Legendary soccer player Mia Hamm once said that success breeds success.
So where does the success that breeds success begin?
And not just work for the sake of working. We’re talking about hard work. The kind of work that not only makes you sweat, but can also make you hurt.
It’s the kind of work that travels with a companion named sacrifice. Blood, sweat and tears are the lubricants that keep work a well-oiled success machine.
In sports terms, it’s what separates the champions from the challengers. The trophy hoisters and championship ring wearers from the postseason television watchers.
And I’ll tell you something else that work is — easily underestimated.
As I enter my third season covering high school sports (Wow! I can’t believe it’s been that long already!) one thing that has become clear to me is that hard work, championship caliber, and title-winning work, is one of those things that’s easy to talk but hard to walk.
During the preseason of every sport I cover, I always end up asking each athlete or each team of athletes what their goals for the season are.
And inevitably, I almost always get the same reply: state championship.
They mean it when the say it. The seriousness in their eyes is powerful. They don’t smirk or smile or flinch as those two words escape from their lips.
It’s the goal that everybody wants, but at the end of a long season only one individual, one coach or one team is left standing.
I love what new Dutchtown football coach Kevin Jones had to say on the matter.
“It’s one thing to say you want a championship, but there’s a different kind of work involved to get there,” Jones said. “If you don’t have someone on your staff that’s been through it, it’s tough. When you do, it’s special because those guys know what it takes to be competitive. That stuff is contagious.”
But I love what Jones did even more.
Right before Day 2 of spring practice, Jones, who before coming to Dutchtown spent several seasons as the architect of one of the state’s stingiest defenses at Lovejoy, sensed that his Bulldogs needed a little something to help bring the talk of toughness, work and winning to life.
So right before they lined up for drills, in walks Travis Custis, Zane Fields, Nathaniel Norwood and several other seniors from the back-to-back state runners up Lovejoy squad.
Fields talked about passion. Norwood shared some of his tricks of the trade that made him an all-state nose tackle in 2012 despite carrying the size of a safety or linebacker. Custis riled up the Dutchtown players with an impassioned speech about pumping iron and getting strong in the weight room.
It left Jones with goosebumps and put fire in the belly of the Bulldogs.
“Day 2 of our practice looked like Day 9 or 10,” Jones said. “It was unreal. It literally made my flesh crawl to see it. I wish I would have filmed it. In 20 years of coaching those were probably some of the greatest motivational speeches I’ve ever heard.”
One thing Jones told me that probably stuck out more than anything else was how the graduating group of Wildcats — the most successful senior class in Lovejoy history — responded to a 55-0 shellacking against Newnan during their freshman seasons.
“They came together, looked me in the eye and said they’d never take a butt whipping like that again against anybody in the state of Georgia,” Jones said. “And over the next three years I watched them work that out. They shared that with those kids and it lit them up.”
Now to see if the Bulldogs can keep that fire burning through a 10-game season.
Oops, I’m sorry coach. That’s 15.
“Fifteen is our goal. That’s the common denominator,” Jones said. “I’d be lying if I said we just want to win region and maybe get to the playoffs. I want game 15. Until we get there and win it, I’m not satisfied. I want the Dutchtown players, parents and administration in the Dome playing for a state championship. I love Lovejoy and I appreciate my time there, but I don’t wear any of my Lovejoy rings anymore.
“The next ring I put on will say Dutchtown.”
Then after a long pause he added, “I’ve got some work to do.”
Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald Newspapers. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1