The Grind, presented by the Bank of Clarendon: Thomas Sumter's Krammer family comes together on the pitch with rebooted TSA soccer program


The Krammer family lives a very familiar life to any military unit. The family's patriarch is Col. Frank Krammer, who serves as a staff officer at U.S. Army Central at Shaw Air Force Base. Because of the nature of his job, the Krammers have done a lot of moving.

Their eldest two children, Karson and Jacen, were born in Oklahoma. Their younger brother, Braden, was born in New York. They've also made two stops in Missouri and lived in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Korea before moving to Sumter three years ago. Once this school year wraps up, they'll be headed to Arizona, Frank's final stop before retirement.

Throughout all of those stops, the Krammers had two constants: each other and sports.

There aren't many things that bring a family closer than needing to make a new set of friends every two or three years.

"Every time we move, most of the summers it's just us three before we get to actually be in school and make friends, so we're close for those few months," Jacen said.

Once a new school year began, the trio used sports as an outlet for finding their new group of friends. That was one of the main reasons Frank wanted to introduce his children to athletics at a young age.

"I grew up as a military dependent, so it was the same way for me. I relate to my kids through my past experience in the military being a kid, so I know that that avenue is huge," Frank said. "When they were younger, it was more me, my wife, and our three kids going out and kicking the soccer ball around, playing football, riding bikes, running, whatever it was. With that initial piece of moving, you've got your core family, so we spent a lot of time, especially the first few months, together until the kids get going in whatever activity they have going on."

For a long time, there was one unifying sport for the Krammers: soccer. Karson was able to play co-ed ball with her younger brothers on the base while Frank coached. As the kids got older, those opportunities to play together diminished. By the time they got to Sumter, the only shared sport was football, which Braden picked up from friends. He eventually brought Jacen out to kick at Thomas Sumter, while Karson was on the sidelines every Friday night as a cheerleader.

But Thomas Sumter didn't have a soccer program. Since the Krammers moved to Sumter, they have tried to change that. After three years, they finally succeeded this spring. They helped reboot a program that had been dormant since 2018. It was a perfect reunion, especially as Karson prepares to graduate and go off to college.

"I think the past three years we've all gotten really busy with our own sports and our own activities. We've started driving, hanging out with our friends, so we all started doing different things like outside of hanging out with our family," Karson said. "This soccer season has helped give us one last chance to really spend more time with each other."


When you move as much as the Krammers have, you form a new definition of normal.

For Karson, Jacen and Braden, they're used to starting a summer in a new house devoid of furniture just trying to find a way to pass the time.

"We would just wake up and then kind of just have the day to ourselves," Braden said. "We also normally don't get all of our furniture and stuff until later. We have an empty house, so we have to find things to do in an empty house. A lot of the times we've been able to find games to play while they're still wide-open hardwood floors."

"We used to play tag in our socks in empty houses," Karson chimed in.

Once the summer came to an end, it was time for school, which meant a new group of friends. That's where their passion for sports was crucial.

"Sports really help when in the military because you're able to get into a team-based thing and grow with people there," Jacen said. "It's a quick way to make friends instead of going looking for yourself. That community is already made for you."

It was also important that the Krammers had each other for every journey. It's a little easier to wade into unknown waters when you have the flotation device of a sibling by your side.

"At the high school age, (making friends is) a little more challenging. For us it's been, and I think it's familiar territory for most military families, is that initial couple months where they have each other to hang out with and you can meet people in a group of three siblings, and that sort of makes the environment a little more safe," Frank said. "And then from there, they start to go their separate ways. I think the transition piece from base to base, installation to installation, is much easier for military kids with siblings that they can get along with and then have that initial experience at a new post to sort of reinforce the bond that we have within the family and then go from there as they adventure off into whatever that particular installation has to offer."

Soccer was a sport all three of the Krammers fell in love with. Jacen and Braden started playing on soccer teams for the first time in Korea, and it provided a sense of stability. While there were plenty of American families on the base, there were a lot of new things to get used to in another country.

"I enjoyed it. It was hard at times because there's like no friends to get to because we lived in an apartment off the base, and so there's like we couldn't just go hang out with people or see people because there's a little bit of a drive," Jacen said of their time in Korea. "It was really just our family for the whole two years we were there. That was the good part because I have a lot of memories of just all of us hanging out."

Karson was always playing right alongside her brothers. She never really found it unusual to be roughhousing with the guys.

"All those physical sports, I grew up playing with them and our dad, so it wasn't really like crazy to me. It just was like normal, just what I grew up doing," she said. "It was co-ed until I was an eighth-grader. I think I played with just girls for two years because I played club or like travel ball in eighth grade, and then I played for the high school my ninth-grade year. And then now I play with boys again, so I only really played with girls for two years."

Frank relished the opportunity to coach all of his kids on the pitch as they grew up.

"I loved it," he said. "I loved shaping kids, providing a positive influence, competition through sports, teaching sportsmanship, character and the teamwork that comes with that. It just evolved from there. It just happens that my kids enjoy playing sports."

While sports were an important outlet for the Krammers, they also served as an example of the hardships that can come with moving constantly.

"Club was a very difficult thing to get into when they know you're moving within two years," Jacen said. "They try to establish a team that can build up throughout the years and throughout high school, and so I've had challenges with that. It hasn't been too difficult school-wise, but club has been the difficult part.

"Once in Pennsylvania, there was this one team that was like, 'You're good, but you're not gonna be here.' So they put me down at like the lowest level, and that was really hard to take, but it is what it is. I just kept trying to play."

The Krammers are passionate about soccer, Jacen especially, which made the move to Sumter even more complicated.

Braden helped the family break into the Thomas Sumter community with his interest in football, but they no longer had a sport that all three siblings could play together.

While Thomas Sumter didn't have a soccer team yet, Jacen and Frank found a way to get involved with the sport in a different way.

One day last spring, Jacen was practicing on a field out at Shaw when he got an invitation to play for the base's men's team. He was initially unsure, but when he came home and told Frank, the duo decided to suit up together.

"I went out at first just thinking I'm just going to practice with them, get some time in playing with Jacen through practice. It had been 30 years since I played a full soccer game," Frank said. "Jacen and I bonded. It was pretty awesome for both of us, I think more so for me. I got to get back out there and sort of relive my high school years again.

"When I got back out there, I had a newfound admiration for what soccer players go through when they're out there on the field and no longer think that running back and forth on that field is as easy as it looks."


The Krammers worked hard to get soccer back into the fold at TSA, but it wasn't a simple task.

"We tried every year that we've been here. It was kind of hard the first year because I don't even think they had equipment; they didn't have a coach," Karson said. "They were just trying to see if they could find interest, and then they were like, 'If we get enough interest, then we'll hire a coach.'"

When Coach Eric Leagones came to Thomas Sumter last year, they knew they had a chance. Leagones had a background in soccer and coached football when he made the move to Thomas Sumter. In fact, he was Braden's position coach with the defensive backs. So, they got to work.

"We would just go around, sometimes even during football season, and be like, 'Hey, you're kind of fast and you're coordinated, you want to come out and play soccer?' And a lot of the time, they'd be like, 'Yeah, I don't know,' because some of them play baseball, and so they were going to have to stop playing baseball to play soccer," the eighth-grader said. "We were just like, 'Well, just come out, see if you like it. If you don't, then you don't have to keep showing up, but just at least give it a try,' because it had been years since a lot of these kids had even kicked a soccer ball."

When they finally got enough interest to form a team this spring, it was cathartic for Jacen. While he enjoyed the opportunity to suit up with his brother on Friday nights in the fall, he was itching to hit the pitch for TSA.

"I like playing the sport for the school. It just feels better than club," Jacen said. "Club is fun, but being able to represent your school in a sport, it just feels so much better knowing you have your friends in the stands watching you. I was wanting to be able to do that for so long. I wanted to help try to build the team, but it kept not working. And then finally, this year, when we got it, it's been amazing because I'm able to express my sport better."


Of course, there were some challenges that came with rebooting soccer at Thomas Sumter, the most important detail being the lack of experience across the roster. Outside of the Krammers, many of the student-athletes hadn't played soccer since back in their early days of Parks and Recreation. But Jacen gives his teammates credit, as they weren't starting from ground zero.

"It was definitely like a learning process for them. We had to teach them how to see the game," the sophomore said. "They had the kicking down, they were better than most at passing. They weren't just brand new to it. They actually could pass, and most of them could dribble, and some of them, surprisingly, could dribble good. It's just that thought process of the game that we really needed to implement into them, which we're still working on now, but it's gotten way better."

As the veteran of the sport, Braden knows his teammates will turn to him and his siblings for answers. He's happy to oblige. In fact, he welcomes it with a "No dumb questions" approach.

"I feel reliable," Braden said. "I know if anybody ever needs help that they're open to come and ask me if they need it. That's a good feeling for me because I know that they know that they won't get judged for having a question.

"They actually want to learn, and they want to get better. I feel like that's a big part of sports and improvement is you have to be coachable. Our team is very coachable, and they want to get better, and they strive to get better."

Jacen has also used teaching the sport as a way to improve his own game. He's seeing the pitch in an entirely new light this spring.

"I've been trying to find that mental side of the game where I'm able to see it way more in depth," he said. "Before, I saw it at a good level, but being able to coach it and teach it more has been able to bring that level of understanding way higher. I've been able to see runs way earlier and see plays develop faster than I did before, so it's helped me a lot, and I'm grateful for it."


After a lot of hard work, TSA played its first game against Calhoun County on Feb. 26. The night definitely came with some nerves.

"I was nervous because that was the first time that I played in almost three years, and I was the only girl on the team, so I was like, 'Oh, I gotta show them that I can play,'" Karson said. "I had faith that our team was skilled enough to be able to work together to pull out a win, but I really was hoping and praying to God. I was like, 'Please, please let us use all the skills that we've practiced so far and just come out with a win so we can get soccer started at TSA.'"

They got that win and so much more. The Generals crushed Calhoun County 7-1 and kept rolling. They won their first four games and went into spring break with an impressive 6-2 record. Frank has loved watching his kids thrive as leaders for this fledgling program.

"It really caps off a great three years here at Shaw Air Force Base and Thomas Sumter to have them playing on the same team and not only playing, but doing well," he said.

The team has been a great way for the family to bond. Each of the siblings plays a different position with Jacen as an attacking midfielder, Karson as a defensive midfielder and Braden as the sweeper, the last line of defense before the keeper. The trio regularly serves as a throughline from one end of the pitch to the other as Braden sends a free kick to his sister, who can flip a pass out to Jacen for one of his 20 goals in the first seven games. Afterward, they discuss each game on the car ride home.

"Definitely because our dad is really involved in it, too. He loves the game, so he'll be talking about it, too," Jacen said of their regular game recaps. "So, we're all together talking about the previous game, what we thought was good, what we have to improve."

While there is still plenty of season left, the Krammers hope this is only the beginning for the soccer program at Thomas Sumter.

"I just hope that this team comes back next year and this season really starts soccer again. That's what I really am hoping for," Jacen said. "Playoffs, amazing, (advancing) up into state, amazing, but just starting that foundation is what I'm really hoping for with this team."

Regardless of the final outcome of the season, this has been a special spring for the Krammers.

"I feel like this season's been important to me because, being the youngest, I'm gonna end up being alone at the house," Braden said. "I feel like being able to get this last year with them has been really nice because once she leaves and goes to college, she won't be as close as she normally was, because she is normally right down the hallway."


The changes keep coming for the Krammers. Once the spring ends, Karson is going to head off to college, following her family to Arizona in the process. Jacen will move high schools for the first time next year, slicing his prep career perfectly in half between two schools. Braden, meanwhile, will get a fresh start at a new high school as a freshman.

No matter what the future holds for the Krammers, they'll have each other and the lessons they've learned from years of going wherever the wind, or the U.S. Army, blows them.

"Change isn't scary for me. I know change is (a part of) life, and I'm going to have to deal with it no matter how old I am," Karson said. "It's given me the ability to kind of persevere and find the good things that come out of change. Rather than worrying about it, I kind of look forward to things instead of shying away from it."