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High Schools | COACH OF THE YEAR

Gatson Takes One for the Team

June 26, 2004|Martin Henderson

About three weeks into the season, when his team seemed to lack the proper commitment and chemistry, Ontario Christian Coach Steve Gatson decided his shoulders were broad enough to carry the burden of bad guy.

"There were issues on the team that needed to be dealt with," said Gatson, The Times' softball coach of the year after guiding the Knights to the Southern Section Division V title. "If there was someone they needed to be unhappy with, I wanted to be that guy."

So, he would no longer be their friend. Camaraderie developed among the players as they turned to one another and focused on "how cruel the coach is," instead of focusing on each other, Gatson said.

"I asked them at the beginning of the season, and they collectively said [the section finals] is where they wanted to go," said Gatson, in his fourth season at Ontario Christian. "Three weeks into the season, we weren't heading that direction."

The result? Quarterfinal and final victories over seeded teams, the latter a 1-0 upset of defending champion and fourth-seeded Sun Valley Village Christian.

The victory gave the Knights (25-5) -- with two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior in their starting lineup -- their first title since 1978 in their first trip to the finals since 1983.

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