High-school athletics teams can have a tremendous impact beyond the lines of competition.
When one of their own is going through a challenging time, the rest of the team becomes a support group to help in any way it can.
That's exactly what the New Berlin Eisenhower football team has provided to senior Jaron Radish since his father, Jason, died suddenly Sept. 4 at the age of 43.
"They've just been really supportive," Radish said. "When it happened, I had probably 30 kids on my team texting me, telling me if I needed anything I could just call them. They've been really, really supportive."
Jason Radish was in the stands at Wauwatosa West High School to see his son come up with a key interception that helped Eisenhower to a 40-6 win on Sept. 2. Two days later, he was gone.
Immediately, the Lions football team began reaching out, as Jaron Radish said he received messages from over 30 teammates.
"Jaron is a well-liked guy on the team," Eisenhower senior Joey Scaffidi said. "He's one of our senior leaders. I had so many people texting me asking for his number.
"None of the captains planned anything. All the guys truly cared about Jaron and wanted to talk to him individually. Knowing how close our team is really helped him."
In the days that followed, Eisenhower football coach Matt Kern met individually with Radish multiple times.
"We just wanted to let him know he is around a bunch of guys that care about him," Kern said. "When I got the news, I didn't think about football stuff. I thought about the kid and the horrible situation he was going through. You just want to help him in any way you can and you feel kind of helpless about how to do that.
"One of the things I said to him was that if something horrible like this had to have happened, I'm glad it is during a time where you have the team around you to be able to offer support. It is going to be horrible no matter what, but I think having the guys there and the structure of practice and continuing on (helps). You hear people say that the routine sustains you through tough times.".
Nobody would have blamed Jaron Radish had he decided to step away from football while coping with such a significant loss.
But instead, he showed courage beyond his years in deciding to suit up and play for the Lions against Pius XI on Sept. 9, because that's what his father would have wanted him to do.
When the Lions took the field to face the Popes, they were led by Radish and his two younger brothers, Jude and Jaxson.
"It might not have been a big game, but it was a pretty big game for me," Radish said. "I was trying to just stay focused on the game.
"My family, for what they did for us on Friday night against Pius, we really appreciated it."
Radish's younger brothers accompanied him to midfield for the coin toss and stayed with the Lions on the sidelines for the rest of Eisenhower's 63-0 win.
"I didn't want it to feel like we were using it as a motivation-type thing for the kids," Eisenhower football coach Matt Kern said. "It was really just about trying to take care of his family. He has two younger brothers. I had never met them, but I felt horrible for them knowing what a bad situation it was, so we brought them along with us through that Friday night and tried to give them some support through that. I thought they had fun. It at least gave them a couple of hours to do something else."
For the couple hours each day he's on the football field, Radish can escape.
He played against Pius and again on Sept. 16 when the Lions beat crosstown rival New Berlin West, 42-8.
"Going to practice, it just helps me get my mind off it," Radish said. "Especially during that week. I'd have my family over the whole entire day and one after another, they'd keep coming. It's pretty hard, but football, it let me leave for two hours and clear my mind."
As Eisenhower, which enters its game against Pewaukee on Sept. 23 at 4-1 and 3-0 in the Woodland, continues to chase a special season on the field, Radish will be playing in his father's memory.
"I always know that he'll be watching me," Radish said. "I feel like I'm going to play harder for my family."