This tribute is to the hundreds of mothers and fathers who support and encourage their sons and daughters in an ever-growing variety of athletic activities. It is appropriate to recognize these parents between Mother's Day and Father's Day to shine the spotlight on those who fill so many vital roles in the lives of their children who participate in sports on the various levels.
Athletes, feel free to add to this list or check the attributes noted that apply to your mom or dad. But above all, take time to thank them for their love and support while they're still around to hear it.
Each might be the taxi driver, fan in the stands, coach, mentor, listener, advisor, care-giver to cure both physical and mental pain, uniform washer, volunteer helper, fund raiser, groundskeeper, scrapbook saver, booster club officer and/or teacher of life's lessons learned through sports.
Since I'm writing this column during a break in our own Mother's Day activities. I will share the qualities of my two favorite mothers - my wife and my own mom who passed away more than 35 years ago. Mom was not an athlete because she never had the chance to be one. She was the caregiver for our family that included her two invalid parents who lived with us during the first ten years of my life. As the oldest of four children, mom virtually raised her three brothers, two of whom were avid sportsmen.
She had a special way of putting everything into proper perspective. I loved all sports and was overly competitive during my playing days. This was a difficult combination for someone who was just an average athlete but possessed a strong desire to win every time there was a challenge. My motto was simple and I lived by it throughout my life. "A strong will beats skill most of the time."
Fortunately, I was usually surrounded by excellent athletes so winning was expected and losing was unacceptable. Mom kept every newspaper clipping, trophy or piece of hardware that I received and always showed her pride even in the smallest accomplishment. She and my father were often in the stands or at a variety of gyms and playing fields.
Mom's comments regardless of the score and my successful or negative contribution to the result was always the same: "You did your best and I'm proud of you," she would say. "Let's go home for a pot roast dinner. I baked your favorite chocolate cake."
Indeed the love that was baked into one of mom's pies or cakes cured all ills.
Dad was an avid athlete who had the rugged constitution of a Scranton coal miner.
Both his parents died while he was still in elementary school. As one of 11 children, there was no time for high school sports as he was forced to work to help support the large family. Therefore, it was only natural that he lived some of his dreams through my efforts. No, he wasn't the type of dad who was critical but rather shared an excellent analysis of each contest with me. As a result of his coaching I began to see that the mental part of the game played a large part in the final score. I give him full credit for sparking my love of coaching. While both parents often attended the games, they somehow got the idea that their presence increased my pressure. I recall how they changed their mind following a college basketball game. I hustled for a loose ball, fell into the first row of the stands and then continued play on the court. After the game, I was surprised to see them.
"You mean you didn't know we were here?" dad asked. "That was my leg you crushed when you landed in the stands."
My wife was the talented athlete of our family. A former Eastern Intercollegiate swimming champion, she made sure that all four of our children were members of a swim team plus had the opportunity to play a variety of sports and activities as they wished.
She logged many miles in our station wagon taking our kids to their games and meets.
Current athletes, please consider the contributions your parents made to your triumphs, both off and on the field. Thank them and pass on their caring when you have children of your own.