Coaching Management, 14.9, October 2006, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1409/bbsuccess.htm
When the North Canton Hoover High School softball team won the Division I Ohio state championship in June, it didn’t take long for the celebration to begin. By the time the team bus exited the highway, the police department was ready to escort it back into town. Once the team reached North Canton, the bus emptied and fire engines from the North Canton Fire Department took the girls the rest of the way, passing groups of cheering fans on route to the high school.
Once back on campus, the team proceeded to an already-filled gymnasium. There, they were publicly congratulated by the school’s principal, athletic director, district superintendent, and Head Coach Jerry Goodpasture. Even Mayor David Held was on hand to proclaim June 3 Hoover Softball State Champion Day.
Though the celebrations came together quickly, they were anything but spontaneous. Athletic Director Don Shimek had been quietly planning the event from the moment the Vikings reached the regional finals, though he says he didn’t want to plan too much in advance and “put the hex” on the team.
“There were several individuals I spoke with ahead of time to help organize things,” Shimek says. “For the celebration at the school, I coordinated with our janitors. I also made sure I had the plans mapped out with the superintendent of schools and the principal, so they could be on board and ready on game day.”
As soon as the Vikings made the last out of their 2-0 championship victory over Elyria High School, Shimek approached local radio broadcasters to set the plan into motion. The broadcasters read an announcement about the celebrations on air, and by the time the team arrived back in North Canton there were signs in storefronts congratulating them and fans lining the streets.
“I think the idea of riding a fire truck through town was a big deal for the girls,” says Goodpasture. “The celebrations aren’t over yet, either. Once the summer is over the kids will receive rings at a home football game.”
Though it’s not the biggest school in the area, Hoover teams regularly draw support not only from family and friends of the players, but also from die-hards in the community. One player’s mother helps maintain a Web site devoted to the team, complete with rosters for both varsity and j.v. teams, schedules, press articles, and photographs. Maintaining a close relationship with these fans, as well as municipal officials like Held, helps make these celebrations possible.
“It sounds hokey, but there’s really a hometown feel about it,” Shimek says. “We have a bigger sense of community that allows people from town to take ownership in our team.”
To view the Web site for North Canton Hoover Softball, go to: www.northcanton.sparcc.org/~hck/cgi-bin/homepage.pl?id=hssoftball&self=yes