It may at times go unnoticed, but every player on a successful team has a role.
Winning teams require buy-in from every individual from the end of the bench to the top of the rotation. Each individual needs to be willing to do the little things that come together to make a team great.
This mentality embodies Indiana redshirt freshman John Bannec, whose role goes beyond imagination.
Prior to Indiana’s midweek matchup against in-state rival Butler on October 16, Indiana midfielder Trevor Swartz found himself in need.
Looking around the Indiana locker room, Swartz scrambled in search of one of the most under appreciated elements of a soccer player. Swartz had lost his shin guards. Luckily for him, his teammate was there for him when he needed it most.
“I was like ‘Hey Trev you can have some of mine, but you know these shin guards aren’t for just anybody,” Bannec said. “’You gotta be able to live up to them.’ He was like ‘then I don’t know if I wanna have them.’ And I was like ‘I mean, I think you can live up to it, you just gotta know the capability, the expectation that you have when you wear these shin guards.’”
Bannec’s generosity went to show how every player on Indiana can contribute. It also helped to further his relationship with Swartz.
“I wear John Bannec’s shin guards on gamedays,” Swartz said. “I don’t know why. I got two assists in them, so I just kept wearing them because I forgot mine. I’ve been wearing them since the two-assist performance at Butler. Now it’s our thing. It’s kinda weird.”
As odd as Swartz’s new tradition is, it seems to have produced results. Swartz followed up his two-assist performance with his first goal of the season, a game winning goal, against Rutgers.
“I told him, you know, I’m glad I could give him a little luck, but I’m gonna need those back,” Bannec said.
The Hoosiers have yet to lose with Bannec’s shin guards on the field. It’s rare that a small gesture such as this one will draw attention from head coach Todd Yeagley, but when it comes to wins and losses, Yeagley takes notice.
“Whatever it takes to give someone an edge,” Yeagley said. “I think that’s great so, Bannec, doing his job. He’s doing his job everyday at practice, but if it’s the shin guard trick then we’ll give John, an extra, maybe give him an assist, maybe give him extra added on to Trevor’s.”
In addition to the wins Indiana has racked up since Bannec offered up his trusted shin guards, individually, Swartz was also named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. It’s an honor that raises an important question. Shouldn’t that honor have gone to Bannec’s shin guards?
“Oh, 100 percent, my shin guards,” Bannec said. “Not him at all.”
Diving even deeper, it’s important to even consider whether any other shin guards in the nation have had as much of an impact as Bannec’s.
“TopDrawerSoccer should be here,” Bannec said. “They should be giving me this interview. I’m sorry, like you know you’re a great journalist, it’s whatever, but I should be getting some recognition from the NCAA. I mean these shin guard have gone through a lot. They’re dirty. They’ve won all-states in high school. They made it here to IU. They belong in a safe after I leave, and I think I might even hand them down to someone. They’re that special.”
Beyond the comedy of it all, Bannec’s actions serve as a microcosm of a team that supports each other.
As a redshirt freshman on a team fueled by its senior class, Bannec is biding his time. His work on the pitch in practice is what helps the seniors around him get better. It’s also the work that will serve him best next year when a new opportunity arises.
“It’s what I’m really hoping for, what I’m pushing for,” Bannec said. “I think I got a really big offseason ahead of me. There are a lot of roles that are leaving. Possibly 10 out of our 11 starters if you really think about the potential to go pro. That’s a lot of spots and me being a left sided player, some big shoes to fill with Gutman and possible Cory. We’ll see how it goes and I’m really ready to grind, put my head down, and hopefully head towards that point of starting.”
That drive and passion to get on the field is fueled by a connection to Indiana that goes back to his childhood. Bannec, a native of Bloomington, knows all about the tradition of the program. He knows how meaningful it is to be here.
“It’s beyond words at times,” Bannec said. “You gotta take a step back, because a lot of people would say this is a basketball school, but growing up for the love of soccer and really knowing what greatness looks like, this is it…The greatness has been here. We’ve been high ranked. We’ve been number one, and I’ve been going to games ever since I was little kid. Always made it to cutters night, and so it’s something, every time you step out here sometimes, you just gotta take a step back…I made the dream happen.”
So, when his time comes, Bannec will be ready for it. While he waits, he’s found his own unique role for now. He supports his teammates and keeps them positive using his remarkably dynamic skillset. A skillset that includes jokes, songs, and Michael Jackson.
Indiana goalkeeper Trey Muse has previously described Bannec as one of the funniest on the team. He also revealed that Bannec has quite the singing chops. A talent the whole team found during the “Hoosier Idol.”
“Hoosier Idol” takes place every preseason. On the bus ride to Indianapolis, freshmen are forced to the front of the bus to sing for the team. Here is where the team learned about a talent that has now followed Bannec. Indiana’s redshirt freshman is now always prepared to sing for his teammates.
“Whenever I’m around the guys,” Bannec said. “Maybe in the locker room a little bit, if anyone wants me to serenade. Sometimes Danny [O’Rourke] invites me over and has me sing at his place.”
“That’s not true,” Indiana assistant coach Danny O’Rourke said.
“Yeah it is,” Bannec said.
“That’s not true,” O’Rourke said.
The last of Bannec’s unique talents include an impression he’s been working on for a long time. An impression that finds its way into the locker from time to time.
“I actually was pretty into Michael Jackson,” Bannec said. “For a talent show in fourth grade I brought the glove to class. Yeah, it was a pretty embarrassing moment in my life. But, then beyond that I’ve been doing theater since I was in third grade…just got a love for the arts.”
All of this comes together to make Indiana’s dynamic defender who he is. Bringing joy to the locker room and work ethic to the field, Bannec has found his role at a winning program, and his teammates know he deserves the credit.
“Can you please write a story on John Bannec’s shin guards,” Swartz said.