This article is part of our series to support Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC)'s Moms Got Game campaign. Learn more about how to participate in this great initiative. Share your story for a chance to win great #MomsGotGame prizes.
By Neil Becker
You can never underestimate the strong influence mothers with a sports background have on their children.
A great example of this comes from an intriguing opinion article written by Arianne Brown, entitled ‘Arianne Brown: Mom’s need to claim their athletic genes.’
In the article, Brown talked about how prior to getting married and having kids, she excelled in such sports as varsity soccer and basketball; she was even awarded a scholarship in track. All her life, she has run various races, and as an adult, still relishes competition.
Brown went into detail about her competitive kids aged 14, 11, and 10, along with a couple of daughters, who excel at cross-country running, soccer, basketball and tumbling.
Surprisingly, this athletic mom admitted that when she witnessed her kids in sports doing something amazing, she felt that her kid’s athletic genes came from her husband.
However, according to the article, that perspective all changed one day when Brown’s oldest son, Anderson, needed a pace setter for his running workout.
Because her husband was unavailable, Brown herself was more than happy to step in, and it turned out to be a rewarding enriched experience. The first workout consisted of a 1-mile run to be completed in under 6 minutes and thirty seconds, followed by an 800-meter run to be finished in under 3 minutes. Afterwards, there was a 400-meters run to be completed in under 1 minute and thirty seconds, followed last but not least by a 200-meter sprint in under 40 seconds.
“To my surprise, I completed the workout without a hitch, being able to help my son to his goal pace,” Brown said in the article. “And when we were done, he looked at me with a mix of unbelief and pride. I could see in his eyes that he was proud of me, and that look he gave me changed everything.”
Brown also went on to add, “I knew that he knew he had a strong Mom. For the first time, I felt like I could claim his athletic ability as something I contributed to. Yes, he was strong like Dad, but he was strong like Mom, too. He knew it, and I finally did too.”
A second illustration of the strong influence an athletic mother can have on their children centers on Sonya Curry and her two NBA playing sons, Stephen Curry and Seth Curry, along with daughter Sydel Curry, who excelled in volleyball at Elon University.
This of course is the same Stephen Curry who plays for the Golden State Warriors and Seth Curry who plays for the Philadelphia 76es. Chances are, if you’re an NBA fan, then you’ve seen Sonya Curry on television at the NBA games enthusiastically cheering.
In retrospect, it’s not surprising that Curry had such athletic children, given her impressive background in sports. During her tenure at Radford High School, she made her mark by starring in volleyball, and basketball where she won various state championships. She also excelled at track and field.
Following high school, Sonya Curry attended Virginia Tech where she not only earned a degree in Education, but also awarded all-conference honours in the Metro Conference as a junior in volleyball. As fate would have it, at this time she met her husband, former NBA star Dell Curry.
Back in spring 2019, point-guard Stephen Curry, who is a seven-time All-Star, and has won three NBA championships, went on Today and #3rd Hour Today and gave some strong praise towards his mother.
She’s “Always been the encourager in our family and the one that has given me the most understanding of who I am as a person and an individual.” He went on to add, “And she is just like so fierce and bold and to the point direct, that I tell her I get my grit and my competitiveness and my fire from her.”
During the 2019 NBA playoffs, history was made when in May, for the first time, two brothers went head-to-head in the Western Conference Finals. Stephen Curry was with the Warriors and Seth was with the Portland Trailblazers.
Following a series opening 116-94 Warriors Game 1 Conference Finals win, Sonya Curry told The New York Times, “It was wonderful. I got to see my oldest son do what he does and he himself. I got to see my younger son in his first playoffs, going for a championship and filling his role. I feel like he did great.”
Naturally, Stephen, Seth and daughter Sydel were helped and guided by not only their father Del, but their mother as well. These two are always a fixture at their son’s NBA games.
The third example centers around a historic name in the UFC and WWE circuit; former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion and 2018 UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, whose fans might not realize has a famous mother. Rousey’s mom, AnnMaria De Mars, was a sixth-degree black belt who made her mark in 1984 when she became the first American to be victorious at the world judo championships.
“I love being Ronda’s mom, just like with all my kids,” DeMars told USA Today Sports. “But, believe it or not, that is not the only thing I do.”
DeMars trained Ronda from the age of 11 until 13 years old in judo. Years later, she opened eyes at the 2008 Summer Olympics by winning bronze and becoming the first American to win a medal in women’s judo.
Shortly afterwards, Rousey entered the MMA octagon and had immediate success as she was victorious in her debut fight for King of the Cage. Eventually, her stock as a fighter got even higher as she went to Strikeforce and earned the final Strikeforce Women’s Championship, before the company was bought out by UFC. Continuing to make history, Rousey’s fame grew as she was in the first UFC female bout, which saw her pull off a successful UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship title defence against Liz Carmouche.
Rousey would put her name in the UFC record books for six successful title defences, which was a record among the female division.
Following UFC 207, when Rousey lost her fight in the opening 48 seconds of the first round against Amanda ‘The Lioness’ Nunez, there was a lot of criticism from the internet aimed at Rousey. However, staying firmly in Rousey’s corner was her Mom, who wrote a strong letter of support for her daughter on her blog.
Here is some of what she said in defense of her daughter:
“All of those who have criticized Ronda for taking a loss so to heart, for not, just shrugging it off don’t understand that what made Ronda so successful is that she cares DEEPLY about winning to an extent that I don’t understand that what made Ronda so successful is that she cares DEEPLY about winning to an extent that I don’t believe the average person can wrap his/her head around. Caring deeply about something and working your hardest to achieve it doesn’t mean you make the right decisions 100% of the time. Wouldn’t it be a nicer world if it did? Those of you who want to criticize Ronda, I just want to point out a few things. First of all, I know her better than you and she is a smart, kind, talented, generous hard -working person.
Second, I’d like to list some of her accomplishments, and note that she isn’t yet 30 years old.
- Junior World Judo Champion
- Panamerican Games Judo Gold Medalist
- First American woman in a decade to win a world cup in judo (and then she went on to win several more)
- U.S. Open Gold Medalist
- -World Judo Championships Silver Medalist
- Olympic Bronze Medalist
- U.S. Senior National Champion
- First UFC World Champion
- First woman to make a million dollars in martial arts
- Co-authored sports book of the year-My Fight/Your fight
- Acted in three movies.”
That was just part of the public letter that Rousey’s Mom wrote.
Following her MMA career, Rousey made her wrestling debut at the 2018 Royal Rumble. Later, she earned the Raw Women’s Championship at SummerSlam. She eventually lost the title at WrestleMania 35 in a women’s main event triple threat match.
Turning back to basketball, a fourth example of the strong influence a mother involved in sports can have on their children is 2012 Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Pamela McGee. She is also the first WNBA player to have a son drafted in the NBA and a daughter drafted in the WNBA. Her son JaVale McGee was drafted 18th overall in the 2008 draft by the Washington Wizards, while daughter Imani McGee-Stafford was selected by the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.
“As a McGee, I taught my children that we would always be resilient,” Pamela McGee told The Mercury News. “No matter what people throw at you, you will always come back. Because that’s what you do.”
McGee taught her son about sacrifice and hard work. She stated in that same article,
“You have a responsibility to respect the sacrifice. You have to work hard. And if you don’t work, I’m going to make you work harder. We’ll get up every single day at 5 in the morning and work.”
JaVale McGee would go on to be a three-time NBA champion, having won two with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018 and a third in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“My mother kept it real with me from a young age and I feel that was necessary, especially being a Black [son],” he says in an article for SLAM. “She knew the Black man that I was going to grow up into.”
Pamela McGee’s many accomplishments include consecutive NCAA championships at USC, helping the USA Women’s basketball team claim Olympic gold in 1984, being second overall pick in the 1997 WNBA draft, and of course, elected in 2012 in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
After college, Pamela McGee played basketball overseas in places like Brazil, Italy and Spain while caring for her nine-month-old son.
Though she’s too young to remember her Mom’s career, McGee-Stafford has seen the highlights and knows what kind of player she was.
“I know she’s in the (women’s basketball) Hall of Fame, that she’s an Olympic and all that, but it’s way different when you experience it, and hear other people say, ‘Your mom’s a beast.’”
No matter the sport, there is no denying the important influence athletic mothers have on their children.