Scouting a game at Timothy Christian in Elmhurst near the end of the season, Hinckley-Big Rock girls basketball coach Greg Burks received a text message.
The text was from his star player, senior Kaitlin Phillips.
Phillips was getting in touch with Burks, who also coaches the Royals’ track and field program, to tell him she would be going out for H-BR’s girls soccer team in the spring after competing in track her first three years.
As a sophomore, Phillips qualified for the IHSA state meet in the 400-meter dash and made it downstate in the shot put as a junior. She hadn’t played soccer since sixth grade, but knew a lot of the Royals players and wanted to give it a shot as a senior.
Phillips had known Burks since the second grade, as her father Brad had been an assistant coach with him, while they coached Phillips’ sister, Lauren.
H-BR was having a soccer meeting the next day, and Phillips wanted to let Burks be the first to know she would be attending before word got around school.
“That was definitely the hardest part of the decision. I think it kind of almost kept me from doing it,” Phillips said. “And then I thought about it and it kind of got to the point where I had to make a decision. The next day we were having a soccer meeting and I didn’t want him to hear from someone else that I wasn’t going out for track or that I had gone to the soccer meeting.”
Phillips didn’t end up being just part of the Royals’ soccer team – she dominated, finishing the season with 41 goals and five assists. In the winter, she averaged 17.5 points for H-BR’s girls basketball team, and was an all-conference volleyball player in the fall.
For her efforts, Phillips is the 2011-12 Daily Chronicle Female Athlete of the Year. It’s the second year in a row she’s won the honor.
Burks saw Phillips dominate the area girls basketball scene over the winter, her fourth year on the Royals’ varsity team. Despite facing constant double teams, she was the Daily Chronicle Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the second straight season.
When H-BR’s fourth-year coach found out his state-caliber athlete wouldn’t be coming out for track and spoke to her the next day, all he did was offer encouragement.
“When I talked to her, I said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, you do that, and I’ll be the first person to come to as many games as I can and be supportive,” Burks said.
“I’m sure there were people that thought I was upset or disappointed about it, but that was anything but the case,” he added. “I have a lot of respect that she was able to do something like that her last season.”
When Philips got on the soccer field for the first time since middle school, she had to get used to the physicality of the varsity game. There were also little things that had to come to her, such as soccer terminology.
Yet, all Phillips did was score, leading the area in goals. The Royals went 13-8-3, losing 1-0 to Lisle in the Class 1A H-BR Regional final.
“I knew she was going to be an offensive threat,” Royals girls soccer coach Paul Taeuber said. “I didn’t know she would carry us as much as she did.”
When asked if he could find one word to describe Phillips on the soccer field, Taeuber was hard-pressed to think of just one. When he did, he used the word desire.
“I can tell, sometimes she dug a little deeper. She wanted it more,” Taeuber said. “When you get 41 goals form a player, you have to do the extra stuff to want to score those goals, and I think she did.”