The “Diamonds in the Rough” essay competition challenged youth ballplayers from ages seven to 14 to enter an essay writing competition explaining how a mentor or unsung hero helped them to find their inner strength and achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle. Twelve-year-old Niko Craniotis won the contest earning him a $5,000 grant and qualifying his essay a chance to earn the grand prize of $10,000 and a spot in a baseball clinic hosted by former New York Yankee Tino Martinez. The grand prize winner will be determined through an online vote. “I found the contest details on a select team Web site and I circulated copies among members of my son's team,” said Sheila Craniotis. “I suggested to my son that he could write about his father, who came this country not speaking the language.” She said that Niko had his own idea. He proceeded to write a story about his best friend, neighbor and teammate, Frankie Shiha, nicknamed 'Double-Trouble.' Niko attends Riverwood Middle School and Frankie attends Willow Creek Elementary. The boys have known each other since they were three. The two met at St. Martha's preschool and played coach-pitch, not tee-ball, together. Niko's 300-word essay tells the story of his friend, Franky, whose leg was crushed in a terrible accident. Niko was inspired by his friend's struggle to return to baseball. Today, both boys play for the select team, the Lake Houston Gators. The Gators are comprised of players from the Lake Houston area, including Kingwood, Atascocita and Humble. “I was thrilled to hear that judges from Briggs & Stratton and the Milwaukee Brewers organization had chosen my son's essay,” said Craniotis. She added that her son will be interviewed by ABC news and the interview will be broadcast on various ABC affiliates at a time not yet determined. Niko was one of 12 regional winners and the only child chosen to participate in the interview. “I was surprised that my essay won,” said Niko. “And I'm excited about the interview. I'm not nervous about the interview because I'm not a shy person and I'll have Frankie there with me.” Frankie said that he was proud that his friend had named him as his unsung hero and that he was also surprised because people usually chose an adult at the person they look up to. Niko said that the $5,000 he was awarded will be used to benefit the team. He said that their field needed some work and that the team would use some of the money to sponsor kids who could not afford baseball camps. Online voting ends May 24. Until that time, essays can be read on line and votes can be cast at www.briggsdiamondsintherough.com. Photo: Niko Craniotis (left) wins $5,000 in the “Diamond in the Rough” essay writing contest. His essay tells of his best friend Frankie Silha, who overcame a serious leg injury and serves as an inspiration to all.
My earliest memories of playing a team sport were at the age of 7, playing coach-pitch baseball in Corpus Christi. Our uniforms were T-shirts with iron-on transfers as team names and numbers, a mesh hat and blue jeans. Despite what would be called primitive at best in today’s sport scene, there was still a lot to learn at such a young age. One of the most important lessons to learn was that of teamwork. In a world that flaunts individuality, the idea of working as a team has become a lost art. Community sports encourage teamwork by teaching important communication skills, creative thinking and valuing the talents of other members. All of which are character traits that will carry significant weight as they progress through life. My favorite lesson is perseverance and discipline. I remember playing on a football team as a third-grader, and it was miserable. We lost every game, only scored one touchdown and I wanted to quit three weeks into the season. My mother refused to let me quit, telling me that I committed to it and had to see it through. Those words have helped mold me into the person I am today. Community sports teach our kids that there are times when there is only one winner. There are times when we learn more by surviving through a tough season versus easily coasting through a winning one. They teach us the importance of respecting our opponents and authority figures. They show us there is value in commitment, even when a trophy might not be within our grasp. These traits emphasize a much greater lesson that is all but forgotten in today’s environment marked by instant gratification; the journey is more valuable than the destination. Community sports reinforce the necessary character traits that will carry our young generation through this journey and those that will await them in the future. I want to encourage you to participate in the lives of your children and others by participating in the various sporting avenues throughout our great community.
Rarely a day goes by during the summer when you cannot find a group of young basketball players hooping it up on the blacktop. From sun-up to sundown, aspiring young athletes work up a feverish sweat as they attempt to perfect their skills and abilities. In order to test progress and help in that growth, they have to play the game against aspiring young stars. That is just what Steve Oakes and the Competitive Basketball League (CBL) have in mind. Formerly the Kingwood Competitive Basketball League, Oakes and partner Rusty Odom have opened up the opportunity to all surrounding areas. Oakes is a college ref for Division I basketball and Odom is a former All American from Kingwood High School and went on to play for UCLA at the pro level. The CBL is a nonprofit organization, funded completely by registration fees, that strives to help develop the youth talent of the area. Not to be thought of as a select league, the CBL is open to all players from K-12th grade. “We offer positive leagues for kids of all ages to help them become a more well-rounded player,” Oakes said. In the past, the league has offered winter, spring and fall leagues with the winter league being the most popular, as more than 800 young players sign up for that season. Due to demand and inquiries from graduating high school players and returning college hoopsters, the CBL has decided to create a summer league for the first time. “We had a lot of players who have played in our leagues before and asked if there was a place they could continue playing when they came home for the summer,” Oakes said. The summer league starts in June and continues into July. Each team will play one or two games a week and most games will be played on the weekends, taking a break for the Fourth of July. All games will be played at The GYM in Humble. Oakes and Odom strive to keep the league as fair and balanced as possible. Each team has mandatory substitutions every five minutes, ensuring that everyone gets to play. Tryouts and drafts are held so teams cannot be stacked with talent and succeeding in education is also emphasized. “We have a CBL Al-Academic team for players who get all As and Bs throughout the school year,” Oakes said. “In fact, 84 percent of our players qualified last year.” The CBL also offers programs for those interested in refereeing games. The junior referee program teaches the rules of the games and trains participants in how to maintain control over the game and the environment. “There is always a referee shortage, so this program has helped produce some much needed whistle-blowers,” Oakes said. Oakes and Odom believe that the key to success on the basketball courts comes from starting them out young. Their middle school leagues are by far the largest and the fall and spring seasons are best for those just starting out. All the seasons correspond with school calendars so there are no conflicts for those involved in extracurricular activities. Registration is currently under way for the inaugural summer season. For more information or to register your aspiring athlete, go to www.cbball.com or call 281-812-9052. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Photo: Now players like James Nichols (left) and Sydney Stephens (right) can transfer their game from the blacktop to the hardwood thanks to the new CBL Summer League. Photo by Heather Orton
The “Diamonds in the Rough” essay competition challenged youth ballplayers from ages seven to 14 to enter an essay writing competition explaining how a mentor or unsung hero helped them to find their inner strength and achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle. Twelve-year-old Niko Craniotis won the contest earning him a $5,000 grant and qualifying his essay a chance to earn the grand prize of $10,000 and a spot in a baseball clinic hosted by former New York Yankee Tino Martinez. The grand prize winner will be determined through an online vote. “I found the contest details on a select team Web site and I circulated copies among members of my son's team,” said Sheila Craniotis. “I suggested to my son that he could write about his father, who came this country not speaking the language.” She said that Niko had his own idea. He proceeded to write a story about his best friend, neighbor and teammate, Frankie Shiha, nicknamed 'Double-Trouble.' Niko attends Riverwood Middle School and Frankie attends Willow Creek Elementary. The boys have known each other since they were three. The two met at St. Martha's preschool and played coach-pitch, not tee-ball, together. Niko's 300-word essay tells the story of his friend, Franky, whose leg was crushed in a terrible accident. Niko was inspired by his friend's struggle to return to baseball. Today, both boys play for the select team, the Lake Houston Gators. The Gators are comprised of players from the Lake Houston area, including Kingwood, Atascocita and Humble. “I was thrilled to hear that judges from Briggs & Stratton and the Milwaukee Brewers organization had chosen my son's essay,” said Craniotis. She added that her son will be interviewed by ABC news and the interview will be broadcast on various ABC affiliates at a time not yet determined. Niko was one of 12 regional winners and the only child chosen to participate in the interview. “I was surprised that my essay won,” said Niko. “And I'm excited about the interview. I'm not nervous about the interview because I'm not a shy person and I'll have Frankie there with me.” Frankie said that he was proud that his friend had named him as his unsung hero and that he was also surprised because people usually chose an adult at the person they look up to. Niko said that the $5,000 he was awarded will be used to benefit the team. He said that their field needed some work and that the team would use some of the money to sponsor kids who could not afford baseball camps. Online voting ends May 24. Until that time, essays can be read on line and votes can be cast at www.briggsdiamondsintherough.com. Photo: Niko Craniotis (left) wins $5,000 in the “Diamond in the Rough” essay writing contest. His essay tells of his best friend Frankie Silha, who overcame a serious leg injury and serves as an inspiration to all.
Most media outlets will complete a “year-end” review in sports. Since the community sports calendars revolve around the high school calendars, it is only fitting that we do a “year-end” review at the end of the school year. It is also a good time for me to reflect on my first experience handling the sports for a community that is exceedingly passionate about its teams. I will not bore you with my personal reflections, so let’s focus on our local sports teams! Everyone knew that Atascocita would find the road a little bumpy this year, in their inaugural season, and that was never truer than in football. In a sport where size and speed does matter, the Eagles were not welcomed kindly, but have a firm foundation to build on. However, their volleyball team became the first AHS team to reach the playoffs and win a playoff game. Basketball spotlighted Kingwood once again as they became the first team to make it to the state championship three years in a row. Mike Singletary and company fell just short this year, but it was a wild ride and one we will always remember. The Lady Wildcats of Humble won their district in basketball and reached the regional quarterfinals before being eliminated by Dulles. Spring brought the basketball season to a close and opened the door for soccer, baseball and softball. Kingwood once again reigned supreme in soccer as both the boys' and girls’ teams claimed district titles and both teams lost in the Regional Final, only one step away from the state tournament. The Humble boys also reached the post-season successfully with the Eagles just outside looking in. Perhaps the biggest story was the Lady Eagles, who in their first year reached the Regional Quarterfinals, losing to state-runner up, Deer Park. Softball proved to be a tough year for AHS and Humble as they watched Kingwood represent the area in the playoffs. After a long battle against La Porte in the first round, the Lady Mustangs ran into top ranked Pearland and were defeated, ending their run. Baseball was hotly contested in the area as a new rivalry started between the Eagles and Mustangs. With Humble rebuilding on the success of previous teams and looking to 2008, Kingwood and Atascocita reached the playoffs intent on making some noise. An early exit for the sophomore-laden Eagles was disappointing, but the Mustangs face Clear Lake as they continue to march toward the finals. Karyn LaCour is defending her track and field state championship while representing Humble and the Kingwood golf team once again made it to state, hoping to bring home the gold. Success was also seen in gymnastics by our schools, as well as tennis, proving that this area is the place to be for competitive and successful high school sports. I don’t know about you, but I am anxiously awaiting the fall and the start of another sports journey.
Recent success of the Humble, Kingwood and Atascocita gymnastics and cheer teams makes it clear that competition in this area is at the highest level. In order to maintain that level of success, competitors must spend hours training and honing their skills. If you are not involved with one of the school teams, where can you go to help take your talent to the next level? Enter the Texas Flip Factory. Longtime residents, Stacy and Kris Williams, along with Barbara Biehunko, are opening a new state-of-the-art gym that will offer individuals and teams a place to practice and train their gymnastic, tumbling and cheer talents. “We really believe in Humble and wanted to bring back a youth organization to the area,” Kris Williams said. “I cheered all through school and now my daughter is involved in it, so now I am able to relive all I enjoyed about those times.” Texas Flip Factory will open in August 2007 and offers over 6,000 sq. ft. of training space for anyone 3 to 18 years old who is serious about being competitive in these sports. It will boast a 42’ x 42’ “flat floor” that is used for high school workouts, a 52’ x 40’ “spring floor” that is a favorite of all-star competitions, a 40’ x 6’ “rod floor” for long tumbling exercises and all the mats and basic apparatus for the beginner to the most advanced participant. They even have plans to build a 500 sq. ft. aerobic studio for parents as their children train in the gym. To make sure they continually offer the best training around, Flip Factory will also have classes for all levels of ability taught by highly accredited instructors. “We are hoping schools will want to come to us to practice and prepare for their competitions, but we are also open to the public and various all-star squads. We are already getting inquiries from as far away as Tarkington,” Williams said. Stacy and Kris Williams are chairmen of the Humble Rodeo Committee and do volunteer work for the Humble Education Foundation and believe their gym will offer a unique experience for the students in this and surrounding areas. “We saw a need for a gym in the Humble area that will give students a place to go and get involved in the growing environment of tumbling and cheer,” Stacy iterated. Located across from St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Issaacks and South Houston Avenue, Flip Factory is easily accessible. For more information on the gym, trainers or classes visit www.texasflipfactory.com. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Photo: Owners and supporters of the Texas Flip Factory held a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday for the new facility coming to Humble on South Houston Avenue at Isaacks Street. Ready to break ground, from left, are Shanna Porten, Connor Porten (in her arms), Barbara Biehunko, Hailey Leahy, Alie Davidson, Lori White, Alyssa Williams, Kris Williams, Stacy Williams and Camrin Porten (front). Photo by Patsy Oliver

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