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Lake Wales
Monday, July 22, 2024

This Lake Wales Grandmother is Not Only a Sports Champ Herself, Her Whole Family Are Champions


by James Coulter

Sylvia Hampton is not only a true sports champion herself. Her whole family are sports champs. She started playing sports at the age of 12 after being motivated by watching her older sister at practice.

She attended Boston High School in Boston, Ga., where she played basketball and softball. On the basketball team, she played the guard and forward position; and, in softball, she was a first baseman. She recalls her team winning first place multiple times.

Now, at the ripe age of 84 (turning 85 next month), she is the proud grandmother of 28 grandchildren, 58 great-grandchildren, and 4 great-great grandchildren. Most of her family has since gone on to become sports champions themselves.

Recently, she and her family gathered at the shores of Lake Wailes Park for a family photo shoot and to share their accomplishments. Here are a few notable family members:

Ladesha Stoudemire

School: Winter Haven High School (Graduated 2005)

Occupation: PE Teacher and Basketball Coach (Bok Academy North)

Sports: Volleyball, Softball, Basketball

Championships: Winter Haven Highschool Girls Basketball FHSAA 4A State Champion, NJCAA Division 1 National Champion (Odessa College)

During her student athletic career at Lake Wales High School, this three-sports athlete reached All-State in softball and was ranked as one of the top 5 power forwards in the state of Florida for basketball during her junior year. Upon transferring to Winter Haven High School, she played with the Blue Devils as they won their first state championship in 2005.

She first attended Odessa College for a two-year degree. In her sophomore year, her basketball team won the national championship in 2007. She later transferred to Arkansas State, and later to Clayton State where she graduated in 2011 with a B.S. in Criminal Justice. Her experience allowed her to serve in her current occupation as a PE teacher and basketball coach at Bok Academy North and as an assistant cross-country coach.

She owes her success to growing up in a family of champions, all of whom have inspired her to strive to do her best. Through self-determination and hard work, she has pushed herself past her limits and achieved success and experiences that she now passes down to the next generation through her coaching.

“I owe my success to my mother” as she instilled valuable principles and morals in my life that helped pave the way and built a character centered around determination, pushing myself to the limit, never giving up, having a winning attitude, [and] just developing a winner’s mindset and simply wanting to be great at whatever I want to do in life. Having that attitude and mentality to be better every day and be a better person in general.

Dylan Simmons

School: Lake Wales High School (Senior)

Sports: Football and Baseball

Championship: Lake Wales High School Football Class 3S State Champion (2022).

Being able to go with his home team to the state championship last year felt like an unreal experience to him; yet this high school senior knows that his feat was his own, and it has only inspired him to dream bigger and better, he said.

“It felt so unreal,” she said. “I feel that I achieved everything that I could achieve. My dream now is to go chase another one next year.”

Growing up in a family of champions allowed him to be surrounded by success stories; so, it was only a matter of time until their success rubbed off on him and inspired him to gain his own.

“I feel my motivation is every one that surrounds me,” he said. “I feel that they push me enough to get to that next level and get out of the city and make things be great around me…My expectations are set high right now. I want to go to college and keep moving level to level.”

Jermaine Ward

School: Lake Wales High School (Graduated 1995)

Occupation: Coach (Lake Wales High School)

Sports: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Track

Championship: Lake Wales High School Football Class 3S State Champion (2022).

Other Championships: 89 Lake Wales Steelers and Florida Elite ETA Showcase 2021

Jermaine has been in the game since 1984. As a high school student, he reached the state championship with his team. Now, not only does he help train the next generation as a coach at the school, but he also has a nine-year-old son who plays little league football.

Being able to train the next generation of athletes, whether they be his students or his own children, remains the motivation that keeps him going. Throughout his life, he strived to do his best; and now he is teaching future athletes to do the same.

“I owe my success to these guys, the actual players,” he said. “They got up and did their thing. They trained hard. They were coachable players. And they give it their all.”

Having a grandmother who was a sports champion herself inspired him, and being among a family of champions is all the motivation and inspiration he needs; and it is the same motivation he strives to instill in others as a coach.

“I am expecting Lake Wales High School to win state championship again and to continue winning from this day forward,” he said.

Ranasia Simmons

School: Bok Academy South

Sports: Track, Softball, Basketball

Ranasia first started playing basketball before picking up track and softball. Even to this day, she cannot decide which sport is her favorite, as she has an affinity for all. At the age of 13, she has already begun leaving her footprints in sports. She competed in the Junior Olympics and placed 2nd in the 100 meters and 11th in the 200 meters out of 112 girls in the country. She was arguably coined as the fastest 12-year-old in the state of Florida.

“I want to practice with my dad and my family, to [have them] keep pushing me,” she said. “They are my supporters, so I will keep going because I have a lot of support. I appreciate all of the support that I have…Sometimes, I will think about [family], and I get up and go and do what I have to do, handle my business, and leave [it all on the court].”

Mechalla Ward

School: Winter Haven High School (Class 2010)

Occupation: Victory Ridge Academy.

Sports: Softball, Basketball

Championships: Little League Softball World Series Champion (2005), Winter Haven High School Girl Basketball State Champion (2007)

Mechella’s mother was big on sports. Mechella won her first state championship as a freshman at Winter Haven High School and continued to excel on the collegiate level receiving NJCCA All-American honors her second year in college, shortly before her mother passed away. Since then, even from heaven above, her mother has inspired her to exceed her expectations.

Now as a mother herself, she aspires to be a role model for them, inspiring them as her own mother inspired her. She even helps to motivate the younger members of her family as well as other children in the community by volunteering with basketball. In her first season as Head Coach with the Lake Wales Youth Basketball Association, her team won the 8U Basketball Championship.

“My kids they inspire me,” she said. “I certainly try to be a role model for them and their upbringing in sports. I love sports. So, I am trying to get them to live up to the accomplishments that I have achieved…My expectations are to give back to the community with basketball and also win the championship with Little League.

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