How does Flashes’ success happen?

It’s hard to pinpoint how it happened the way it did in Champion.

Two teams — baseball and softball — going to state championship games. It’s a miraculous feat. In fact, only one school in OHSAA history has won state titles in both (Walsh Jesuit, 2004). The Golden Flashes can match that mark today (the boys play at 10 a.m. at Huntington Park in Columbus; the girls at 4 p.m. at Firestone Stadium in Akron).

But how did a little public school like Champion pull this off?

Can there really be that many talented players in a high school with an enrollment of 330? Yes and no is the answer to that question.

Any coach will tell you that having talent alone doesn’t guarantee a player is going to be great. Now, when you have an exceptionally talented player who wants to develop his or her skills, then you have a superstar. But even then, a superstar isn’t enough.

Sure, a dominant pitcher can take you a long way in baseball or softball, but everyone has a bad day, and you have to score runs to win. If you’re the best hitter in the state, well, four pitches outside of the strike zone nullifies your bat — and there’s nothing you can do about it. The person after you can and the person after him or her can too. Catching my drift?

Teams win titles in softball and baseball, not an individual. So, how does one school create two teams this good? There are numerous answers to that question, but it starts at home. When parents are able to foster to the many needs of a kid in sports, good things usually happen. Going to travel ball, camps, training facilities and finding the right mentors to surround a child is a lot of work, but it goes a long way in a player’s progress.

Not everyone is so fortunate to have the comfort of two parents who can cater to a kid’s sporting needs though, an unfortunate reality. That doesn’t mean a child can’t progress in sports. Coaches can play a bigger role than many people realize. The impact of a youth league coach can be as critical as a high school or college coach. In other words, youth programs play a big role in building a consistent high school team.

Several members of the current Golden Flashes baseball team played together on a Hot Stove state championship squad about eight years ago, and it’s not a coincidence they’re back in a similar position. Learning the fundamentals and sportsmanship of the game as a kid are imperative to being a good teammate — then and later on in life. This doesn’t mean you have to be one of the crazy youth-league parents who yell profanities at an umpire. It simply means focus on the basics of the game and enjoy being part of a team.

The final piece to the puzzle is the most important and the easiest to perform. It’s known as “hard work.” Everyone wants to be born with the right height, weight, muscles and overall intangibles it takes to be a great athlete, but this only happens to a lucky few, and even then, that’s not enough.

You can’t just want to be great. You have to want to be great so badly that you’re willing to put in the countless hours of work that it takes to be great. That’s not easy. It takes tremendous sacrifice and the motivation to push yourself even when no one is around to motivate you. The only way to acquire such dedication is to have a passion for the game. And that’s where this story comes to an end.

Anyone who has watched the Champion baseball and softball teams can notice the deep sense of passion they have for their respective sport. They truly enjoy competing. They believe in their coaches, teammates and themselves. That didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen because they’re talented or gifted. It happened because they made it happen.

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