The fast pitch softball team from Jonesborough, the Hit Chicks, are not just another travel team; they are National Champions.

“In 2014, we started our first team, which those kids are in high school now. Most of them are at Boone, but that was our first Hit Chicks team, the ’06 team, which means that is the birth year of the kids on that team, 2006,” said Hit Chicks head coach Steven Croley. “If you think about that, they would have been seven, turning eight when we started.”

Part of the USA Softball Circuit, the triumphant 2009 team is currently undefeated and recently won the East Coast Nationals in South Carolina, beating the Lady Patriots from Charleston, South Carolina.

“These kids will play from eight and under (8U) to 18U. A lot of these dedicated kids started when they were six, some were younger,” Croley said. “The team we put together with the ’09 kids; a lot of them started with me when they were seven. Some we brought in at eight and nine. But we have a core group of three or four that we started with. We call them the ‘OGs.’ They are the coaches’ daughters and maybe one other.”

Croley explained the ’09 team began as a joint team with the ’08 players. But they ended up breaking off into their own independent team.

“We had some of our younger kids, the ’09s starting on that ’08 team. But when that ’08 team moved up, that’s when me and another coach decided to go ahead and put that ’09 on their own path,” he said. “The ’08s moved on and the ’09s separated into their own team. We built that ’09 team around eight and nine year olds.”

Right now in the organization, there are five teams according to Croley, and the 2009 team is batting a thousand.

“In this area, we are one of the top end, maybe THE top end travel team, in this area,” Croley said. “We have a very good track record of winning at a very high level. The 2009 team I coach now, they are able to play 12U through the end of this year.”

“The games in the East Coast National Tournament were an hour and fifteen-min- ute time-limit games, and the game went six innings, scoreless at 0-0,” Croley said. “Then we went into the 7th inning, which is a tie-breaker inning, with a kid starting on second base. They scored two runs that inning, but we came back and won the game 3-2.”

The devoted and enthusiastic 2009 team has played in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, winning six tournament victories, the most recent being the South- ern B Nationals, where they took the trophy and made their standing 30-0.

“Whether it was All-Stars in Little League, travel ball tournaments, Little League World Series or practice, if you have strong enough leadership and you have kids that are willing to put in the work, and you have parents that will trust you to develop your kids, you can make this work,” Croley said. “Success is when you come out to a practice and you hear kids encouraging each other and hear them picking each other up and communicating and see them giving you 100% effort and you know you’re doing something right. Because they get it, you don’t have to ask them for it anymore. They understand, in order for me to play at this level and play in this organization, I have to put the work in.”