Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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The district and sectional final weekend painted a very clear picture as to why “winners” win, while others pat themselves on the back, satisfied with “doing their best.”

It was an interesting weekend in high school basketball across the area, and across the state. We’ll deal with what we saw locally.

Press Pros covered no less than six area schools, in boys and girls, with rich and successful traditions in tournament competition. They win. Collectively, St. Henry, Ft. Loramie, Versailles, Miami East have more than 20 state titles in football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and track and field in the modern era of the OHSAA tournaments.

And while Russia and Jackson Center have had more modest success for the ultimate title, those schools have nonetheless been constants at the sectional and district level.

And the question was raised this weekend, at Springfield Saturday during the Division III girls district finals.  Why?

Why have Versailles and Ft. Laramie won so many district titles, and four state championships collectively in the past seven years?

Why have Coldwater and Marion Local been so successful in football? Do they just have bigger kids?

And why has a school like Ft. Recovery, so long in the background of more successful members of the Midwest Athletic Conference, now become relevant in three sports…baseball, football, and basketball?

I pay attention during the weekends to scores posted on our Koenig’s/John Deere scoreboard, taking note of schools which consistently win, and those which seem consistently satisfied to just participate.  Over the years I’ve grown familiar first-hand with many communities across the state…with schools, administrators, coaches, and boosters. I’ve asked the questions, and I’ve been a good listener…as to why, year after year, some schools never escape the shadow of their history.

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Well, relative size does matter in some cases, but the “constant” in every successful, competitive scenario is expectation. Some schools are accustomed to winning; they expect to win in the future. They don’t talk about it in verbose terms, but there’s a reason why Loramie packs the gym for a girls tournament basketball game. They don’t show up just to see them do their best. The come to see them WIN!

The thought struck me during the waning moments of Saturday’s Versailles girls district final with Waynesville. The game well in hand, the “seconds” were on the floor playing out the clock. As substitutes in mass often do, they turned the ball over in succession and allowed the Spartans to cut into their  formidable margin. You could feel the Versailles partisans, a very knowledgeable group in basketball, boys and girls, begin to squirm. They knew they were going to win; but they wanted the win to be untarnished by sloppy play…even by the JVs.

By comparison I know a number of programs around the state who have never won, and likely, never will. The expectation is totally different in these places, and you can tell that by letters written to this website over our frequent support for the virtues of winning…and an attitude of winning.

These are communities that also have a history of high turnover in coaches. They object to strong personalities and authoritative attitudes, and placate themselves by seeking those with whom they’re sure the kids will like…that are good listeners to the community, that adapt to the attitude of the community. They pass it off as a demand for high character and sportsmanship.

They’re communities that are satisfied with the tired phrase about kids “trying their hardest” and “doing their best”, satisfied with awards for participation;  a trophy for everyone. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as we grow older, and as adults if we look back at our lives with honesty…we’ve often done neither!

In contrast, Jacki Stonebraker has been at Versailles for more than decade. She has high character, yes. And she appreciates sportsmanship. But she doesn’t use either for an excuse for an attitude of “trying your hardest”.

Carla Siegel has been at Laramie for 17 years. Her expectations are well established, and understood. If you want to play there’s a price…of commitment, hard work, patience, and performance. It’s a demand, not a request.

Likewise with Scott Elchert at Jackson Center, who leaves no question every night…that he expects more, and better, than just participation; and with Tim Goodwin (Marion Local), Chip Otten (Coldwater), and John Canizzarro, eight-time state champion baseball coach at Newark Catholic.

Sonny_inset0211I congratulate Versailles and Loramie, Miami East and Jackson Center, for their district and sectional success over the weekend, for maintaining a very enviable standard…for having an optimism and anticipation of continued success in the future.

But more, I congratulate their respective communities, and others around the state, who are willing to have their kids coached with an overtone of consistency and expectation. For being comfortable with a higher standard…for having an optimism and anticipation of continued achievement by your kids in the future.

More plain and simple than we like to admit,  it’s why some win…and some don’t!

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