CornerKICKS: A coach’s message with a much bigger meaning

Years ago, Chip Huber pulled me aside and talked about the opportunity to make a difference through the power of sport.

I still remember the moment as if it happened yesterday, but at the time I truly didn’t get it.

Huber, a pure championship figure on and off the field, has been a teacher, coach and athletic director at the high school and college levels and someone I consider a true leader in the game of life.

I thought about Huber recently and all his efforts over the past decade to help make a difference in the lives of 1,000s of children and adults throughout Zambia.

Then I started to think about Zambia. What if the Coronavirus spread to Zambia?

“I’ve actually been thinking about that, and my friends in Zambia who we worked with over the years,” said Huber, who wrote a book back in 2012 entitled the “Zambia Project” that you can find on Amazon.com. It’s about the partnership developed between a high school community and a village community in Zambia, which flipped both of their world’s upside down forever.

“Think about this: To live with fear every night,” continued Huber, who led his Wheaton Academy and Cornerstone University soccer teams to 100s of wins and state appearances. “It’s beyond overwhelming, and yet they somehow live each day in Zambia.

“I bet Zambia has a dozen ventilators in the whole country, and there are so many people in such small places where they live. The average sub Saharan African nation has 30-to-50 ICU beds in their country.

“They have absolutely $0 funds for any stimulus packages. I can’t even imagine the devastation in a place where social distancing and hygiene are not really possible in many places. There are so many already quite sick every day.

“It’s perspective on what we really do have in terms of blessings and resources.”

With each passing day, I read social media posts and media stories talking about how people miss normal life, how memories will be ruined. But when you think that, imagine what kids and parents deal with each and every single day in Zambia?

This time in society is new to everyone, but it’s also a positive period to hit the reset button on life.

Think about this for a second: Kids are home with their families, and some parents have spent more time with their kids over the past three weeks than they did all of last year.

Fast food and people honking their car horns nonstop because they’re in a rush to beat the next streetlight have been replaced by home-cooked meals and more relaxing moments than some families have seen in years.

The air is cleaner, and people are conscious about hygiene and health vs. just talking the talk. Have you ever wondered why lining up for high fives after an athletic contest was the way to show sportsmanship?

Remember, just because it’s always been done that way doesn’t make it right.

Speaking of sports, student athletes now have a chance to heal – instead of running from one sport to the next and to the next. Athletic complexes featuring grass fields, which there are a ton of from park districts to youth and high school, have a chance to recover for the first time in years.

There’s a good chance this will be the first spring in decades where we don’t hear multiple stories of coaches and parents screaming at officials – many of whom volunteer their time to give back to a sport they love and used to play.

And despite no games being played, high school coaches will be paid this spring. But they’re now a different type of coach, one in the game of life. These challenging leadership moments off the field should make them even better coaches on the field when games return.

Life isn’t always fair, but how you view “fair” is all in your perspective. Is the glass half full or half empty?

I’m willing to bet if you take a second and sit back to look around, you’ll quickly realize you have more than enough to live happy and healthy in the game of life.

And in the end, that’s really the only thing that matters on the true scoreboard.

Bio on columnist: Joe Trost is an award-winning writer: 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.