CornerKICKS: The good, the turd, the legacy and so much more

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Joe Trost, columnist for #PrepSportsReport

Ever have a moment where you sat down and thought, “Man, where do I even begin?”

After a test run in the spring, CornerKICKS is back. No need to pay, no need to sell candy bars to get coverage, be ranked or read. Thanks to the support of #PrepSportsReport, we have an exciting free platform for you to get all your high school coverage – year round.

You’ll see soon enough. Less talk, more news and notes…so let’s go.

THE GOOD – A new rivalry: High school soccer needs all the help it can get, and sadly many athletic departments and coaches have failed to realize that and market the right way to incoming families and players over the past decade.

Yes, I said market. The good private schools have been doing it for years, as have the good public school programs. It’s a different era, and some people need to embrace the change or hit the road.

After years of expecting student athletes to come out and play because it’s “high school,” kids don’t have to do that anymore. There are other avenues to enjoy the sport and get to the next level.

So growing rivalries, like the one that has formed off the field between Morton and Saint Patrick, are great for the sport and high school athletics in general. It creates a buzz, something that gets people talking, excited and paying attention.

People need to remember that communities and student bodies rally around rivalries. If school leaders get a little creative and savvy with these opportunities, a lot of good can come from it off the field – whether it’s additional exposure to helping charities and other local causes.

Always remember, the power of sports can open so many doors: Competitors on the field, teammates off in the game of life.

THE TURD – Steve Berry: The former Plainfield North soccer coach was suspended in the spring (girls) for a game and then controversy arose again this fall (boys) when he was suspended, eventually fired and is no longer teaching at the school.

People make mistakes, we all do. We tend to learn more from our mistakes than our successes.

But for a coach to be suspended twice in back-to-back seasons by the school and then out of a teaching job a month into the school year, that doesn’t happen every single day. All eyes are now turning to the leader of the athletic department, Ron Lear. Stay tuned.

Former Lincoln-Way star and Plainfield South coach Dave Brown is helping out the district and has filled in as head coach for the remainder of the season. Brown added Plainfield South girls coach Alfonso Lopez to the staff to stabilize the program from a culture standpoint.

THE LEGACY – Ian McCarthy: On Saturday, the longtime soccer leader at Whitney Young announced his retirement at season’s end.

Since first taking over the program in 2004, McCarthy – who actually started at Hyde Park in 2001 – has always been a vocal leader within the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system, which can be a challenge within itself.

He stood up for all CPS players, especially when suburban coaches wouldn’t give proper credit and respect to city programs. Not many coaches in general would be willing to put up with the challenges a city coach faces: lack of facilities, no transportation budget, booking your own buses and paying for your own officials are just a few that come to mind.

And don’t forget about the outdated $3,500 or so stipend that comes along with being a CPS coach. It’s pretty safe to say most suburban coaches, who make $10,000-$20,000 a season, wouldn’t even show up.

McCarthy’s legacy is summed up in one simple, yet very powerful word: selfless.

He cared about kids – on and off the field. And not just his kids, but all kids.

THE COURTROOM – Craig Snower: The legal team for the former Loyola girls soccer coach, who is suing the private school for $250,000 over his dismissal in May 2018, had its first status hearing back in July.

As expected, Loyola asked for the case to be dismissed. Snower’s team responded and now awaits Loyola’s response. A status hearing/ruling on whether the case will proceed is expected in the coming weeks.

If Snower clears the dismissal hurdle, which is always a challenge, stay tuned. There could be some potentially damaging and explosive hiccups exposed during discovery that will have other school leaders paying close attention.

THE EXTINCT – Sandburg boys soccer: It was once a proud statewide soccer brand that people appreciated, because of its strong defense and work rate.

Today, however, Sandburg stands for one win in 12 games this season and two regional semifinal exits as the No. 1 seed over the past decade. Any alumni or soccer person with a clue will tell you Sandburg soccer should never, ever lose a regional semifinal game as the No. 1 seed.

Ever.

Alumni are embarrassed, opposing coaches have noted the difference and the fall from grace is due to a number of reasons. The once-dominant Chicago Magic, led by current MLS coach Mike Matkovich, isn’t in its backyard producing future MLS and Division I players. The local Orland Park Soccer Club, led by Hugo Perez, isn’t producing successful role players.

Despite that, alumni are calling for a change. All eyes will be on Sandburg athletic director Tom Freyer and principal Jennifer Tyrrell in the coming weeks.

If the program had half of Tyrrell’s work rate and passion in its program that she did as a sports star at Stagg, there’s a good chance Sandburg soccer – which won the school’s first IHSA title in 1993 – would still be among the elite in the south suburbs alone.

THE FACTS – Officials: Coaches and parents don’t get it, but it’s reality: People don’t want to officiate high school soccer games anymore.

The shortage this year is forcing cancellations at all levels. One soccer assigning official noted last week that in 2020, most soccer games will move from three-man crews to two-man crews at the varsity level and two-man crews to a one-man crew at the lower levels because of the shortage.

Some of the assigning officials will be dropping conferences at the end of the fall season, because they don’t have enough officials to fill all the games. Coach/parent abuse, travel times and low pay are listed as the top three reasons why officials have left the sport early.

FROM THE CORNER: Sean Palacios is out at Saint Ignatius, while former Maine South star Gabby Whittinghill is in at Elk Grove. The latter was a finalist for a job at Lyons this past summer.

CornerKICKS will appear on Sundays. Contact Joe Trost at joetrost@gmail.com.

Bio on columnist: Joe Trost was an award-winning writer at Star Newspapers, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and ESPN.com. Locally, he is a three-time statewide IHSSCA Media Person of the Year and founder of the PepsiCo Showdown, the largest high school sports series in the U.S.

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