This summer, Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said, was "extremely boring."
Who could ask for anything more after the hectic, pace of the high school football coach? Especially one with three sports-minded daughters.
"I live through my kids like a typically hovering parent," said Wicinski, a treasure trove of funny witticisms.
He said the highlight was "chilling out with the chicks" -- his wife and daughters -- at Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fla., and noted that eldest daughter, Northern Illinois volleyball star Lauren, played in Europe this summer "to expand on her game."
Back in the Midwest he assembled the team that, despite the best efforts of a community effort, the school district and a very generous anonymous donor, on Friday nights will take to Burgess Field's grass surface, collapsed crown and all.
Wicinski has both practical and sentimental reasons for liking the old place, which may yet be reconstructed for next year, he said.
"Like I've said, that field's been very kind to me and we have won more games due to that field than we have lost games," he said.
Wicinski said he felt bad for his seniors "if that's what they're into." He heard no gripes about the lack of turf.
"They're more into the football," Wicinski said, "not the surface."
Another hovering parent
Aside from running Kaneland's football camp in the summer, coach Tom Fedderly spends his vacation like many other suburban adults -- as a taxi service shuttling his children between youth sports events then, of course, turning into a bleacher creature.
It required constant response and a full gas tank. He and his wife, Kathi, have three children, all active.
Kaneland freshman Connor Fedderly played center field and first base for a travel baseball team. He also was in summer football camp and, of course, summer-league basketball for the high school frosh-soph.
"There was one or two weeks where Connor went to football camp, then basketball camp then he had two or three (basketball) league games at night. He had a lot to do -- then he had his baseball games sprinkled in," Tom Fedderly said.
His 13-year-old daughter, Hollie, played softball on a travel team that won several tournaments and qualified for the "world series" in July in Kansas.
Sydney, 10, was a park district warrior: basketball, softball, et cetera, et cetera.
"We had her in everything, too," said Fedderly, who admitted that his "poor wife" got the worst of the traffic.
The youth sports culture certainly has changed since Fedderly was a kid. He recalls growing up in the Wisconsin Dells working six days a week starting at age 13.
Maybe today's youth is not so different.
"This is like a full-time job for all these kids," said Fedderly.
The air up there
Not content to leap for footballs in 7-on-7 competitions and summer camp, St. Charles North senior receiver Oshay Hodges placed eighth in the young men's division on July 30 at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.
Hodges, who had an Upstate Eight Conference pal with him in Lake Park's second-place Kevin Spejcher, rose 6 feet 4¾ inches for his all-American finish in 110-degree Wichita, Kan.
"It was really difficult because it was really hot and they had us jumping really early, so it was different from any meet we had here," said Hodges, who started high jumping at the end of his sophomore year "to see how it goes," he said.
Last spring Hodges finished second in the IHSA Class 3A boys state track meet, at 6-7. He twice reached 6-8 last spring, at the Upstate Eight indoor meet and at Batavia's Les Hodge Invite.
The 6-foot-2 Hodges can dunk a basketball and spike a football over the goal post. That's elevation Hodges hopes translates to more than the 2 passes he caught for St. Charles North last season.
"It helps a lot, to go over defensive backs, stuff like that," he said.
Sticking with the theme
This season's theme for Batavia football is: "Bulldog pride, 24-7, 365."
They're serious about that 365 part.
As they have for the past several years, players from Batavia's program assisted at coach Dennis Piron's annual Junior Bulldog Camp, held each July. Some 400 little footballers descended on Rotolo Middle School, and between 80-90 Bulldogs helped out, Piron said.
The high schoolers' work is not done when the camp ends. Throughout the fall players will dive into action with the Junior Bulldogs every Saturday morning, regardless of the beating they took the night before.
This is a symbiotic relationship. Not only do the young players have a high school athlete show them the ropes, hero worship helps the big boys maintain focus.
Piron termed this phenomenon as "little eyes watching me."
Big eyes, too. Batavia players such as Austin Lewis, Sean Oroni and Noel Gaspari worked as lifeguards at the Park District's Hall Quarry Beach pool. The Park District provided positive feedback, which pleased Piron no end.
"I kept telling the guys, have a boring summer," the coach said. "Sleep, watch movies, play Xbox, play Ping-Pong. Just keep things good and boring, and hopefully that's what they did."
It takes a village
From late in the Marmion reign of current Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy to the current tenure of Dan Thorpe there existed a dark age of Cadets football.
From 1999 through 2004 Marmion won 18 games, averaging 3 wins a season. Thorpe, who arrived having achieved success in Wisconsin and Ohio, wanted more. After 17 victories in his first four years he's obviously gotten it with seasons of 9 and 12 wins.
As he says, "Football is a big deal at Marmion now."
Thorpe spreads the credit around.
"In my first couple years I'd say football was an intermural because you didn't have the commitment from the kids and the families," he said. "You can't require summer attendance, via IHSA (Illinois High School Association) rules, and the kids and the families have worked their vacations around Marmion football. That's really encouraging. The kids want to be at summer camp, and the parents support that.
"That's why we made it to the state championship last year -- commitment from the kids and from the school and then hard work by the coaches. There is a reason why certain schools win consistently and I would say it's because they have those three items."
Fields' seal of approval
During the first week of practices, St. Charles East coach Mike Fields invited Glenbard East graduate John Golden, president of Core Performance Workplace training academy and a St. Charles resident, to work with the Saints players.
Fields had met Golden at a football clinic last year, and also through Saints assistant Chuck Abate, who Fields calls his "director of football operations." Fields said Golden has trained athletes across the board -- Woman's World Cup soccer players, Major League Baseball, National Football League players, even Navy SEALS.
A former executive for companies such as AT & T and CNA Financial, Golden and two trainers from Core Performance's Arizona office worked with the players and also lectured the Saints at Norris Cultural Center about nutrition and, Fields said, "good choices."
"It went over huge," the coach said. "It was a raging success."
The reason the players took it to heart was Golden's story. A football player at Northern Illinois, he suffered a career-ending knee injury and subsequently underwent 23 operations. The finale, in 2005, was essentially a leg transplant from a human cadaver.
Determined to get back on his feet Golden has since climbed 14 mountains, including Mt. Everest.
The Saints were sufficiently motivated, and Fields will have Golden back again.
"If he could do that," Fields of the response, "I can do anything."
Step right up!
Those who brag about their football stadiums providing a circus atmosphere have nothing on Mooseheart.
Back for a second consecutive year, the opening shows of the Carson & Barnes Circus will coincide with the Aug. 26 home and season opener between coach Gary Urwiler's Ramblers and one of their top rivals, Alden-Hebron.
During the game, Special Olympics softball players will be honored. The Moose sponsor Special Olympics softball, and this weekend Mooseheart is hosting not only the Special Olympics national softball tournament in Elgin but the fraternity's own softball tourney.