April 7, 2006

What qualities make a champion?

By John Shaughnessy

What qualities make a champion?

That question was posed to six coaches who have led Catholic high school teams in Indianapolis to state championships: Linda Bamrick, girls’ basketball coach at Cathedral High School; Jim Boswell, football coach at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School; Ott Hurrle, football coach at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School; Leo Klemm, boys’ basketball coach at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School; Bruce Scifres, football coach at Roncalli High School; and Jill Starliper, former volleyball coach at Bishop Chatard High School.

Here is a list of “champion” qualities drawn from their insights.

Faith—“Faith is the foundation of being a champion,” said Scifres, who has coached Roncalli to six state championships in football. “Faith in yourself, faith in your teammates, and then the thing that ties them all together—faith in God. One of the big advantages that we have as a Catholic school is we have a common bond of being Christians, of being young men and young women of faith. That bond is a tremendous source of motivation and inspiration.”

Intelligence—“I don’t think it’s an accident that 90 percent of the time you’ll find that teams that win state championships have pretty high GPAs (grade-point averages),” said Hurrle, who led Scecina to football state championships in 1990 and 1991. “I tell the players that everything carries over from school. It’s not a simple game. Adjustments have to be made on the fly, and that takes intelligence.”

Work ethic—“You have to work extra hard to be the best that you can be,” said Starliper, who coached Bishop Chatard’s volleyball team to a state championship in 2004. “Our kids basically go the extra mile. Whatever drill they’re running, they’re not just going through the motions. They knew I wasn’t going to accept going through the motions, and they didn’t accept that in themselves either. Just because you’re putting in the time doesn’t mean you’re getting everything out of it.”

Resiliency—“No matter what happens, you keep coming back. You continue on the path you set,” said Klemm, who led Brebeuf Jesuit to a state championship in boys’ basketball in 2000. “It’s so important. If we go off in one direction, we’ll go off center from where we want to be.”

Character—“I’ve always liked the saying, ‘Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it,’ ” Scifres said. “Adversity in our lives helps us not to take things for granted. It also teaches us lessons about who we are. Character carries into all aspects of our lives. The way you treat people and use the gifts God gives you ultimately leads to success.”

Loyalty—“When you’re on a team, you have to be 100 percent loyal to each other,” said Boswell, who coached Cardinal Ritter to a state championship in football in 2003. “If you’re not backing one another, if you’re not looking out for one another, you’re not going to have success.”

Leadership—“I firmly believe your team is only as good as your senior leadership,” Starliper said. “The kids are going to listen to the coach, but they’re really going to listen to their peers. The seniors had to be able to communicate with me, tell me what the team was thinking and, even in adversity, go back and lead. When the seniors do something, the other classes will do that with them.”

Desire—“You have to have an appreciation for the gifts God has given you,” Scifres said. “You have to have the desire to make the most of those gifts—and the desire to make those who love you proud, including God.”

Self-discipline—“Athletics is difficult,” Hurrle said. “In order to be a really good competitor, you have to have good self-discipline. It’s not easy to practice in 95-degree weather or when it’s 20 degrees. It’s not easy to get up to lift weights in the morning or shoot baskets or get in the batting cage or putt on the green. Self-discipline keeps you from giving up. It keeps you getting out of bed to get better. Down the road, it always pays off.” †


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