Joe Trost, columnist for #PrepSportsReport
A little of this and that for CornerKICKS this week…
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: How many high school soccer players and coaches do you think attended a college soccer game this fall? How many high school soccer players have gone to watch a NAIA, D-III or D-I game to see the different talent level, skill of play and atmosphere without an invite from a coach or official visit?
I’m willing to bet nearly 90 percent of high school coaches haven’t been to a college soccer game in the past five years, and those that have went to see a former player. I’ll double down that nearly 75 percent of high school soccer coaches in Illinois have never been to a college soccer game.
How can a player say he or she wants to play here or there or a coach says his or her player is this level or that level if they haven’t gone and watched?
Don’t let the truth get in the way of the facts.
GETTING CLOSER: The PepsiCo Showdown Football Bowl is close to kicking off…well closer than it was back in August (come on now!). The 16-school event will become the first regular-season football tournament in the U.S., which some major D-I college coaches have said will create one of the most unique recruiting experiences anywhere in the country.
On back-to-back weekends in Week 1 and 2, all 16 schools are set to play at the same site, thus allowing out-of-state recruiters to fly in and see 16 schools and nearly 1,000 football players play at the same site in 36 hours. There will be four PepsiCo Showdown champions each year.
Five of the schools involved in the inaugural event are still standing in the IHSA Class 7A and 8A state playoffs.
TIGHT-KNIT COMMUNITY: Since late August, I’ve been working with Plainfield South cross-country coach Jason Crowe on ideas for the PepsiCo Showdown Cross-Country Showcase. You may recognize the last name, as his wife Jane is one of the most successful female soccer coaches in IHSA history.
One thing so great about the running community is how it sticks and works together. Watching the will of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) cross-country runners and how they kept their poise and showed pure class throughout the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) strike this past month was something countless members of the media commented on left and right.
Most of the top CPS runners were at the Nike Regionals this past weekend. IHSA state champ Hersey’s Josh Methner (14:56.7), who set a new state record last weekend in Peoria, won the 5,000m race, while Lincoln-Way Central’s Jared Kreis (seventh, 15:20.2) and Naperville North’s Jake Allen (ninth, 15:21.6) also finished in the top 10.
On the girls side, IHSA state champ Katelynne Hart from Glenbard West (second, 16:49.9), Richland County’s Tatum David (fourth, 17:11.6), Latin’s Ava Parekh (eighth, 17:32.9) and Lakes’ Brooke Stromsland (10th, 17:41.8) were your top 10 finishers.
Overall, Wheaton South won the boys event and Naperville North captured the girls crown during the battle of teams from the Midwest. The Nike Regionals are a part of the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN), which is widely considered to be the ultimate cross-country experience.
On Dec. 7, individual and team qualifiers from the eight regional championships will compete to be crowned national champion at the 16th annual NXN in Portland.
IN DOLLARS & (COMMON)SENSE: A few people (three) have ranted on social media that CPS student athletes didn’t have scholarship opportunities impacted, because they missed the state playoffs due to the CTU strike and IHSA strike policy.
It’s ignorant to say they didn’t, and here’s why: A blanket statement like that is never good. While I agree nothing is ever guaranteed, when you take key exposure opportunities away from a child, there’s also no guarantee they’ll ever have that moment again.
It’s like a lifelong memory – it’s gone and you may never get another shot.
Whether you believe this, not all student athletes can afford to play and pay high-level club across all sports. Missing out on tournament exposure in the high school offseason is one thing, but that’s why some student athletes and their families rely on the public-school athletic exposure during the high school season.
It’s a cold-hard fact.
The IHSA state playoffs don’t cost a student athlete or his or her family any money to play in. The cost is covered by schools, which most pay for with local public tax dollars or state funding (from public tax dollars). In the case of private schools, which the strike didn’t impact, they pay the cost through their athletic boosters.
On Saturday, I was speaking with longtime college soccer coach Erin Coppernoll (16th season). Currently, she has six players who competed in the PepsiCo Showdown Series – Girls Soccer (Chicago). Coppernoll first saw those players on a single day during the event.
“I saw those kids at the tourney in the spring,” Coppernoll said.
A full out-of-state scholarship with room and board and meal plan is $24,014. Times that by six players and four years, the total is $576,336.
That’s a door to real money and opportunity that was opened on a single day of a large tournament. To think those type of real opportunities are not opened during the state playoffs is crazy – especially for CPS student athletes.
Some CPS schools can’t afford buses during the regular season and their principals save the little resources they have for the postseason. When you are deciding between funding a bus during the regular season or paying for a classroom item, this is real life.
It’s a fact.
It’s also a fact some CPS schools have traveled to IHSA playoff games on trolleys, because they couldn’t even get a bus.
We all see things differently, but as one longtime principal continues to say to me, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a teacher swap, so people can truly experience and see the issues firsthand so they understand?”
IHSSCA Fallout: Since the IHSSCA “Change Is Coming” column ran, coaches across the state are starting to look and wonder what exactly is the purpose of the IHSSCA?
A few weeks back, IHSSCA president Brian Papa, who most likely will retire from coaching at Downers North in two years, said the organization is an awards and recognition association.
The column prompted big-time and smaller-program coaches from all over Illinois to inquire:
“Do we need a board for recognition if the sectional coordinators are already handling it?”
“Shouldn’t the coaches association be more than just awards?”
“Why are there retirees on the board? When was the vote to elect the board? Why isn’t this public to the membership? Why is it the same people?”
In the past, some coaches have pointed to the fact that if they speak up then their players are blackballed during all-sectional and all-state votes. This time the reaction is different, however, because there are power-play coaches and programs starting to look around and say, “Wait a second, this doesn’t make sense?”
Current and former players and parents are asking, too. Some believe the recognition system itself has been broken for years and does a disservice to hard-working student athletes at times.
Case in point last month when one of the top players in the Midwest didn’t receive his proper due when Taft (CPS) coach Jeff Lucco failed to show up and represent his sectional at the all-state meeting.
“My (CTU) union rep told me it was considered work, so they advised me not to attend,” said Lucco in a text to me on Oct. 20 at 7:59 a.m.
“Ugh,” I replied.
“Yeah, I know…Taft is a strong union school ha,” Lucco sent back.
Solorio’s Alex Sanchez just missed earning All-America status in 2018. He had an even better 2019 season. According to Papa, because of Lucco’s absence at the volunteer meeting, there was no one there to speak on Sanchez’s behalf, thus the student athlete wasn’t helped or was penalized – however you want to look at it.
So much for pro-kid.
Change is coming.
CornerKICKS appears on Sundays. Contact Joe Trost at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bio on columnist: Joe Trost is an award-winning writer: STAR Newspapers, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and ESPN.com. Locally, he is a four-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.