College coaches relish opportunity to recruit at PepsiCo Showdown Girls event in July

PepsiCo Showdown Community Showcase created lifelong memories for players, helping community charities through Making A Difference campaign

By Bob Narang

Mount Mary University women’s soccer coach John Baillie recently discovered an ideal spot at an ideal venue to spend part of a sunny Sunday summer afternoon.

Standing near Field 8 at Olympic Park in Schaumburg on July 19, Baillie took a break from the high temperatures by finding some shade. Baillie was among a large contingent of college head and assistant coaches that attended the two-day PepsiCo Showdown Girls Community Showcase.

After the coronavirus pandemic cancelled all high school girls soccer games in Illinois this past spring, college coaches throughout the country were forced to spend the majority of their time recruiting by trying to watch film.

The PepsiCo Showdown Girls Community Showcase, however, provided college coaches a perfect opportunity to watch and recruit players from throughout the Chicago area at one venue.

And for Baillie, it was only his second time since the pandemic started that he was able to watch recruits in person.

“It’s great to be out here,” Baillie said. “From a recruiting standpoint, it’s a great chance to see some kids from the class of 2021 and 2022 and give them an early look.

“It’s a great opportunity to see a broad range of young women. It’s also great to look at them and see the talent level and quality, especially for a place like Mount Mary’s where our university serves underserved communities.

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“The PepsiCo Showdown is a (sports series) that helps serve several underserved communities, which is great for me because I know they can come to Mount Mary and find a community that matches what they are looking for. I’m just glad to be here, both for myself and them. It’s great to stand out here watching soccer.”

Wartburg College assistant women’s soccer coach Robert Tomecek was an easy person to spot among the large throng of players, coaches and parents. Wearing a grey and orange Wartburg College t-shirt with a large backpack, Tomecek had a pile of notes after viewing numerous matches.

As a former assistant for Benet’s girls program, Tomecek was ecstatic to be watching soccer in person.

“This is an awesome opportunity for the girls to get some experience playing together,” Tomecek said. “Nothing beats being out here to see them on this level.

“You can only watch so much video before you drive yourself crazy in a sense. It’s so great to get these girls exposure and so helpful during their recruiting process to have events like this to showcase their talents in front of a wide array of college coaches. This is an awesome opportunity for them.”

Saint Xavier University women’s soccer coach Breena Proctor called it a bewildering experience to view potential recruits on the field. Proctor, who was named the new women’s coach on April 6, relished the chance to scout players on the field rather than via film sessions.

“This is the first time out for me, the first (tournament) that’s happened,” Proctor said. “It feels really good.

“There’s some really good competition, and the girls are really excited to be out here. I’m so grateful and so excited to attend this and have this for girls to play and for us to recruit.”

Bio on reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep recruiting and sports for the past 25 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Athlon Sports and the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.