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By Mike Capshaw
Special to the Citizen
“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” — John F. Kennedy
A couple of years ago a column appeared in the Chiefland Citizen about Bronson sports having a culture of losing, or something along those lines. The exact details are fuzzy, but it involved a statement made as the softball team bus returned from a game at Dixie County.
Because the team was flirting with a .500 record at the time, the columnist said, “I wonder if the softball team won?” A young man replied, “We’re Bronson. We lose at everything.”
Because it had been such a long time since Bronson had won at a high level in any sport, it appeared that a mentality of losing had set in with many of the BHS athletes.
If you think you’re a loser, then you’re going to lose. So much of athletics is about confidence. Thinking — or even better knowing — you can hit a curveball, or swish a three-pointer or make a tackle is instrumental in making those things happen.
If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.
At Bronson, at least in sports, it had been some time since many players believed in themselves.
Well, times are a changin’ thanks to positive-minded coaches like BHS baseball skipper Allen Strickland.
In only three seasons, the Eagles went from losers to winners. In fact, they even challenged for the district title, won a state playoff game for the first time in the modern era and were among the final eight teams remaining in Class 1A’s rural division.
And who knows? Had they not been in the same district and on the some side of the bracket as Trenton, the state champions, they could have played even longer. They won 14 games, the same number of wins as the BHS football, boys basketball and softball teams had combined this season.
It’s all quite a turnaround for a team that
went 4-17 two seasons ago and 8-13 last season.
“I told our players, ‘You have changed the culture of Bronson baseball,’” Strickland said. “’Now, whenever teams talk about our district, they are going to talk about you guys competing for the championship. They are going to talk about you guys competing at state. They no longer will look at Bronson and just think that’s two wins on their schedule.’”
Indeed. The days of Bronson baseball being viewed as a “pushover” or “creampuff” are over. Players now can walk into an opponent’s ballpark with winning swagger. They’ll be intimidating, not intimidated.
They’re winners, not losers.
It all began with changing mentalities.
“There’s no doubt that was the biggest hurdle,” Strickland said. “Two years ago I was preaching that. I know that physically, because most of them were freshman two years ago, we would have lost some games. I knew that they were going to mature physically, but if they still went into games with the mindset that, ‘Oh well, it’s Chiefland or Trenton or Branford or St. Francis and we usually lose to them, so we’re probably going to lose,’ then they would lose.
“If they didn’t think it could change, then it wasn’t going to change … we were able to get over that hump this year.”
Strickland admits that he, too, was surprised the team went as far as the Elite Eight, but 14 wins coming against teams like St. Francis — for the first time in the program’s history, by the way — was not a surprise because of the change in mentality.
The change and the experience of the past three seasons is something Strickland hopes carries over into life. That, after all, is the actual purpose behind youth sports.
“They now have the mindset that they reap what they sow; that hard work leads to success,” Strickland said. “This will hopefully prepare them to do that in life, too.
“Baseball doesn’t last forever.”