Steamboat Springs In the world of high school sports teams are built on talent, dedication and heart.
But most successful high school programs also have at least one other strong character trait and tradition may be one of the hardest things to establish in any high school program.
You see programs with a strong tradition seem to skate through down years and return to glory when things are rolling smoothly. They can attract high quality coaches and keep them for more than a year. They also have developed ways of funneling top athletes to their programs and keeping them involved.
The teams with tradition are easy to find in Steamboat Springs. Mark Drake's football program, Rob Bohlmann's soccer teams (he takes over a well-established girls team this year) and Kelly Meek's basketball teams are all prime examples.
These teams have all enjoyed success and will continue to do so in the future because top athletes are drawn to the team's sense of history and tradition. They also have solid feeder programs, which all build to the high school level. This line of the program is missing in many of the newer sports at the high schools. Not because they are failing, but because they haven't had the time to develop it.
With some programs, such as boys lacrosse, there is no feeder program at all. Many of the players on the field are playing the game for their first full season.
This is one of the biggest difference between sports with tradition and those without it. Tradition implies a flow of conditioned well-training athletes through some sort of feeder programs. Basketball and soccer both have strong youth programs where coaches and players realize they are building to the high school level.
Unfortunately, many of the newer programs in Steamboat are lacking this support and as a result struggle from the start.
Baseball is a good example.
How can the program build any sense of history when it has a new coach (four in the last four years) almost every season. The program's problem is that it can't form feeder programs until the head coaching position is well established. That way everybody involved with the program is working toward the same goals.
The only way for this program to develop a tradition, any tradition, is to find coaches who are willing to commit for the long haul.
The good news is that the baseball program is working on filling some of the holes. It's trying to establish organized Little League (1994) and a senior league (1999), which competes in 45 games throughout the summer. That's three times what the high school team plays each season.
Organizers are hoping these types of teams will someday contribute to the program's tradition and help a head high school coach by supplying him with skilled players who can step into a system.
Only time will tell if this will work.
The problem with baseball and some of the other newer sports is that it's difficult to build a tradition when a squad isn't winning.
Hicks, as well as any other coach, will tell you that losing is contagious. Once a team builds a history of losing it's almost impossible to turn things around. Just take a look at the Denver Nuggets or the Colorado Rockies.
It's also difficult to get top players to come out and stick with the program.
But the biggest thing about building tradition in sports is that it takes time. The fact is only time can build a tradition whether that tradition is one of winning or losing is still yet to be determined.