Hard work beats talent: how two LZHS athletes significantly improved with hard work over time


Photo by Photo used with permission of Danny Soto

Adam Cupples, Sports Editor

Certain athletes try a sport for the first time and give up quickly because they believe that with their raw skills, they have no shot at ever succeeding. However, there are other athletes who persevere through these tough times and end up improving dramatically over the following years. The following athletes fall into the latter and exemplify the cliche “Hard work over time beats talent”.

When Grace Loverde, junior, first tried out for golf, she initially did not enjoy the sport and went into tryouts with a sense of uncertainty; however, she decided to try out anyway and says she does not regret that decision for an instant.

Although Loverde was unsure about joining golf, Mel Fox, girls golf coach, says she is glad that Loverde made the decision to try out for and ultimately improve in golf.

“I was very happy when Grace came out for the golf team freshman year,” Fox said.  She was a freshman willing to learn the game so that she could become a better player. She improved that year from a beginner to a player who could be competitive on the JV team. I think one method Grace used to improve her golf game was practicing with her dad on the weekends during the season, which led to her improving quickly.”

One of Loverde’s biggest influences for her golf improvement was her dad, according to Loverde,  along with one of her friends and fellow teammate.

“[My dad] always wanted me to play golf but didn’t want to push me to do it if I didn’t love it. But, when he saw me play, he told me that I could be really good, and I really believed it. I wanted to be really good,” Loverde said. “Another person who helped me want to improve is my friend Bry [Hogan]. She definitely gave me a run for my money being one of the best on the team, but I’m so grateful she tried out. She has become one of my dearest friends and constantly pushes me to be the best player I can be: not letting me quite or doubt myself, and always telling me how great I am.”

As Loverde improved, she also made a significant impact on the golf team during her junior and senior seasons, Fox says.

Grace [is] a pleasure to have on my golf team,” Fox said. “She brought her average down to 50 at the end of her junior year, and I was so happy for her when she shot a 91 as her lowest 18 hole score ever, at the IHSA Regional Golf Tournament in September 2017. That was the day I knew she was totally committed to becoming a better player and willing to put in time to improve her game.

In order to improve her golf game, Loverde practiced often while also working on her self-image and confidence.

“Since the minute I started playing, I told myself, ‘I can’t stop working.’ I wouldn’t let myself end on a bad round. Now, I practice year-round and go [practice] three times a week for two hours each day, but the biggest part of improving is self-image. You can’t expect yourself to be good until you believe you are good. You have to have confidence in yourself to succeed and I’m still working on that to this day.”

Also still working on his self-image and confidence, Danny Soto, senior cross country and track runner, has also significantly improved as well as a runner.

“My initial experience with running was very different from what I experience on a day to day basis currently,” Soto said. “Initially, it was hard to run even a mile a day because I basically had no experience running prior to my freshman year. I had run zero miles before entering high school.”

Though Soto only started running four years ago, JB Hanson, boys cross country and track coach, says he noticed Soto had an eagerness to learn and improve as a freshman.

“My first impressions of Danny was that he was honest, respectful, and eager to learn,” Hanson said. “I already knew his family from coaching his older brother, and I knew they would be supportive of him in pursuing his goals. I knew he would be held to a high moral standard by his parents and older brothers [too].”

Both of Soto’s brothers were a key part in helping him improve as a runner, he says, but Soto also credits himself for his growth.

“I think [my brothers] definitely influenced my training,” Soto said. “I definitely look up to them. They were better runners than I am, but they definitely supported me as much as possible. However, I think that I was my own biggest motivator. Initially, I joined cross country to lose weight, but, after a couple of weeks, I realized that losing weight shouldn’t be my main reason for running. The reason I should be running is to become the best runner I can be, and, as I started to improve my freshman year, I realized that running was actually a lot of fun. I thought, ‘I want to get better at this,’ so I worked hard and got to where I am today.”

His determination to work hard has allowed Soto to improve drastically through the years, Hanson says.

“Danny showed he was a hard-working, goal-oriented person right away. His character was evident in his consistency and focus from his very first cross country season,” Hanson said. “While he may not have experienced dramatic improvements in his first cross country season, it was clear that he had a desire to excel, and when that passion is present, it is just a matter of time before the results catch up with the process. It was probably during Danny’s freshman track season that he started raising some eyebrows. I think he ran 5:20 or so for the mile that spring, which was incredible considering he could only muster an 8:00 mile about six months prior.”

In order to improve in high school athletics, Soto says being consistent with your training is the only way.

“Honestly, if you love a sport and you truly want to become great at it, you just have to keep working hard because hard work over time beats talent,” Soto said. “Giving advice to someone who is a cross country runner is a little different than giving advice to someone who plays a sport that cuts because if you aren’t given an opportunity, you can’t show how good you are. No matter what sport you play, if you really love it, you should work hard to improve yourself.”