Joe Trost, columnist for #PrepSportsReport
Where you at Jim Konrad (Naperville North) and Mike Bare (Peoria Notre Dame)?
When you needed the help of soccer coaches and media throughout the state this past spring to get your players past an outdated Illinois High School Association (IHSA) all-star rule, people were there for you.
Where you at Brian Papa (Downers North – President) and the rest of the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association board – Norm Hillner (Lake Park), Joe Moreau (Neuqua Valley), Barry Jacobson (Downers South), Scott Steib (Barrington) and Seong Ha (Glenbrook South)?
Here’s a moment in time where you can truly help all soccer players from all schools and not just the top kids or programs who pay a fee to become all-sectional or all-state.
Ever since learning last week – for the umpteenth time – that kids throughout Illinois were suspended for playing soccer on a Sunday, I’ve been on this mission to find out why?
Why are we suspending kids for going out and playing a sport on a Sunday in their free time when school is not in session, and they aren’t missing a high school practice or game?
“Because it’s rule,” I’ve heard.
“Why is it a rule,” I’ve asked back each time.
That’s where the conversation starts to look like a 2-year-old coloring for the first time.
The responses are all over the place. Some people never even pick up the crayon, because they have no idea.
“Because it’s a rule.”
Before I go further, full disclosure: I am the founder of the PepsiCo Showdown Series, which is the largest high school sports series in the U.S. This Sunday, the Sunday Showcase a part of the PepsiCo Showdown Series will take place at the Lyons Soccer Complex (1301 W. Cossitt Ave.) in LaGrange. The action-packed day will feature nine games for college coaches and fans to checkout, including two budding rivals who just happen to be two of the top teams in the state and country in Morton and Saint Patrick.
The atmosphere is going to be electric, and that’s what these youth sports moments are all about – creating lifelong memories for kids and their families.
Where you at Ryan Dini (Addison Trail), Loren Zolk (Andrew), Zack Radtke (Bloom), Brian Allen (Crystal Lake South), Stan Niemiec (DePaul Prep), Iran Rodriguez (Eisenhower) and Craig Blazer (Fenwick)?
It’s bothered me all week, however, that 18 schools are playing soccer on Sunday and there will be no penalty for those kids. On the other hand, there are 1,000s of other high school players who can’t play in a fun Sunday game or league if they wanted to without penalty.
Where you at Ryan Stengren (Barrington), Jason Turkington (O’Fallon), Steve Whiteley (Champaign Central), Kevin Thunholm (Libertyville), Antonio Godinez (Mount Carmel) and Greg Fiorucci (Rockford East)?
I’ve talked to countless superintendents, principals, current and past high school coaches, parents, past and current players, officials, professional players and club coaches from all over the state and other surrounding states about this quote from the Chicago Tribune in 1999.
The IHSA’s Jim Flynn, who is now retired, said the issue of allowing athletes to play for their club and high school at the same time has been discussed but has gone nowhere.
“The philosophy is that, during the school year, if you’re on a school team, that’s enough,” Flynn said. “You’ve got schoolwork to do and plenty of other school functions and activities.”
But hey, if they want to play in a baseball, football, volleyball, eSports, bowling or cross-country league on a Sunday, they’re more than free to. Christ, if you want to play two high school sports at the same time you can, too.
That quote has bothered me so much since first re-reading it that for a half of second on Wednesday I thought about cancelling Sunday. I kept thinking about all the kids who don’t have the option to play or the ones that have been and are now suspended or kicked off their team because they played on a Sunday.
Just as well as you know, I know cancelling wouldn’t do any good. It would impact kids again and take away from those lifelong memories.
Where you at Jim Burnside (New Trier), Ken Hall (Larkin), Sean Fahey (Lincoln-Way Central), Todd Elkei (Lockport), Josh Robinson (Metea Valley), Jane Crowe (Newark) and Jim Bageanis (Morton)?
There are countless stories to tell about this asinine rule. Back in the early 2000s, Brother Rice was impacted in the state playoffs after another school turned players in for playing on a Sunday. More recently, a school that lost the regional title to Westmont complained and the coach actually lost his job, too.
What are we doing here? We are suspending kids, impacting schools and costing coaches their jobs because kids are playing soccer – a game they love – with their family and friends on a Sunday?
Is this America or China? It’s time to give kids the option to play soccer on Sundays, just like they have the option to play every other sport if they like.
Where you at Rob Perry (Lake Forest), Mike Taylor (Saint Viator), Stacy Salgado (Evanston), Patrick Hamilton (DeKalb), Pat Phillips (Springfield), Mark Heiderscheid (Edwardsville), Ted Trulley (Rich East) and Gaspar Arias (Oswego)?
It makes me sick to my stomach to know that a number of high school coaches will be out coaching club on Sunday and collecting a paycheck, but kids don’t have the option to go play in a church or men’s or co-ed league.
Hey kid, sorry. You sat on the bench all week long and didn’t play a single minute, but adults throughout the IHSA membership are benching you and will suspend you if you play soccer on a Sunday.
For every other coach in Illinois that I didn’t list – where you at? When are you going to stand up for all kids – not just your own – and do what’s right. One thing I’m proud of is that I’ve always fought for what’s right – whether it was a premier program or player or if it was a lower-tier program and player.
So, I leave you with this: What about the kids from the 18 schools that are playing soccer on Sunday? Why aren’t they in trouble?
That’s right, they’re part of the high school “gang.”
Time to look in the mirror, folks. This isn’t about the kids, it’s not about health and safety. It’s about adult egos, control and fear.
Don’t let the truth get in the way of the facts.
CornerKICKS (normally) will appear on Sundays. Contact Joe Trost at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bio on columnist: Joe Trost is 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; founder of the PepsiCo Showdown, the largest high school sports series in the U.S.; and board member for Buddy’s HELPERS, which engages and educates student athletes about Making A Difference On AND Off The Field.