28 May 2012, Posted by admin in Packages,Stories, No Comments. Tagged Cincinnati, high schools, journalism, Keith Castner, Lakota, multimedia, New Media Bureau, softball, Steve Castner, University of Cincinnati
The head softball coaches for Lakota high schools focus attention on their players, not on a sibling rivalry.
Story and photos by Danielle Koval
The schools are just eight miles apart. They have a history of success within the community, and their athletes bring a competitive spirit to their games.
And when their softball teams play each other, there is another component to the rivalry – the head coaches are brothers.
Steve Castner has been head softball coach of Lakota East since the split of Lakota High School in 1997. At the same time his younger brother Keith took over at Lakota West. Before the split, Steve had been head coach of Lakota; Keith was his assistant.
Since the split, Keith’s teams have had the edge, with West winning 24 games and East eight.
But the brothers say the games are not about them.
“We try to keep it away from being a Steve and Keith thing or a brother thing because it’s about the girls, and I really mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Keith says. “It’s about the girls; it’s not about us.”
Older brother Steve agrees. He sees many of the players socializing after games. “When the game is over, the game is over,” Steve says.
Keith says he learned a lot about softball from coaching next to Steve at Lakota High.
“Steve was a very intense coach who always tried to push his players to be the best they can be,” he says.
This stuck with Keith. He says of his players, “I want them to be successful. It’s not about teaching them how to bunt and how to field a ground ball – it’s how to deal with life.”
Ainsley Ellison, a fourth-year outfielder at Lakota East, says the coaches bring out the best in them. “I think the coaches have personally pushed me to do things that I didn’t think I could do.”
Experience, friendship and helping teammates in times of need are among the rewards of playing on the East softball team, shortstop Alyssa Grevenkamp says. “You lean on each other.”
Both schools are in the Greater Miami Conference (GMC), one of the oldest high school athletic conferences in Ohio. Lakota West has won four conference championships and Lakota East has won one. Lakota West made a Final Four appearance three times out of last 10 years, in 2005, 2006 and 2011. Lakota East made their first and only appearance in 2010 after defeating Lakota West in the conference championship.
There’s no doubt, the players look forward to the East-West games. “I think those are the games (when) we have the most fun,” Lakota West senior second basemen and catcher Jessica Burke says. “Whether we win or lose, it’s so much fun trying to beat the other school.”
But even though they want to win, the players say there is a family feeling to the games. They’ll get no argument from their coaches.
“They know that we love one another, and hopefully they understand that that is what family is all about,” Keith says.