The success of the Center Grove High School soccer team on the field is rivaled by another group of individuals off the field.
The parents of Center Grove soccer players dedicate many hours to giving the players everything they need before and after games.
Between concession stand duties, snacks, pitch-ins, senior dinners and evenings spent making decorations, these moms and dads will do anything to make the season as memorable as possible, win or lose.
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“When you have kids, this is what it’s all about. This group of parents has had so much fun this season,” Tammy Johnson said.
This season, parents organized senior dinners every Monday at different houses. After each game, Johnson and her husband provided chocolate milk for the team, and they also hosted a bonfire before the sectional.
Johnson said there even was a cook-off between parents in which the team members voted on the best chili.
Throughout the year, each parent had a role, or duty, to contribute to the off-field activities that helped mold the Trojan soccer team into a tight-knit group.
For parents like Johnson, whose son, Roman, is a senior, this season was the culmination of more than 10 years of interacting with fellow parents and providing kids with the experience outside practices and games that will provide memories long after they’ve graduated.
Center Grove has 13 seniors on its roster this season. For many of the parent boosters, they share that sentiment. This year was fun but also a little bittersweet.
Most of these kids have been playing together since they were 9, said Kevin Wheeler, whose son Brian is a senior.
Wheeler’s wife, Sheri Wheeler, was the go-to team parent for one snack item in particular that became a staple of Trojans soccer this season: chocolate chip cookies. The couple stay involved as much as they can. Kevin Wheeler served as the public address announcer for all Trojans home games.
“I think it’s important for our boys to see us involved, so they know they have to do this stuff when they become parents,” Sheri Wheeler said. “We’ve just always pitched in when we needed to. I feel like these kids are my boys.”
Rick Sauter served as team treasurer this season, collecting money for pregame meals and sending parents directions to away games. He also helped coordinate postgame dinners, such as pizza.
Sauter’s son Reed is one of the seniors. Although his other son, Drew, is a freshman, Sauter wanted this season to be as memorable as possible.
“Coach has said we have passionate parents helping this team. We are parents that focus on helping the program, but we are also dedicated fans,” Sauter said. “Most of us have watched these boys play for 10 years; and to see this as their last high school game, you can’t ask for any better situation than to end careers as state champs.”
And one more game — the biggest in school history — meant one more chance for these parents to go all-out in preparation.
Head coach Jameson McLaughlin wanted the week to be business as usual with nothing out of the ordinary to distract his players. That meant no team dinners or gatherings every night, Johnson said.
So the parents had to think of a way to make today, the day of the state championship game, one to remember.
Today, fans will meet at Center Grove Elementary School before the team buses load and the team departs for Carroll Stadium at IUPUI. A massive tailgate pitch-in and decorating of the team bus will be a sight to see.
On Thursday night, many of the parents met at Sheri Wheeler’s to decorate and make signs while Sheri made her signature chocolate chip cookies. The moms made bags of candy to pass out to the kids who will be attending the state championship game, rather than trick-or-treating with other kids.
For many of the parents, like Becky Radecki, whose son Keaton is a senior, it was the last time they will get to do something that has been second nature, without a second thought. It may not be the same as shuttling kids to and from practice or traveling for club soccer, but the time spent making this season fun and involved for everyone on the Trojans soccer team has been just as memorable.
“It’s like one big family,” Radecki said. “These boys have worked really hard. This is the farthest the school has ever gone. We want this for them, it’s what everyone has talked about all season. I felt like, this season, I was signing up for more than just my concession duties. We just wanted to do the very best we could for these boys this season.”
Here are some pregame festivities before today’s boys soccer state championship:
- 3 p.m.: Pregame festivities at Center Grove Elementary School, 2455 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood
Family, friends and classmates are welcome to attend a state championship send-off pep rally. The pep rally will include goody bags of candy for all children attending the game, instead of trick-or-treating.
Center Grove parents have provided a police escort for the team bus and parents from Center Grove Elementary School to Carroll Stadium at IUPUI.
- 6 p.m.: Center Grove will face Harrison High School (West Lafayette) for the Class 2A state championship.