By Steve Millar

One of the main goals Saint Viator coach Mike Taylor has for his players has nothing to do with what happens on the soccer field.

“I’ve always tried to use soccer as a medium to see the world,” Taylor said. “I want my players to see different countries, play against different people and meet kids from different cultures. That’s a very valuable experience.”

With that in mind, Taylor organizes a trip to Europe every other summer for his junior and senior boys and girls soccer players.

Next month, 38 girls will leave for Venice on July 9. They’ll play in the San Marino Cup in Italy, spend two days touring Rome, then fly to Dublin for another five-day trip that’ll include two friendlies against local teams.

One week later, 34 boys will meet the girls program in Dublin, where they’ll also play a pair of friendlies, then fly to London before participating in the New Balance Cup in Nottingham, England.

“We try to get to two different countries,” Taylor said. “We always try to play in two tournaments, but there are less tournaments in Europe these days. So we’ve been doing one tournament then organizing some friendlies.”

Taylor has his teams stay in hostels or college dorms whenever possible. Otherwise, they’ll stay in low-budget hotels.

“I want to show them that it’s possible to travel without spending a fortune,” he said. “I want them to get comfortable doing things like this, so they’ll feel comfortable travelling after high school.

“When we stay in these hostels and dorms, the kids get to meet other kids from all over the world. With social media these days, they stay friends with them after the trip.”

Taylor also uses the trips to help evaluate his players. This is especially valuable with the boys team, with the fall season right around the corner.

“It’s like a little preseason summer camp,” Taylor said. “I get to see them play some games.

“I learn a lot about the players. As coaches, we get to spend time with them, just hanging out off the field and then they don’t view us up on a pedestal anymore. I feel like the years we do go to Europe, we always have a little more success that season.”

On the boys side, Taylor has a mix of promising young players and veterans returning from a team that went 9-11 in 2016, seven of those wins coming in East Suburban Catholic play.

“We don’t have that one player that’s going to take over a game,” Taylor said. “We have a lot of equal players.

“We’ll be solid defensively and have some players that can put the ball away. We just have to be a blue-collar team and work hard.”

Off the field, Saint Viator, which has been a longtime participant in the PepsiCo Showdown, will continue their annual community service work this fall. Last spring, it coaches, players and parents played a big part in surprising 100 K-2nd grade students from a low-income school with new bikes on Buddy’s HELPERS Challenge Day.

2017 Saint Viator Outlook

Coach: Mike Taylor, 30th season, unbeaten in 634 of 853 games as boys coach (528-219-106)

Assistant coaches: TJ King, Bryan Dahlquist

Top returnees: Jack Hartman (Sr., M), Will Hartman (Jr., F), Michael Tangredi (Jr., M), Sean Carey (Sr., M), Zaul Perez (Jr., M), Drake Imhoff (Sr., D), Brady Mulligan (Sr., M) and Nick DiMarco (Jr., D)

Top 3 newcomers: Jake Sinnema (Sr., D), Patrick Hammarlund (Jr., M) and Grant Jodoin (Jr., M)

Starting goalie: David Petrovich (Sr.)

2016 finishes: 9-11-0 overall, 7-2 in conference. Lost in Class 3A regional semifinals

Best finish in PepsiCo Showdown: Sweet 16 in 2013