KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's high school soccer season, but there's more than a win riding on Tuesday night's game between Staley and Oak Park.
“We always say we're a family. He's like our dad pretty much,” Kaitlin Peterson, a member of the Staley girls varsity soccer team, said of their coach.
Johnny Chain was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a few weeks ago. Since then, he had an 8-hour surgery to remove his thyroid and 75 lymph nodes.
But even with the diagnosis, his players said they weren't too concerned about their coach.
“He's just one of those people who we knew he`d get through it, especially with all of us supporting him," teammate Christine Harpe said.
"Even though he's not here, he'll text in our group chat about how much he misses us and tell us to do well today or push harder for the next game,” Harpe said.
The team's Tuesday night match against Oak Park is Oak Park's annual Cancer Awareness Game. This year, the game will have special meaning because the team will welcome Chain back to the field.
“It's going to be for him, and we're going to raise money and try to get as many people out as we can to show our support for his first game back,” Peterson said.
“He's always like, 'The field is your getaway,' so for him to be able to make it back to the field for the very first time -- and it`s always been his getaway -- I think it will be very exciting to see,” team captain Kayley Thomas said.
But the Staley girls’ soccer team isn't the only team showing support for Chain.
“We played Kearney the other day, and they got us a present," Peterson said. "And they got purple ribbons they wore and we wore, and it just shows the soccer community coming together even though we play each other. It's just a game it shows. We all come together in the end."
The whole community has rallied behind Chain and his team.
“Our students, our players, other schools -- everyone is on board with this," Assistant Coach Scott Anderson said. "Cancer has become obviously a hot topic over the last few weeks, and schools are recognizing that this is a big deal. Everybody is just trying to step up and do their part to make him feel welcome, that we miss him, and that we're all behind him in this battle against this terrible disease."
In Tuesday's game, the athletes said they have a ton of special things planned and they're hoping Chain's first game back is something he'll remember.
“They are going to be taking donations at the door whenever you come through the gate, and those donations will be going directly toward cancer,” team captain Kenna Flacke said.
“I'm looking forward to a good game, hopefully a win, so we can give it to him,” said Hannah Peterson, another team captain.
The Chain family said they're so thankful for the endless support of the entire community.
The game is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Staley High School, specifically the District Activities Center, and the team is asking attendees to come at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome.