The warnings were offered unsolicited every time Roy Romero told someone that he was going to coach the La Canada High softball team.
From friends, acquaintances, anyone who knew anything about softball. And from anyone who thought they did.
The comments and advice were varied, but the message was always the same.
Watch out, those kids are spoiled. They won't listen.
"Everyone said, 'You know you're pretty tough, you're a disciplinarian, it may not work,' " said Romero, who had coached softball at various levels for nine years.
At first, the naysayers proved prophetic. Romero, 44, rankled a few players' nerves when he scheduled practice for a day school was out.
"I stepped on a few toes," Romero said. "We had some rough times that first month. We had more than one team meeting."
Despite subtle resistance, Romero insisted to the school administration that the infield be resurfaced with brick dust. He painted the backstop and emblazoned the school's nickname upon it. He edged the grass infield and implored his players to wear their uniforms correctly and to look sharp.
"We just tried to instill pride in them," said Romero, whose staff includes assistants Larry Brushette and Bill Freyburger. "We wanted to let them know that it was their program, that they were representatives of the community and all that."
The work and patience have paid off.
Entering this week, La Canada was 11-0 overall and ranked second in the Southern Section 2-A Division and third in the state.
"Most of the team just wasn't used to a structured practice where you're working all of the time," said senior pitcher Janelle Campbell, who played for Romero on youth teams. "After a few weeks, people caught on and now they like it."
Campbell and senior catcher Lori Vine are the cornerstones of a La Canada team that features 10 seniors and has been beating opponents with solid pitching and defense.
Campbell, who will attend Indiana on a softball scholarship next year, is 7-0 with a 0.12 earned-run average.
"Janelle gives you a lot of little ground balls and pop-ups, but she doesn't blow anybody away," Romero said. "You have to play defense behind her and that's what we've been getting all season."
The Spartans' proficiency on defense can be traced to their first month of practice, which was spent relentlessly repeating drills to sharpen their fundamentals.
"It was, 'This is how you catch it. This is how you throw it. This is how you hit it,' " Romero recalled. "It was ugly."
It was also worthwhile.
La Canada opened its season in the Glendale tournament. There, the Spartans blitzed Louisville, 10-0, in the first round, then shut out Chaminade, 2-0, before defeating Antelope Valley, 3-1, to advance to the final.
That set up a showdown with powerful Glendale, probably the best team in the Glendale area. Unfortunately, rain forced the cancellation of the championship game, and administrators have been unable to come up with an open date for both teams that would allow them to settle the local rivalry.
In the meantime, La Canada has rolled to an 8-0 record in Rio Hondo League play and appears to be on the way to its first league title in 10 years.
Along with Campbell and Vine, both of whom are batting .350, La Canada is getting a solid performances from third baseman Heather Blanche, shortstop Julie Nelson, second baseman Kim Tibbetts and first baseman Marsha Hinckley.
Outfielders Stephanie Kobayashi, Shannon Hendler and Alisa Ellis have also been instrumental in the Spartans' success.
"We keep getting better," Romero said. "I would be disappointed now if we didn't go undefeated through the regular season."
Should La Canada complete that feat, the Spartans are likely to gain an excellent seeding for the Southern Section playoffs. However, the road to the 2-A title runs directly through Corona, which is ranked No. 1 in the state.
"(playoff success) all hinges on our hitting," Romero said. "It keeps getting better and better and better. But it has to get another 25-30% better to have a competitive shot at the championship."
Vine believes the Spartans are on the right track toward that goal.
"We started at ground zero at the beginning of practice and we've worked hard as a team," she said. "Everyone is playing with their hearts. They want to win."