What Makes Champions?

H. H. ROXBOROUGH February 15 1931

What Makes Champions?

H. H. ROXBOROUGH February 15 1931

What Makes Champions?

Good coaching and a fighting heart win the most titles, says this writer


AT THIS season of the year, throughout the entire Dominion, wherever a hockey arena is available you will find teams of alert, rugged youths vigorously endeavoring to win group honors that will eventually lead to a provincial, sectional and national championship, and finally land its holders in 1932 on Lake Placid, where the best hockey clubs of Europe and America will compete for a world’s title.

Within the next ten months more than 25,000 players of such games as basketball, soccer, rugby, lacrosse, will engage in nationally organized and controlled games that will ultimately permit the members of the last surviving team to declare themselves holders of a Canadian championship.

Most of the 25,000 can’t win.

But some do. Where are the homes of these hundred-to-one shots? Do they come from the u¡5„wties?, Ar® tbey mainly university products? Are Or ar! We?Êht dominant factors in their success?

them tn her?v,0tuer r?0re easent*al qualities that enable th*™,t0 be tbe best in the land?

What makes champions, anyway?

Location Means Little

fo,r. a moment the reigning champions. 1930 woe u ,natl0nal sPort to declare leadership MontrI?A„OCíey’ and in the same week that CUD and «¡o -ate£r Atbletic Association won the Allen

Pa£ defLtoï'™ h0n^rS fro™ Port Arthur> the Regina supremacv in 'We^t ^°r°nto Juniors and gained national K ly Junior hockey.

name-nlateorftB^11 c0n,cluded its final «ames, the silver P te on the men s senior trophy bore that much-

respected name, New Westminster Adanacs; while the world-famous Edmonton Grads again eliminated all challengers and retained that longheld distinction of being the best women’s basketb a 1 1 team in Canada—or anywhere.

During the summer the University of British Columbia sent their champion English Rugby team to Eastern rugger stadiums. True, a definite national title was not the goal, but the tour was virtually a test of

supremacy, and the records proved conclusively that the British Columbia students were the uncrowned kings in the rugger realm.

Throughout spring and summer, the socking of the soccerites was heard across the Dominion, and when the season ended another New Westminster team, the Royals, for the second time in three years, had become Canadian soccer champions.

In early August the Canadian track and field championships were contested at Hamilton, and the Hamilton Olympic Club won eight firsts, four seconds and four thirds, and easily retained for the Ambitious City the distinction of possessing the foremost athletic club of Canada.

Then in late summer came the lacrosse finals. Once more the Western representatives came from Newr Westminster. In the first game the Westerners were

easily outscored, but they won the second contest and were leading for the greater part of the third until the Brampton team gamely overcame the odds and shot to victory.

Finally, in early December on a rain-soaked field, with the players encased in mud, Regina Rough Riders and Winnipeg Native Sons, in two keenly contested and close-scoring games, bowed to two new Canadian champion teams, both of them from Toronto, Balmy Beach seniors and Argonaut juniors.

These records remind us that geographical location means very little to the title-producing industry. Ten championships were distributed among eight towns and cities; five honors went West and a like number stayed East, while, wifch the exception of athletics and women’s basketball, not a single 1929 champion team repeated in 1930. With these same two exceptions, the championships of 1931 are liable to go anywhere. Obviously a post-office address does not ensure a championship.

Nor Is density of population an important factor in the distribution of Dominion titles. If numbers alone could guarantee national supremacy, then Montreal and Toronto, with their large populations, w'ould hold all Canadian honors. But such is not the case, for little New Westminster won as many titles as big Toronto; Brampton, Regina, Hamilton and Edmonton were as successful as Montreal; while such important cities as Ottawa, Winnipeg, Quebec, Calgary, London, Saint John, Halifax and Victoria not only did not gain a Canadian championship but, with Winnipeg’s exception, were not even represented in a final game. Another significant example of the failure of numbers to make champions is evidenced in the history of rugby at Toronto University, where, despite an enrollment ranging from five to seven thousand students, this institution has won only two intercollegiate titless in ten years.

One would think that the campuses of our educational institutions, with their physically trained and mentally endowed youths, would provide many holders of national titles. In the United States the surest way to a championship is to become a student, but in Canada the road to a university is almost a detour to a Dominion title. Not a single one of the many records established

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in Canadian track and field athletics were made by an athlete while in attendance at a Canadian educational institution. In twelve years of hockey and rugby--the two games strongly emphasized at our universities only two junior and two senior hockey titles were won, whereas twenty Canadian championships were gathered by non-students; while in rugby only one junior and four senior championships were secured, and nineteen titles went to other clubs.

There was a period when size and bulk and general huskiness of the individual player were important, and the championships were often decided by the scales and the foot rule. But since then the rules of most games have been changed to encourage speed rather than mass play, and today weight is not so important and champions are likely to come in assorted shapes, poundages and lengths.

Apparently then, residence, population, education and size do not make champions. What does?

I’ve got two answers.

And the first is: Coaching. The regularity with which some sport instructors secure national titles cannot be dismissed as mere chance or luck. The successes of four of them —Percy Page, of Edmonton, Mike Rodden, of Toronto, AÍ Ritchie, of Regina, and Captain Cornelius, of Hamilton are herewith submitted by way of exam ole.

An Extraordinary Record

ABOUT seventeen years ago a girls’ 4 *■ basketball team was organized in Edmonton, and to everybody’s surprise, including their own, this Page-coached team won the city high-school championship. Then, as the seasons rolled around, they captured the first intercollegiate title, the first provincial, the first Western Canadian, the first Dominion, the first international; and finally, when they toured Europe and out-scored their opponents by 664 points to 100, they gained the first real world’s basketball championship for women. They not only won every possible first but they also persistently repeated their victories. The best teams

of Canada and United States have been flinging challenges at them for years. Yet at one time more than thirty-eight consecutive triumphs had been secured, and in more than 300 contests less than ten had resulted in defeat.

Such a record has possibly never been equalled in athletic history. Who has made it possible? During those seventeen odd years the personnel of the team was constantly changing. The world’s champion team, for instance, included only one of the original group. But through it all J. Percy Page remained the coach. Girls came and went, but the leader and his system continued through the years. Who could logically say that this mentor of the internationally famous Edmonton Commercial Grads Basketball teams has not been the principal contributor to the team’s extraordinary success?

In the eight years prior to 1927 Hamilton Tigers Rugby team won only two interprovincial union championships, and following both victories they were easily defeated by Queen’s University in the ensuing play-offs. Then, in 1927, Mike Rodden became their coach.

In the four pigskin seasons that have since elapsed, Hamilton has won four interprovincial championships and two Dominion honors, and lost the other two by only three-point margins. During 1930 they scored 295 points, while the best elevens in East and West accumulated thirty-five against them. In twentyone games the Tigers’ goal line was crossed only once, while in 1930 alone the Rodden-coached machine scored fortyfour touchdowns. Yet this. 1930 team included only seven of the twenty who made up the 1927 group. One can hardly overestimate the part played by Coach Rodden in making champions.

Two years ago last December a junior rugby team coached by AÍ Ritchie journeyed east from Saskatchewan in search of fame and titles, and, after St. Thomas, Ontario, had defeated a team from Montreal, the Regina lads tackled the Railroad City crew and returned home with a national championship. During the 1930 autumn, the Regina Rough Riders rode to their fifth successive

Western Canadian title, and almost snatched the Dominion senior final from Balmy Beach. Their coach was AÍ Ritchie.

In 1930 the Regina Pats Juniors won the Canadian junior hockey championship, and critics considered his team to be one of the best ever produced in our hockey history. The coach was AÍ Ritchie.

Normally, schoolboy athletics are uncertain, for each year experienced competitors graduate and a new undeveloped group appears; yet despite this fact the boys from Hamilton collegiate institutes coached by Captain Cornelius have easily retained the Dominion Inter-scholastic title.

Back in 1924 the Ambitious City lads won eight first places in thirteen events and garnered the Dominion Inter-scholastic track and field championships. In 1925 they again won. In 1926 national success continued. Four years ago the Cornelius-trained boys won nineteen places in thirteen events and maintained Dominion supremacy. In May, 1928, at Montreal, they competed against twenty other Canadian schools and, after fracturing five national records, two Hamilton schools, Central Collegiate and Delta Collegiate, finished first and second. The following season another link was welded in the chain of outstanding victories; and last year, during Empire Games week, the schoolboys of Hamilton won thirteen first places and continued this unbroken sevenyear reign of Canadian athletic supremacy. Not only did the boys win Dominion honors but they also invaded the United States, competed in continent-wide championships, and returned home with many of the highest honors in all America. Here again individual athletes rose and fell, arrived and departed, but the coach went on forever -winning championships.

Year after year, too, Captain Cornelius has almost paralleled his athletic triumphs in rifle shooting. Cornelius-coached school lads have appeared on the rifle ranges at Long Branch and Rockcliffe and not only won their class honors but have challenged leadership in open competition.

The four coaches I have mentioned—

Page, Rodden, Ritchie and Cornelius— have been so frequently associated with champions that one cannot characterize the results as merely coincidental. It must be recognized that coaches have champion-making power. Coaches do make champions.

A Fighting Heart Wins

"DUT coaching alone could make little progress unless those instructed possessed that inherent asset; a grim determination to give everything to win, never to admit defeat until the final whistle is blown. Indeed a fighting heart might be even a more effective championship producer than coaching; for there have been not a few striking victories gained by poorly instructed but desperately courageous athletes.

Percy Williams, “Torchy” Peden, “Teddy” Reeve, “King” Clancy, Marvin Nelson have been outstanding examples of men who have overcome great odds and battled their way to championships. But Percy Williams was the fortunate beneficiary of both good coaching and the utmost courage. Bob Grainger always had him fit and ready, but the fighting heart of the champion himself was clearly revealed last August during the Empire Games at Hamilton.

You will recall that on the last day the six fastest sprinter.s in the entire Imperial family were on their marks, were set, and then flashed away with the crack of the gun. Williams speedily grabbed a lead and extended it until at fifty yards he was two yards in front. Then those who watched him closely detected an agonized look on his face. But there was little let-up in his dash until the final five yards, when he slightly limped, and then as he hit the tape he tottered and fell into the arms of Johnny Fitzpatrick. The Vancouver boy had won an Empire championship; his time had bettered ten seconds. Yet halfway down the track he had stepped into a soft spot and so seriously strained a tendon that he has not since appeared in competition. Regardless of the resulting pain he refused to quit, and

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Continued from page Li his fighting spirit carried him over to victory. Yes; determination, courage, fight, can sometimes make champions.

Another British Columbia boy, "Torchy” Peden, had those same qualities. A few years ago this sturdy redhaired Victoria lad began bicycle racing. During three seasons of pedalling he never won a race and he never stopped trying. Then he improved and came East, where his successes became more numerous, but in his Eastern races he was the victim of such bad spills on both board and cinder tracks that often his flesh was burned raw. Yet his fighting heart never weakened. Only last December he was the mast sensational rider in the famous New York six-day bicycle race, and critics now acclaim him as the most promising bicycle racer to appear in years.

Just prior to the opening of the National Hockey League contests the Toronto Í Maple Leafs’ management announced that they had bought a new defense player for $35,000. The usual conception of a defensive star is a stalwart who is big enough to hand out stirring body checks and absorb punishment without showing wear and tear. This highly valued hockey star was “King” Clancy, and Clancy was built along ordinary lines and weighed only 165 pounds; but that comparatively small frame was so surcharged with energy and enthusiasm that he not only had abundant courage to keep himself going but had sufficient surplus to

fire his team-mates with dash and power. Clancy’s fighting spirit wins championships.

Examples of Courage

nrWO years ago Marvin Nelson swam in the Canadian National Exhibition marathon swim and didn’t win a nickel. With only fifty yards to go and a reward of hundreds of dollars awaiting his finish, he had swum himself into a state of such extreme exhaustion that he was taken from the water to avoid drowning. One would have thought that would have broken any man’s spirit but last year he went at it again. He finished first and won the ten-thousand-dollar prize.

Possibly the most determined battler in Canadian sport today is a contributor to MacLean’s—Teddy Reeve. Teddy’s athletic ability is almost unparalleled in Canadian sport. In 1927 he played on Balmy Beach line and they won the Canadian rugby championship; in 1929 he demonstrated his lacrosse talent on the defense of the Oshawa Lacrosse Club, which won the national title; then, just to prove that "Success comes easy,” he joined the Brampton Lacrosse Team in 1930 and once more Dominion honors were attained. Finally, early last December, the Balmy Beach team again won the Canadian Rugby final and Teddy became a four-ply national champion.

In last fall’s game against Hamilton Tigers Reeve was constantly plugging the openings, carrying the ball, encouraging

his fellow players, and altogether performing in a manner that led the crowds to believe he was in perfect physical condition. Later it was revealed that for nearly three-quarters of the game he had been playing with a dislocated shoulder.

In the subsequent game between Balmy Beach and Regina Rough Riders the Toronto team led by only four points, halfway through the last quarter. The Western boys began an assault that was truly terrific. Slowly but surely the Beach’s defensive weakened and almost crumpled as the Rough Riders grimly plowed their way toward what looked like an inevitable touchdown. Regina had the ball on Beach’s twenty-seven-yard line. Coach Ponton decided to interject Teddy Reeve who, because of his injured shoulder, had sat throughout the game on the players’ bench.

Immediately his presence dramatically inspired his team. On the next play Reeve broke through, and Regina’s hurried kick was short. On the first down Beach booted and Reeve galloped down the field and smothered the catcher. Regina again attempted to kick and Reeve crashed through the Western line, blocked the kick and dribbled the ball to the opponents twenty-five-yard line. Then the Toronto team booted to the dead line. The AÍ Ritchie boys were held scoreless during the remaining minutes of the game and Balmy Beach won the Dominion honors.

The fighting heart wins.