The end of a high school senior's athletic career provokes pride, a flood of memories and a bit of trauma for a parent.
Consider poor Phil and Annemarie Barnes. When their youngest son, John, ends his soccer career at Batavia this fall it'll mark the end of 13 straight seasons of Barnes soccer for the Bulldogs, spanning the careers of four children.
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"It is bittersweet," Annemarie said. "I know once I leave that high school stadium for the last time, even if I go watch other children play, I won't have the same feeling."
Like Irene Cara said, what a feeling.
The Barnes' eldest child, also Phil, arrived at Batavia in 2001. He played two seasons on varsity and was an all-area player as a senior.
Then Nick came along in 2005 for a two-year varsity stint, a transfer from Marmion. ("He wanted to try something different," said Annemarie Barnes, a second-grade teacher at Louise White School in Batavia.)
After Nick finished his prep career daughter Elizabeth arrived. "Liz" played four years on varsity and like Phil was an all-area selection.
Now a nursing student at Aurora University, Liz graduated from Batavia in the spring of 2010. Fall came and so did the youngest, current Barnes Bulldog, John. He's a three-year varsity player and, like his siblings, plays in the midfield though he's more a defensive midfielder in Batavia's 4-5-1 alignment.
"I like to be my own guy, I don't like to fill in my brothers' or sister's shoes, as you would say," John Barnes said. "But they left a pretty good mark at Batavia, so I definitely want to keep up with that, or surpass that."
Though he likes to be his own guy, John said much of what he's learned, on and off the soccer pitch, he learned from his brothers and sister.
Starting in soccer at age 6 with his father as his first coach, John may have been a little young to detail the intricacies of Phil's game, 9 years his senior (now an associate editor of the Chicago Cubs' Vine Line magazine). But John got the gist of it. He tries to play with a combination of Phil's finesse and Nick's power and speed.
Asked about advice he received, John said: "I'd have to say from Phil it was not something he told me but something he showed me when I used to watch him play. He always used to play with a bunch of heart and passion, and I guess that inspired me not just to play soccer but to want to keep playing soccer."
When Annemarie Barnes says, "It's been a fabulous ride," she's not fooling. Particularly once the inevitable travel teams come into play -- John played first with Campton United, then Tri-Cities Soccer Premier -- the minivan really gets put to the test.
"I can only imagine how tough it was to get all four of us to our soccer events," John said, also crediting his grandparents for their help.
It can take a small village to get the kids to practices and games. Annemarie Barnes said many of their friends have come from this community. In turn, the sport and their teammates and coaches have helped mold her children into who they are.
"Our kids have learned valuable lessons and have made great friends and in doing so, they're doing what they love to do," she said. "As a teacher you take a look at all the things that are best practices in learning, and when you take a look at the game of soccer those best practices are shown as well. They work as a team, work collaboratively and without timeouts they literally have to think on their feet for forty minutes at a time. Those things have helped prepare them for the future."
Phil and Nick play recreationally, Annemarie said, but only Liz played in college -- one year at Waubonsee Community before a knee injury ended that. John hasn't decided on a college yet, but when this season ends his formal soccer career probably will be supplanted by marketing or business management studies.
"After playing for all these years, something that lasts this long, you never want to see it end. But when you go to college, things change," John said.
"It's pretty bittersweet. I'm glad to be a part of it and I'm glad that my siblings set a good example for me."
The long black and blue lines
The girls cross country teams of Kaneland and St. Charles North hold prominent positions in this week's Illinois Cross Country Coaches Poll.
In Class 2A, defending state champion Victoria Clinton, senior Sydney Strang and the rest of the Kaneland squad pull in tied with Crystal Lake Central at No. 5 in the 15-team rankings. St. Charles North, with Ashley England and Co., are No. 8 in Class 3A. Geneva and St. Charles East occupy spots in the "best of the rest," as does coach Troy Kerber's Aurora Central Catholic girls in Class 1A.
In the boys polls, quality returners have Batavia in the best of the rest among Class 3A teams. Kaneland has the same designation in Class 2A.
Better late than never
We should mention that this summer Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo won the United States Youth Soccer Association Under-18 national championship in Overland Park, Kan. Botafogo rallied to a 2-1 victory over defending champion VSA Heat out of Virginia.
What's nice about Botafogo is that coach Phil Nielsen reported all of the girls played for their high school teams all four years. Girls like a pair of Rosary graduates, Kaitlin Johnson and Molly Piech; the former plays for Michigan State while the latter decided against playing at St. Louis University but still attends classes there.
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