FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Young people enrolled in the Child, Youth and School Services may find it challenging to keep up with their new Youth Sports Director Matthew Sagartz.
He came from Fort Lewis, Wash., just a short time ago and hit the ground running. Sagartz grew up in a small, rural town in Kansas. "Every summer we would work in the garden; split firewood and hunt pheasants in the fall; hunt deer in the winter and burn pastures and work cattle in the spring," he said.
He was fascinated with the Benedictine monastery in his community and at one time wanted to be a monk. "The Rule of St. Benedict emphasizes the importance of living by the work of your hand; to me there's a meditative quality when you work hard, there is something very profound in manual labor."
Sagartz has come a long way since leaving the Midwest. He has visited at least 15 countries, at one point studying archaeology in Australia while working as an immigrant worker, traveling the country in an old van. He met his wife Molly in Germany and proposed to her on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris at sunset. She wears a gold Eiffel Tower necklace to commemorate the event.
He came to Alaska after he and his father-in-law went on a king salmon fishing trip to Sitka, Alaska, last summer and said he fell in love with the state.
For Sagartz "fishing is my passion, it goes beyond a hobby. I honestly think I was a fisherman in a previous life, there's something so perfect about it," Sagartz said. "I've fished in 11 different countries and the most incredible fishing I've ever done is in Alaska. I can't wait until summer when the salmon start running again. What an amazing fish."
A few weeks ago he went ice-fishing for the first time. Sagartz says next time he wants someone to go with him just to tend to the fire. "I'm never using wood pellets again for heat. I lost more fish then I caught, it was 35 below and I was constantly messing with the stove, dumping in more wood pellets for heat and rearranging my seat to be closer to the stove."
Sagartz would like to share his enthusiasm of fishing and other outdoor activities with patrons of the Youth Services program.
"My goal is to provide variety in our programming and introduce the military youth to unique sports experiences that are specific to Alaska," Sagartz said.
"His eager attitude to bring youth sports into the new generation impressed the interview team," said MJ Lohrenz, director of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "We do a pretty good job of trying to introduce the adults that come to FWA on the "Alaska adventure" and Matt wants to give the youth that opportunity also," she said.
"I have the most amazing job in the world and get paid to do it. Sports and Fitness teaches kids that in order to become good at something, they must work toward their goals," Sagartz said. "This is a very valuable lesson, one that they must carry with them into their adult lives. Sports also teach children that when they do not succeed, such as losing a game, that they must deal with defeat, and move on with dignity."
Sagartz is quick to point out that he is just part of the team. He says that he would "be lost without" Lindsey Cox, the assistant youth sports director.
"We want to provide an exceptional experience and superior customer service that our families will always remember," Sagartz said.