Athlete of the Issue: John Schuler

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By Will Slater I first met John Schuler at a preseason soccer workout. It was my third day living in Chicago and I, friendless and bewildered, hated the city. I walked into the Latin weight room shy and scared, trying to keep my head down and not risk doing or saying anything wrong. Just as I finished signing in, though, I looked up and John was approaching, with a smile on his face and his hand extended. He didn’t stop at introducing himself as I expected, instead introducing me to everyone in the room and walking me through the soccer workout. He later invited me to scrimmage in the park with the rest of the guys there that day, showing the way to the Lincoln Park turf, and asking questions and trying to get to know me along the way. I went home that afternoon, and just hours after my life had been ruled by fear and discomfort, I felt welcomed and at home in my new city, in large part because of John. Looking back more than two years later, that interaction was quintessential John Schuler leadership. John is at once reserved and a gifted inspirer. It’s easy to admire the wrong things in a leader, like loudness or outward passion. It is difficult, however, to fully appreciate the attributes that really matter, like selflessness, patience and work ethic. John can be loud and passionate, but it’s the other qualities that set him apart. Co-captain and four-year Varsity teammate Alden Sulger calls John the best teammate he’s ever had. This, Alden says, is in large part credited to his dedication and ceaseless capacity for his love of the game and his team, paired with a rare ability to “treat [teammates] as equal[s], even though he is far superior of a player.” It’s often the little plays John makes, easily missed, where his leadership stands out. It’s the five goal-saving tackles made to look routine. It’s that he always makes the right pass, trusting his teammates. Not everyone with the abilities John has does this, not everyone can make teammates better by putting them in positions to succeed. Co-captain and three-year Varsity starter Ike Baldwin put it like this: “you just don’t see other kids with more talent, and when [you] do, they don’t work as hard.” While to the untrained eye his leadership can be at times subtle, John’s talent and skill is unmistakable. Seemingly always near the ball, he covers more ground than anyone, leading the team forward on offense and dropping back to stand with the defense. For his club team, John plays center-back, but for Latin, John provides anything the team needs on any given day, retaining the title of defensive midfielder, but effortlessly sliding between several positions over the course of a single play. There is one constant, though, no matter where he is on the field: his creativity with the ball and understanding of the game, marked by amazingly becoming Latin’s all-time leader in assists midway through his junior year, passing an alum who went on to play at a high level. That first day I met John—when we went out to the park to play—I was blown away. Only a few minutes into the game, John received the ball, weaved between two defenders, nutmegged a third (Reis Herman), and scored. Everyone oohed and awed, but John just jogged back up the field, high-fiving his excited teammates, wearing a subdued expression. He didn’t have any desire to show up the kid he just scored on and somehow wasn’t impressed by his moment of brilliance. John just turned and got set for the next play, like always.]]>