Carthage Lacrosse Manager Is 'Champion Of The World'
Not many teams have a pregame ritual like Carthage.
It starts with AC/DC, an always stirring speech by Coach V, and then welcoming their veteran manager, 53 year old Kevin Cooke.
Kevin has Down syndrome.
He has been working with Carthage's football and lacrosse teams for the past 10 years - an idea football coach Sam Millich had to give Kevin something to do.
Quickly after he started, Kevin became a vital part of the team.
"As soon as he walks in the locker room, he goes, 'I'm here,' and in he comes and he just lightens the mood so that instantly the nervousness is gone away from you and you just become more relaxed," said Millich.
Kevin isn't the easiest to understand, but there's no doubting his enthusiasm.
"Some of the chants are incoherent, but a big one is after our wins when he tells us that we're champions of the world," said high school senior Casey Boulio.
But according to Coach V, Kevin isn't as enthusiastic as he once was.
His health is deteriorating.
This year already, he has had his gall bladder removed, a pacemaker put in and he's starting to forget things.
"The years are taking their toll on Kevin. He's lessening his lacrosse duties and responsibilities. We kind of buffer and we don't invite him to games where it's going to be cold or long trips," said lacrosse coach Kirk Ventiquattro (Coach V).
But on senior night, Kevin was there and the players couldn't imagine it being any different.
"Definitely wouldn't be the same. He just provides that spark for us and when he's not there, you can just tell. I mean, people are down a little bit more. He really can brighten anyone's day just because he's so optimistic and he loves this program so much," said Boulio.
So however long Kevin's career lasts at Carthage - no matter who wins a Frontier League game, a sectional game, even a state title - in the minds of this team, Kevin will always be "champion of the world."