show up,” said Howard, “ Throughout the three seasons we drew around 300 people.”

Smith heard about the “Ladies Under the Lights” kickball league from her co-worker, Carlisha Martin, a Child Youth and School Services (CYSS) specialist in her unit. She started with the league in September and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Staff Sgt. Gretta Smith, an executive administrative assistant with the 108th Training Command (IET), catches the ball during a practice kickball game Nov. 15, 2015 at Clanton Park in Charlotte, N.C. Smith plays with an all-female kickball team, which is part of the “Ladies Under the Lights” kickball league, as a way of interacting with her community. Photo by Sgt. Javier S. Amador, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs

“I’ve been asked to do the co-ed league so I think I’m going to follow up with it in the spring,” said Smith.

Smith also wants to encourage others to give kickball a try, whether it’s with the all-female or the co-ed leagues. She wants to share what she has found by playing a fun and off-the-beaten-path sport.

“Come out and have a lot of fun. It’s not just a team, we get together as a Family afterwards,” said Smith, “If you want to add some members to your Family, come out and join the team.”

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