Car loads of teens adorned in purple jerseys arrive at St. Teresa Academy’s Kevin Gray Field Saturday evening 10 minutes prior to game time. A clamor of cleats hit the concrete as players with Quiktrip drinks in one hand and shin guards in the other rush to join about 20 sophomores.
“Hey guys, join our team stretch!” one player says jokingly, as the group is actually stationed in a horde of sprawled out soccer balls, socks, and jerseys being tossed to one another. A Rockhurst boy finishes stripping out of his Vineyard Vines khakis and Polo shirt into a jersey, athletic shorts, and quickly grabs the nearest pair of shin guards he spots.
Coach Stephen Dilks stands aside watching his Brookside Soccer team, also known as “The P-Squad”, as they eat Oreos, dress in uniform, Instagram, and reconnect after the school week. All the while, their game-faced opponents practice penalty kicks and jog around the field. Within minutes, 11 people are randomly counted out to play, the whistle is blown, the ball is kicked, and the Brookside soccer match has begun.
Dilks, father of sophomore Sara-Jessica Dilks, believes the team is a great way for the sophomores from a variety of schools to socialize. The schools represented on the team include STA, Rockhurst High School, Bishop Miege High School, Shawnee Mission East High School, and Lincoln College Preparatory Academy.
The P-Squad is no ordinary soccer team. During these games, not all action takes place on the field.
“We don’t always use our energy when we’re on the field playing, but more so on the sidelines being social,” Sara-Jessica said.
The P-Squad lounges on the sidelines in a midst of phones, bags, and junk food bought before game time, while hanging out and cheering on teammates. Activities like taking pictures, attempting somersaults, juggling soccer balls, playing Gameboys, texting and joking around are common on the bench or turf alongside the field.
“The entire game is a social event,” STA sophomore Natalie Kilgore said. “You’re in constant conversation with someone. The other day we literally sat down and debated playing duck, duck goose. There’s no method to [the team’s] madness.”
However, Coach Dilks, who describes himself as the “adult” on the team, believes this “madness” should occasionally be controlled.
“Every now and again I’ll have to start telling people who are just messing about on the sidelines to go on and sub for other players…but no one ever does because they like the sidelines better,” coach Dilks said.
Players on the P-Squad ultimately believe the social aspect of Brookside soccer is more important than playing.
“The best part of Brookside soccer is definitely being with the people on the team more than actually playing the soccer part,” Rockhurst sophomore and competitive soccer player Luke Kenney said. “Brookside soccer is like 400 times more relaxed [than competitive soccer] because it’s with all your friends.”
When the players kick the ball for the last time, the referee blows the whistle, and the match is concluded with P-Squad’s 4-1 victory. Proud purple jersey-ed sophomores jog back to the bench while doing celebratory dances, some attitudes more cocky than others.
“I think we could go to the Olympics,” Rockhurst sophomore Jack McHugh said.
“Wait did we win?” Shawnee Mission East sophomore Greer Madole asked.
“Scoreboard,” Rockhurst sophomore Eric Rudis replied.
After happily shaking the other team’s hands for the “good game”, the P-Squad poses for a weekly team picture and plans where the “after-party” will be.
The sophomores trek across the turf they just made their own as calls of “shotgun” are made. The P-Squad loads up their cars and heads off to Smoothie King to celebrate yet another victory.