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(Enlarge) Matthew Sagartz, the new Youth Sports and Fitness director for Child, Youth and School Services, plans to incorporate his experiences as an outdoorsman while improving the Youth Sports program. Sagartz took over the position in February, following the retirement of longtime director Bo Lepinsky.

From growing up on a cattle ranch in Kansas to catching a 60-pound King Salmon and nearly being eaten by a grizzly bear in Alaska, Matthew Sagartz comes to Fort Meade with a rather unique background.

Child, Youth and School Service's new Youth Sports and Fitness director plans to bring his outdoorsman experiences to installation youngsters, while continuing to improve the Youth Sports program at Fort Meade.

Sagartz took over in February, following the departure of longtime director Bo Lepinsky, who retired last fall.

"I'm not going to reinvent the wheel, and Mr. Lepinsky was here for a really long time and I don't want to change everything that he did," said Sagartz, 29. "But I'm going to bring some of the best practices I've seen at the three other garrisons I've been at."

Sagartz stumbled into working in military sports programs six years ago.

After graduating in 2006 from Kansas State University with a degree in social sciences, Sagartz was looking to continue his traveling ways. Having already backpacked through Australia, Sagartz was eager to tour Europe and visit Germany. After a month in Germany, he became the assistant sports director at the Army garrison in Baumholder for two years.

He returned to the United States with his wife, Molly, to be closer to her family in Washington, where Sagartz joined the CYSS staff at Fort Lewis in 2008. But he wasn't working in sports.

"My passion had become youth sports and I really missed it after not doing it for over a year," Sagartz said. "When the youth sports position opened at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, my wife and I jumped at it."

Prior to arriving at Fort Wainwright as youth sports director, the installation had gone through four directors in two years. When Sagartz took over, he had to rebuild the program. The previous director left six months earlier, and there were no coaches, uniforms or officials.

Sagartz, who loves to fish and hunt, called Alaska "paradise," but after 18 months at Fort Wainwright he made the move to Fort Meade.

CYSS administrator Francisco Jamison said Sagartz was selected over 52 other applications due to his experience in Army programs.

"He was going to be able to come in and hit the ground running. ... I appreciated some of the things he had already done," Jamison said. "We were very comfortable with the selection we made, and so far he's done everything we wanted to do."

Unlike his experiences at Fort Wainwright, Sagartz arrived on Fort Meade with a sports program in full swing.

"The whole sports staff is incredible," he said. "It was really neat to come in; [assistant sports director] Jessie [Miller] was running it without me."

Sagartz said he was excited to work in such a diverse program that encompasses multiple sports each season. Currently, the program's spring sports include football, baseball, soccer, swimming, and track and field.

"Most other garrisons right now, it's just baseball season," Sagartz said. "Every season is similar to this."

One of Sagartz's main objectives is to grow programs designed for children ages 3 to 4. In the fall, he plans on organizing a soccer league for that age group. He also plans on creating a wrestling program and eventually, lacrosse teams for all ages.

Sagartz also is focused on providing all young athletes with something tangible to take away from the program, such as trophies or jerseys.

"We are a recreational league that's inclusive of everybody," he said. "This is recreational, this is fun and this is developmental."

Sagartz and his team also will coordinate moving Youth Sports activities to the new Youth Sports complex, which is scheduled to open in the fall, said Jamison.

In addition to the changes in youth sports, Jamison said he hopes Sagartz's experiences as an outdoorsman will help him improve the outdoor adventure program.

"Matt will be able to come in and focus on making things bigger and better," Jamison said. "He brings energy to the program."

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