There is a saying in sports that there is no “I” in “Team,” but the Jr. Trevians Youth Football organization takes that mentality even further. Thanks to a rejuvenation of its program and “teaming up” with New Trier High School, not only has football grown on the North Shore, but it has also inspired an unprecedented level of team building and community spirit.
The Jr. Trevians Youth Football program (formerly known as Winnetka Green Wave and Wilmette Eagles) launched in 2016 with the mission “to be the strongest and safest program in the Chicago area,” says Ed Hungler, current president of the parent board. Central to this commitment is a new partnership with New Trier High School as its official feeder program. Coach Brian Doll arrived at New Trier three years ago with the goal to “connect New Trier’s football program with the youth level like it had never been done before.” Parents, coaches and the community came together to create an all-inclusive experience for young football players from the early ages up through the high school level, with specific focus on exceptional coaching and increased safety. New Trier varsity coaches and trainers now work with Jr. Trevians coaches to develop best practices in coaching. Youth camps are run both at the high school and Jr. Trevians level to create new interest and help players further develop. Coach Doll says, “Jr. Trevians players benefit from early learning of New Trier’s offensive and defensive play schemes as well as the most advanced safety protocols available.” Hungler adds, “Our commitment to safety now includes an alliance with Illinois Bone and Joint Institute, baseline concussion testing, reduced body contact days, as well as totally new techniques in tackling.”
The New Trier-Jr. Trevians partnership has paid off — for everyone involved.
Bill Morrison, NTHS football’s liaison to the Jr. Trevians program, says, “The Jr. Trevians organization has been a boon to youth football and the entire New Trier community. New Trier is a large public high school that draws students from a number of feeder districts. The opportunity for the Jr. Trevians players to connect with students from other schools prior to high school is simply invaluable. These connections last throughout their time at New Trier and draw them into working collaboratively in the classroom, on the football field, and in our community.”
Two former New Trier High School football players agree. Matt Kaskey, a junior offensive tackle at Dartmouth College, says, “The community impact of youth football is that it brings people together who normally wouldn’t interact and creates long lasting friendships. Most of my friendships started with youth football.” Andrew Hauser, a junior tight end at Brown University, adds, “It’s exciting to see all of the communities come together to play on one team. It’s great to have that camaraderie and community behind the program.” (Kaskey and Hauser will face off in the Fenway Gridiron Series on Nov. 10, 2017).
Current Jr. Trevians’ players and parents overwhelmingly approve of the new program and the excitement it has added to the sport and to the community. Explains Karen Rafeedie, mother of two Jr. Trevians players, “The kids are thrilled to wear the same jerseys as the varsity team and get to go out on the field during halftime at a home New Trier game. One of the highlights is when a New Trier varsity player comes to Tuesday night practice and presents the Player of the Week awards.” Brian Kaiser, a former Jr. Trevian and current wide receiver on the New Trier varsity team (who will be taking his talents to Northwestern next year), recently presented the Player of the Week awards and emphasized staying committed to the game and to the team. Maeve Kelly, the lone female player for the Jr. Trevians, likes the Player of the Week award because “It shows players they are doing a great job and shows other players to keep working harder.” Jr. Trevians Head Coach Steve Peters sums up the special bond: “We are one program, one community, one family. One day these young players will be the varsity players giving back to our team.”
Giving back is a key activity that is promoted through football in the New Trier community. Coach Doll says, “Service events take place throughout the year, and we are creating new traditions every year to align with our school motto including ‘lives to the service of humanity.’ Football gives us the opportunity to teach many great life lessons.” Those lessons start young. Hauser says, “Youth football gave me time management skills that have helped me succeed in high school and at Brown. I took AP courses at New Trier and got good grades; people used to ask me if I would have gotten better grades if I didn’t played football. I got better grades because I did play football.”
Former Board President Gordon Montgomery states, “One of our goals is to make these kids better citizens and community leaders, on and off the field.” Morrison adds, “It is my hope that the connections between the two football programs, the high school, and the community-at-large continue to grow and strengthen over the years so that both are seen as wonderful examples of all that is good about our community.”
Jr. Trevians Youth Football is open to all 3rd through 8th grade residents of the New Trier High School district. Cheer on the Jr. Trevians! Home games are at New Trier High School Stadium. For the game schedule and more information, visit jrtrevians.com.