CornerKICKS: Scoring off the field in the game of life is what it’s truly all about

CornerKICKSJoe Trost, columnist

CornerKICKS is supposed to run every Sunday.

This week, I decided to hold the column until Monday. I did so to ensure it would appear on a day that many see as the unofficial start of summer, an extended weekend with family, friends and relaxation.

Each year, however, many people need to be reminded what Memorial Day is really all about – a moment to say thanks for the 100,000s of men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads and brothers and sisters who gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us to enjoy this special place we live in – the United States of America.

It’s weird that we have to think of freedom as a gift, but each and every day there are reminders that freedom isn’t a guarantee in life. Just look around the world or watch the news. Sadly though, we shouldn’t need a special day or media reminder to be thankful for the countless selfless men and women who gave their lives for our family and friends.

In coordination with the PepsiCo Showdown, the largest high school sports series in the U.S., the Making A Difference On AND Off The Field campaign presented by Buddy’s HELPERS is bringing attention to another often-overlooked society topic – the lives of military children.

April is Month of the Military Child, which recognizes the sacrifices children from military families make. They tend to move a lot, as mom or dad is redeployed throughout the country and/or world. Sometimes, mom or dad aren’t at home for long stretches, only being able to talk to their children via email, text, phone or video chats.

Imagine your biggest fan – mom or dad – not being at your soccer game. That’s the case for 1,000s of children every day, week, month and year in the U.S.

To bring attention to military children, 1,000s of girls soccer players who took part in the 17th Annual PepsiCo Showdown Girls donated $1 apiece to purchase 20-inch Huffy boys and girls bikes. They were loaded on a U-Haul at the Wal-Mart in Orland Hills and transported out to Olympic Park in Schaumburg, where each team built the bikes together on April 13.

Throughout May, which is Military Appreciation Month and National Bike Month, the players and teams have been making surprise deliveries to military children all over the Chicagoland area and throughout Northern Illinois. In total, 100 children will be surprised by players and teams.

A bike represents a symbol of “freedom” for a child. When a child rides his or her bike, they get to move as they please without someone holding on. The U.S. Military, area elementary principals and school districts have suggested the recipients.

Often during these special classroom visits, a deployed parent has joined the surprise via FaceTime to see their child honored and thanked, putting the real-life perspective front and center for all student athletes to see.

Last week, girls soccer players from Montini, Marist, Highland Park, Deerfield and Elgin were just the latest high school teams to make the special deliveries. This week, Downers Grove North, Glenbard East, Streamwood and Lincoln-Way West are four other programs that will bring a smile to a child’s face.

But there’s something different this week compared to the previous deliveries. This will be the first week when teams deliver a bike to a child whose had one parent pass away. And it’s only fitting that these tough, but touching moments will take place during Memorial Day Week.

Think about this for a second: The parent will never meet the girls soccer players who will selflessly bring a bit of joy to their child each time they ride their new bike. The girls soccer players also will never meet that parent who selflessly gave to their daily freedom.

It’s another reminder for all coaches, parents and players that scoring goals on the field are great, but scoring off the field in the game of life is what it’s truly all about.

COACHING FIRED/HIRED WIRE: Rafael Ramirez Jr. has been fired as Washington girls soccer coach for inappropriate conduct with students. It is unclear whether he will return to the school as a teacher next fall. Felipe Ponce has been named the interim coach.

*Yorkville boys and girls soccer coach Mike Wiest, who starred during his prep days at Naperville North, Galaxy Soccer Club and then at Bowling Green University, is expected to resign.

Considered by many to be one of the top goalies to come out of the Chicagoland area over the past two decades, Wiest finished his college career with 21 shutouts and a goals-against average of 0.98.

Expect to see the rising coaching star at Lyons in the fall.

*Nick Trotter is expected to be the new boys soccer coach at Bolingbrook. He’ll replace Jamie Clemmons.

DID YOU KNOW? The Illinois High School Association moved to a three-class statewide tournament in 2008.

For the first time since that adjustment, three Chicago-area programs – North Shore Country Day (second), Herscher (third) and Lisle (fourth) – finished in the Final Four of its Class A event.

Central and Southern Illinois high schools have dominated the Class A Final Four during that span, with Columbia capturing the 2019 girls tournament crown this past weekend.

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.