Chicago area coaches named finalists for honorary ESPY Award

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For the past few weeks, we've asked you to tell us about a youth sports coach or volunteer who's gone above and beyond for kids during the pandemic.

You voted, and now it's time to meet our 2021 honorary ESPY finalists.

First up is Coach Stephanie Marquardt, who runs Chicago Westside Police and Youth Sports, helping city kids form mentorship bonds with police officers, faith leaders and other organizations.

"It's a relationship within the community, rebuilding trust," Marquardt said.

Marquardt did even more during the pandemic, and is nominated for making "safe spaces for youth who did not have internet access" so they could do their homework.

"She's not just here for us on the field. She's here for us off the field," parent Andrea Smith said.

"The first one here, the last one to leave, with no compensation aside from just within her own heart to give," said Jermaine Harris, co-founder, Chicago Westside Police and Youth Sports.

Next at the plate is Coach Sean Conneely. He said through about 20 years of coaching, his joy has been helping the community through wins and losses.

"I'm going to tear up," Conneely said. "When you're around the right people, and the right kids, it's really simple."

And during the pandemic, he said he carefully welcomed kids to his garage batting cage. Conneely was nominated for being a "positive influence."

"He's dedicated, he puts others first, he gives 110%," baseball player Sam de Tagyos said.

"Coach Sean he cares more about like, like teaching us and like helping us learn," baseball player Austin May said.

And batting third is Coach Despina Kotsapouikis, who made sure her son's baseball team stayed fit even when so many sports were canceled over the past year. She's nominated for her "safe and super effective" group workouts that get parents exercising, too.

"A lot of them didn't even think there was going to be a next year, so I wanted to give them some hope," Kotsapouikis said.

"She helped us get out of the house a lot. Every Tuesday or Wednesday to get us running and get us fit and get us bigger and stronger than most of the other kids were playing today," baseball player Joseph Zanayed said.

All three finalists were humble about making a difference for Chicago kids.

"If you can create an environment for people to have their talents soar, how much fun is that? And that should be what's highlighted," Marquardt said.

You can watch the 2021 ESPY Awards on ABC7 at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 10.
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