Champions Way by Beth Donofrio

“When the town of Venice, Florida, average age 69, produced three high school teams of State Champions and three individual State Champions in one academic year, followed up by three more team State Champions the next year, they knew something magical was happening, and it wasn’t coming from the Fountain of Youth or the sparkling waters of the Gulf. They knew they had found a way to create champions. They knew that champions are made, not born. That’s good news because it means we all have the ability to become a champion in our own chosen field of endeavor.”

In Champion’s Way, the inspiring and engaging nonfiction book written by my cousin, Beth Donofrio, Beth interviews the hometown heroes that have made Venice, Florida one of the winningest cities in high school sports in America. But what makes Venice, Florida so special is that this feat is not only about the coaches and players, but also the teachers, the fans, and the community as a whole. Champions Way celebrates the importance of community, the journey of life and the obstacles we face, both on and off the field.

Throughout the book we meet Champion Coaches, Champion Athletes, Champion Teachers and Champion Fans, all of whom offer life lessons and habits they have learned that have helped them to cutivate the champion within. A common theme heard throughout the words of wisdom given by all the contributors is that in order to reach a goal you have to show up, you have to commit, you will face obstacles and you have to learn to see failures as learning opportunities. Beth talks about the theory of growth mindset, a concept she has explored and led professional development sessions on as a faculty member at Venice High School. The theory explains how increased efforts lead to increased achievement. It is practiced in many Venice High School classrooms and on the playing courts and fields as well. It is not just an idea, but a creed they have come to live by.

If you are a fan of Friday Night Lights, you will LOVE Champions Way. The book is filled with real life Coach Taylors and Matt Seracens. With Tammy Taylors and Tim Riggins. But it is also a book of community, of giving back and of digging deep to find the champion within all of us. In essence, Champions Way is a book of hope in a time when there doesn’t seem to be much. It is a book of self discovery and a reminder that it is never too late to pursue a goal or a dream. And, above all, it is a book of connection, in a time when we all seem to be so separated. Venice, Florida is indeed “Titletown,” but not only for their athletic achievements. They have cultivated a climate steeped in pride and in giving and receiving. It is truly a city of champions.

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