Coach Mike Taylor, center, accepts his award in front of his current players, and Saint Viator president Brian Liedlich, left

It was 1981 when Coach Mike Taylor began coaching boys’ soccer at Saint Viator High School. More than 600 games later, and now heading up both the boys’ and girls’ soccer programs, Coach Taylor counts himself a Lion for Life.

“It truly means a lot to me to be a part of the Saint Viator family,” Coach Taylor said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Coach Taylor and his commitment to Saint Viator students were showcased Wednesday when he was surprised during a pep rally with a recognition from a Chicago soccer tournament — for his work in making a difference, on and off the field.

He was honored by the founder of PepsiCo Showdown, the country’s largest high school soccer tournament, located in Chicago, which values community service as one of its goals.

“Coach Taylor has made a huge difference with his athletes,” said Joe Trost, tournament founder and creator of Buddy’s Helpers, the charity arm of the tournament.

Coach Taylor is a native of Zimbabwe in southern Africa and he referenced his upbringing during an interview after the ceremony. He recounted how when he was 9 years old, his parents took in two children from the local orphanage in an effort to give them all the advantages their own children enjoyed.

“I’ve tried to raise my own kids like that, to give to others,” Taylor said. “And that’s the mission of Saint Viator, to do community service.”