HEIDELBERG, Germany-- Sports teams and spectators from just about every corner of Europe came to try their hand at a little healthy competition courtesy of the 20th annual Summer Slam event in Heidelberg. The annual three-day event featured some of Europe’s best athletes vying for victory in the basketball, volleyball, racquetball and softball arenas.

The event organized by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation kicked off Friday evening at the Patton Barrack’s fitness center where U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg commander, Col. Bryan DeCoster provided opening remarks to the players, families and garrison staff members gathered inside the gymnasium. DeCoster urged everyone to enjoy themselves while making the most of the event and practicing healthy competition and good sportsmanship. The Heidelberg men tipped off against Ansbach in one of the first basketball games of the night, winning 55-41.

Nearly 20 teams came out to play and cheer on fellow competitors from across Europe. Matches took place at Patton, Campbell and Tompkins Barracks and participants and spectators snacked on hamburgers, ice-cold sodas, hotdogs and more. Colorful pop-up tents and RVs also dotted the landscape of local installations as campers set up shop to properly enjoy the sport’s action.

“What we tried to do this year is to maximize the amount of teams, the amount of coverage and the overall experience including the food. Just everything involved with this event. We try to enhance it every year,” said Michael Criswell, chief of sports and fitness for USAG Baden-Württemberg.“It’s a weekend get together that people look forward to and the best competition comes out to play each other.”

One major change at this year’s Summer Slam was the absence of the Mannheim Mustangs men’s and women’s basketball teams. Both are now merged under the Heidelberg banner due to Mannheim’s deactivation in May. Heidelberg Lady Generals Head Coach and Heidelberg High School graduate Patricia Jameson said she is pleased with the transition.

“I think it works out really well and we’re happy to have Mannheim with us and we’re a big family. I remember back in the day when it was always a big battle between Mannheim and Heidelberg playing in the championship. There was some heat but there was always love among the players when the game was over. As long as everyone gets to play ball that’s what it’s all about.”

Jameson was born and raised here and has participated in many of the annual Summer Slam events over the years. As transformation looms closer for the community here, Jameson said the effects of the drawdown are hard to ignore.

“My home’s leaving. My dad’s former military. He retired here. I went to school here. These are my roots and it feels strange. It’s starting to hit me now that I see places I used to hang out are starting to close. It feels strange and it’s sad but I know it has to happen. It’s evitable … it was just a matter of time and now it’s happening.”

Jameson’s team went on to defeat Ramstein 52-34 during the women’s championship game.
Summer Slam is open to all ID-Card holders 18 years of age or older for information visit www.mwrgermany.com.