By James Kay
When OPRF soccer player Quincy Martin saw the same Black Lives Matters posts circulating around social media, he wanted to shake things up to enhance the cause. After days of brainstorming, he landed on a three on three soccer tournament.
"I wanted to bring authenticity and something new to the movement," said Martin. "I felt like soccer is a low to medium risk sport and, since I know a lot of people who play, it made too much sense to put the tournament together and raise money for Black Lives Matter."
On July 6, players from various high schools (including OPRF's rival Lyons Township) convened at Ridgeland Commons and raised $540. Of that, $400 went to two Black Lives Matter organizations, Black Lives Matter Chicago and My Block My Hood My City, while $140 went to Martin's friend, Jazmin, whose father recently died due to complications with COVID-19.
While Martin considered the event to be a success, there were a few hurdles he had to jump through to get the tournament off the ground. Initially, he started making calls around town to see if he could reserve space on OPRF's football field and the Lake Street Field across the street from the school. Since the IHSA is still working with the Illinois Department of Health to let schools use their facilities safely, Martin was turned away.
Eventually, Ridgeland Common said he could use their field but then there was the issue of safety and making sure people weren't spreading COVID-19 at the tournament. Martin decided it would be best to test everyone's temperatures before they could participate and wore plastic gloves when handing out plastic bottles of water for each participant so they didn't have to share.
"We didn't want to add to the problem," said Martin.
What he didn't expect was the amount of unfamiliar faces that ended up showing up. One of Martin's former teammates, Zaahir Hall, rallied players from opposing schools to join the tournament.
"Before the tournament started, I tried to have as many teams written down so I knew who was going to show up," said Martin. "So in my phone, I had five teams that expected to be there. 12 [teams] ended up showing up and I saw these [LTHS] kids arrive and I was like, 'wait a second.'"
Dating back to last season on Oct. 1, the Lions and Huskies played a contentious conference bout that ended with LTHS winning on eight rounds of penalty kicks on OPRF's turf (it was the Lions' first win there since 2013).
But the tournament wasn't about a rivalry (for the most part).
"That [Oct. 1] game was definitely the most intense soccer game I've ever been a part of," said LTHS player Jack Luttrell. "But going into this tournament, I felt it was great for the OPRF and LT communities to show we can stand together and support the Black Lives Matter movement."
His teammate in the tournament and on LTHS soccer, Cameron Labbato, echoed a similar sentiment.
"It was pretty funny because we had a lot of teams [at the tournament] rooting against us," said Labbato laughing. "But this was a great opportunity to get out there and play with the boys and promote the cause of the Black Lives Matter. That's what this was about."
Jason Fried, OPRF's boys soccer head coach, attended the event as a member of the community since high school programs can't convene until the IHSA can move to Phase 4.
"I am really proud of and appreciative to see so many players and other young adults in our community taking the initiative to organize [Black Lives Matter] events where we can unite, support one another," said Fried in an email.
As for future plans, Martin plans on organizing another tournament to raise more money for Black Lives Matter movements and his friend Jazmin after the success of this past event.
"I am definitely going to do it again," said Martin. "I want to give [Jazmin] more money this next time around because contributing to Black Lives Matter means supporting Black lives and she has been through a lot. So I will do this again at some point and hopefully next time we will raise more money."