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The Emotions of Sports: Success breeds success

Athletes know going into athletic programs that they are bound to flourish based on a team's history

Posted: July 31, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 31, 2011 1:55 a.m.
The Hart High football celebrates its first CIF championship on Dec. 9, 1983. Hart won eight CIF titles between 1983 and 2003. The Hart High football celebrates its first CIF championship on Dec. 9, 1983. Hart won eight CIF titles between 1983 and 2003.
The Hart High football celebrates its first CIF championship on Dec. 9, 1983. Hart won eight CIF titles between 1983 and 2003.

It can be broken down to simple physics.

Once an athletic program gains momentum, the challenge becomes finding a way to sustain its forward motion.

Some programs regress, while others maintain, even pick up more speed.

For those few programs to reach elite status, it’s simply a matter of inertia.

Their success breeds more success.

“When I was playing there were three of us who had older brothers at Hart that won CIF championships,” says former Indians and USC running back Ted Iacenda. “You walk into that legacy and you know what’s expected of you day one.

You convey that to others. As a freshman, you’re ahead of the game. You’re at Hart, and you’re expected to win league titles and CIF championships. How do you live in a family where you’re older brother has a CIF championship?”

Hart football was the preeminent force in the Santa Clarita Valley from 1983-2007.

The Indians captured eight CIF titles and appeared in five more championship games during that span.

Once the ball started rolling, the players and coaches ensured it remained in motion.

There was a tradition to uphold.

When an athlete enters the program, the work ethic is demonstrated and becomes the baseline standard.

Arguably, no other program has demonstrated that concept in the last five years better than Saugus girls cross country.

The Centurions have won five consecutive CIF state championships.

But this year, they face a rebuilding process that will draw heavily upon the groundwork that previous classes have solidified.

“It’s not something you can jump right into,” says Saugus head coach Rene Paragas. “As a freshman and sophomore, you are working toward being that disciplined in your life and at practice. As a junior and senior, hopefully you’ve grown into their shoes.”

Paragas adds that the program’s level of success can also be a deterrent for newcomers who assume they won’t make the team.

A standard of hard work is what Vikings head coach Donna Lee says her team’s success is built on as well.

Valencia won 10 consecutive league titles from 2001-10, CIF championships in 2007 and 2008 and was named the national champion in ’07 by USA Today and

But first, it was a matter of putting in the time.

That example wasn’t just set for incoming freshman. It was also passed down to future generations, Lee says.

“We run a camp during the spring, and we usually have about 35-40 from 7 to 12 years old that come to the camp,” she says. “They get the girls’ autograph. They want to be future Vikings. I truly believe that. They have a dream when they are 8 or 9 that they will come to play for Valencia.”

When they get there, or on any other elite program, they expect the team to perform.

There is just a higher level of confidence from the get-go, says former Valencia and UCLA volleyball player Tony Ker.

The Vikings set the California state record this past season for consecutive league wins with 104 and won the national championship in 2008, according to, a site run by

Ker had graduated by that point, but did claim his own national title in ’06 at UCLA.

As more and more young talent entered either program, staying in the starting lineup became increasingly more difficult, Ker says

“At UCLA, it’s what they call the blue curtain,” he says. “You never want to be on the wrong side of the blue curtain. If you don’t come to play every single day, and you don’t give your best performance, you are going to be on the other side of the blue curtain and someone else is going to step up and take your position. In my senior speech, I gave a ton of credit to my backup libero.”

If iron does sharpen iron, playing in that environment is going to foster improvement.

And when the team is successful, that talent level can then keep it there.

Staying at the top becomes more than just a sense of pride. It becomes an obligation to many.

“I absolutely believe in success breeding success,” says Canyon High graduate and USA Softball legend Crystl Bustos. “When I first got on the team in 1999, the Olympians before me set a tradition, set a value, set the mark and the bar for whatever needed to be done. As I got older, I became one of those older Olympians that was hopefully setting the bar and the mark where it needed to be.”

USA Softball won three Olympic gold medals and a silver from 1996-2008, establishing itself as the clear dominant force in the world.

Bustos, who now runs Bustos Sports Training, LLC, a travel ball organization in Ohio, was at the forefront of that success. She retired in 2008.

She recalls the hard work and the passion it took to maintain her level of play.

She never let down, nor did her teammates.

And that’s the essence to the concept of success breeding success.

“That is absolutely true, and failure breeds failure — both sides of the coin,” says Dr. Bob Corb, director of the sports psychology department at UCLA. “You see it on an individual basis. Athletes that are supremely confident and go out and want to take the last shot at the end of the game. They aren’t successful all the time, but when they are not successful, it doesn’t rock their boat. They just want to be in a position to take the last shot.”

The worst thing would be to take the legacy lightly and to assume that achievements will just be handed over, coaches warn.

It’s the work that is put in.

It’s the passion to keep the tradition alive.

And it should never be diluted by entitlement.

“I caution against that because no success is going to come from the name on the jersey,” Paragas says.
It’s the confidence and work ethic that are fostered when the jersey is put on that keeps everything in motion.


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