Special bonds: Mothers and their athletes

nuandrea
Andrea and Laura Hecker

Many mothers and children have special bonds, especially if they have athletics in common. Here is a glimpse at some love connections between mother and child. 

Andrea Hecker, mother of Laura Hecker, West Chester Henderson freshman, cross-country and track.

She laughs when she thinks about it now, but Andrea didn't foresee Laura blossoming into much of an athlete when she was younger. At least not one who had to hurry.

"She always flapped her arms like a bird when she ran," Andrea said.

Eventually, Laura stopped trying to fly and directed more attention to her feet on the ground. But it wasn't easy. Laura said she was not a natural athlete and that it took sustained prodding from Andrea to get her out of the house.

"She made me do sports," Laura said. "I didn't want to do track, but now I like it so much. She made me active."

These days, Andrea celebrates Laura's running success by posting action pics and selfies and team photos of Laura and her teammates on Facebook, and she loves it when the girls get together off the track.

"She always gives 100 percent," Andrea said.

And no more flapping.

 

Annina Clibanoff, mother of Austin, Michael and Matthew Clibanoff, La Salle lacrosse

Annina calls them Speedy, the Bruiser and the Bear, and she has long watched her three sons compete for attention and success. It used to be which boy could build the best play fort or eat the most Oreos the fastest. These days, the three brothers play on the La Salle High School lacrosse team, so they focus on beating the other team more than each other.

And as La Salle advanced deep into the state playoffs this season, they did that just fine.

Austin, who just graduated and is headed to play lacrosse at Lehigh, is Speedy, a midfielder. “He runs by everybody on the field,” Annina said.

Michael and Matthew, junior twins who have already orally committed to Ohio State, are separated by 57 minutes. They are the Bear and the Bruiser, respectively.

Michael, the older of the twins, is a goalie and generally more quiet than his brothers. But when he gets on the field, and the action is intense, “He turns into a bear,” Annina said.

Matthew, an attack, is boisterous and physical. “He’s not a bully,” Annina said. “He’s, um, a bruiser.”

The trio took their turns in soccer, baseball, football and basketball when they were younger but found their niches on the La Salle lacrosse team. They separated themselves from the other players through their finesse and strength and coordination.

“They work hard. They are persistent,” Annina said.

About her, the trio of sons agree. Her support and encouragement has sustained them. They never felt pressured to play. She never misses a game.

“And she has never complained about all she has had to do,” Austin said.

“And she is the first to congratulate us after a win or say ‘Good game’ after a loss,” Michael said.

“And she has good time management,” Matthew said. “She has four kids,” he said, referring to their older sister, Bridget.

Annina likes it that other parents compliment her on the behavior of her sons. “They have good hearts,” she said.

And she likes it that they see the bigger picture.

“They like to be on the team, like to be part of something bigger than themselves,” she said. “They are good team players.”

As for who built the best play fort or ate the most Oreos back in the day, no one said. But it was unanimous as to who enjoys their lacrosse games the most.

“She does,” each son said.

Nickeya James, mother of Naseir “Pop” Upshur, Imhotep Charter senior, football

Nickeya loved Allen Iverson from Day 1. And she knew boxing and football, too. So when her 5-year-old, Naseir, took a liking to both basketball and football, she was “all in.” And she had a plan.

“I’m the mom you don’t want to see,” Nickeya said once and then again to drive the point home. And she isn’t sorry.

From the start, she shouted instructions to Naseir from the stands. She stayed at practices to make sure he got the correct instruction. She discussed playing time with the coaches. And he loved it.
“She knows more about football than a lot of guys,” Naseir said.

“He was always very protective of me when he was little,” said Nickeya, who lost a brother to street violence. “He was my little man. So I had to be protective back.”

Whatever she did worked. Naseir was called “Mr. Football” by teammates and friends as a youth player and is headed from Imhotep to Florida State this fall on a football scholarship.

Nicknamed “Pop,” Naseir was called “Pumpkin Seed” by his mom as a child and “Poppy” in middle school. Then somebody told her that “Poppy” didn’t fit a 6-foot-3, 245-pound tight end.

“I want to show her how I feel about her by buying her a new car, a new house,” Naseir said. “The motivation she taught me has meant a lot.”

“He stuck to the script,” Nickeya said. “We had a plan. He got good grades. He did it all. No matter what happens I will never forget that.”

Kate McCoy, mother of Rylie Hijosh, Owen J. Roberts sophomore, softball and field hockey

Kate knew it days after Rylie was born. She was just 5 pounds, 4 ounces, but nothing was going to stop this girl. When Kate put Rylie on her stomach in her crib to take a nap, Rylie routinely arched her back and twisted her neck and tried to flip back over.

“It was always, ‘Watch me. Watch me,’ ” Kate said with a laugh. And people have watched Rylie ever since.

After dismissing soccer — she was “miserable,” Kate said — Rylie fell in love with softball and field hockey, and Kate has spent the last few years driving from game to practice to camp to tournament and back again.

Along the way, she has marveled at Rylie’s dedication to improvement. “She can’t sleep over with friends some weekends because she has a tournament,” Kate said. “She can’t do this or that because she has to play or practice.”

And, while Rylie does not complain, Kate sometimes wonders if it’s all worth it. Then a coach or a teammate or some other adult will comment to Kate about how coachable, motivated and downright nice Rylie has become.

“They call her an example on and off the field,” Kate said.

Rylie is practical. “My mom packs me the right food, keeps me hydrated, takes me everywhere,” she said.

Not being there is not an option for Kate. Watch Rylie? Not a problem.

“I love watching her play,” Kate said.

Christine Warren, mother of Josh Warren, Downingtown West senior, basketball

Christine simply could not believe it. Her husband and daughter said it was so, but she would have none of it. They told her baby Josh would bawl for hours when she left the house to go to class for her Masters.

“They said he would cry as soon as I left,” Christine said. “But when I got home he was always sleeping like an angel.”

Secretly, Christine said, she loved the idea that Josh missed his mom so much that he cried and cried. “He wanted me,” she said.

Now a star basketball player at Downingtown West and headed to Cornell to play hoops, the 6-foot-9 teenager still appreciates his mom.

“Every decision I’ve ever made in my life my mom has supported me,” Josh wrote.

Christine said, “And why not?” Josh loved to ski when he was young, but the family gave up their mountain home when he was 10. So he switched to football and basketball and worked hard to become a star.

“He’s the nicest, most respectful kid,” Christine said. “He has a soft heart.”

Josh does not wonder how he got it.

“She’ll do anything to help me be successful, and I could not ask for anything more,” Josh wrote. “I know my mom is my biggest fan, and I love knowing she has my back through it all.”

That, Christine believes.

Lisa Steinman, mother of Jack Steinman, Abington senior, basketball and volleyball

Lisa knew her Jack was quiet. Smart, too. But really quiet. And not too aggressive. When the other elementary school boys were jostling around the soccer ball, Jack was usually off to the side, watching and waiting.

"He was like, 'What are you guys doing that for?' " Lisa said.

As a result, perhaps, Jack didn't make the cut on a few teams in seventh grade. Then, he broke his toe at the start of eighth-grade football. But the coach let him be on the team anyway, and he wound up playing late in the season after he healed.

"We saw his potential, and he really got motivated after those disappointments," Lisa said.

Now, Jack is a captain on the basketball team, a volleyball star and headed to college.

"She was always there for me," Jack said. "Support. No matter what, she supported me."

Said Lisa, "Most proud? He never gave up."

Donean Parker, mother of Jamal Parker, Camden Catholic senior, basketball and football

Donean, a track athlete herself at Camden Catholic, saw that Jamal was a sporty son as soon as he could stand. By the time he reached middle school, Jamal was practicing basketball and football all day all year with anyone who would join him - and by himself when no one could.

"The only thing he couldn't practice all the time was wrestling because he needed a partner," Donean said.

She wore out lots of blankets and spent many weekends watching young Jamal run at his youth track meets. At home, he would ask his father and grandfather to throw the football where he couldn't catch it so he could practice diving for it.

"He had a natural desire," Donean said.

But she is proudest that Jamal, nicknamed "Mally," learned humility.

"He would get frustrated, so we had some teaching moments," she said. He would say to her, "I'm not the best one here." She would reply, "You can be No. 2 and still be great."

Jamal remembers that.

"She taught me to stay humble," he said. "Always do my best. Never settle."

Said Donean, "He shines from within."