By Jimmy Carlton Sportswriter Published Aug 31, 2017 at 8:07 PM

When I was in high school, my soccer coach, Jimmy Banks, was one of the most important and influential people in my life. I dearly respected and admired him; I desperately wanted to please and impress him. He had a massively positive impact on me, and all of my teammates – not just on the field, but in how we carried ourselves off it, how we interacted with adults and authority figures, how we developed work ethic, strong character, confidence and much more. He’s a major reason why I am now a high school soccer coach, as well.

Most high school athletes had a coach like that, who made a difference in their lives – who they look back on years later as someone who helped them become the people they are today; a coach who led by example, had integrity and instilled values, improved players, strengthened teams and also gave back to their communities.

Like Banks, another such transformative figure is John Burke, the girls soccer coach at Catholic Memorial High School. During his 23 years in charge, Catholic Memorial has won 10 WIAA state championships; last season, his Crusaders won their record-setting sixth straight state title.

A teacher, English Department chairperson and International Baccalaureate coordinator at Catholic Memorial, Burke is also the President Emeritus of the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association and founder and director of Waukesha TOPSoccer, which serves children with special needs.

Now, as part of U.S. Cellular’s Most Valuable Coach program, Burke is among a handful of coaches from across the country working with Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner to identify current high school head or assistant coaches – of any sport – who have a positive impact on their schools, players and communities. Burke, a prime example of the kind of local leader the company aims to recognize, is helping to kick off the Most Valuable Coaches program, for which applications are now being accepted.

Until 11:59 a.m. on Sept. 11, you can visit to nominate your favorite current high school coach who is a leader not only among his/her players, but also in the school and community. The winning coach will receive a $50,000 donation to the charitable organization of their choosing or their high school athletic department, a trip to Orlando, Fla., and on-field recognition at the Under Armour High School All-America Game.

"At U.S. Cellular, we want to celebrate the positive impact that high school coaches have on students and players and the communities that come together to support their teams," said Rashawn Watson, area sales manager for U.S. Cellular. "As a company that strives to be a part of our local communities, we look forward to hearing inspiring coaching stories from the Milwaukee community."

Warner will be part of a panel of judges who will choose the Most Valuable Coach, based on leadership qualities and the positive impact they have had on their community, school and players.

"I have had the privilege of working with influential coaches who have motivated me to excel as a leader both on and off the field," Warner said in a statement. "As a current high school football coach myself, I understand the importance of leading by example and teaching our youth the value of making a positive impact beyond the game."

U.S. Cellular will evaluate each nominee, and the top 50 coaches will be announced at noon on Sept. 19. Then, public voting begins at, running through noon on Oct. 9, when the top 15 vote-getters advance as the Final 15. U.S. Cellular will award the school of each Final 15 coach $5,000, host a local celebratory event and also create a short video that shares the coach’s story.

Public voting to help select the one winning coach nationwide begins at noon on Oct. 12 and will run until 11:59 a.m. on Nov.14. The winning coach will be announced at noon on Nov. 20. For more information and to view the official program rules, click here.

Now, go show that coach you think the world of just how much he/she means to you. And be sure to thank them for what they do, too.

Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.

After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.

Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.