Published on July 18th, 2013 | by Shellie Ward


Sports Parents that Influenced my Parenting Style

There was a time when a kid’s talent was discovered in P.E. class.  The kid was put on the school team, and their talents were nurtured.  Now-a-days, parents play a key role in the success of an athlete. When you hear about the back stories of the athletes, it usually includes the efforts of the parents. Some of these young athletes have been working on their sport longer than most adults have been working for one company.  Parents are building websites that highlight their kid’s sporting careers, pull their kid out of school for a home-schooled education, some are personally coaching their own kid, or sending their kid off to be trained by top coaches.

To guide a child’s athletic career takes personal sacrifice. Not only is it your time, and money (and lots of it), but it’s also keeping your athlete grounded spiritually. The driving force for me is that I am helping my children create a legacy that may (or may not) make life more meaningful, and allows for more choices and financial freedom.

With that said, here is my list of parents who march to the beat of their own drum. I  respect and model my parenting style after these super parents with capes in the wind! KUDOS!!


Drum roll please……..

  1. Young Tiger Woods with his parents.Earl and Kultilda Woods–   The year was 1997 and both Tiger Woods and I began working for one of the coolest companies on earth…..Nike.  Tiger was all the rage and rocked the golf world. The story of his parent’s involvement was a focal part of this phenomenon. His father had him on the golf course at the early age of three.  He banged on pans so that Tiger could concentrate through anything.   After he wins a tournament, Tiger usually makes a B-line right towards his mother. Although Earl is deceased, it is well know through the golf world, of the impact he had on Tiger’s career. Today, you can still catch his mother present at his tournaments with poise and grace.


2. Debbie Phelps–   Schlepping the kids to different swim practices, at different facilities, and competitions is something I can certainly identify with. Michael is the youngest of her children, but also has two older daughters that had pretty awesome swim careers themselves, I tip my hat to her! I have such an appreciation for her grind because I’m in the midst of it myself, and if she can do it, then so can I! I couldn’t leave her off of this list considering my own daughter knows her by name…..

3. Richard WilliamsRichard Williams with his daughters Venus and Serena.....in the beginning. The father of Venus and Serena Williams is a force to be reckoned with.  Producing not one but two of  tennis’ beloved and iconic players! Richard had a rigorous and intense schedule for his daughters and helped them to make their way to the top.  With tennis being a traditionally white sport, it did not stop Richard from having the vision for his daughters to become legends in the tennis world.

4. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy–  I instantly became a fan of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy after watching the 2009 Academy award winning movie The Blind Side. The Tuohys are the foster parents of Baltimore Ravens, offensive tackle Michael Oher. Sean and Leigh Anne took Michael’s somewhat hopeless situation, and helped to put him on a different path. Leigh Anne being the driving force, set goals and expectations with tough love and made no apologies along the way.

  1. Mother of Donovan McNabb5. Wilma McNabbMother of NFL Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb, made her OWN money by starring in the Campbell soups campaign called “Mama’s Boy”. The campaign debut in the 90’s with a “TV mom”. Wilma said she could play herself just fine.  Way to go Wilma for being irreplaceable!





6. Natalie Hawkins– – The mother of Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas, gives risk-taking to another level.  Allowing her minor child to move across the country to pursue her dream was probably the toughest decision of her life!   I can’t imagine the ridicule she must have received for taking the risk, but it paid off. 

Mr. and Mrs. Colander7. John and Hortense Colander– The Colanders are the parents of track star and gold medal Olympian Latasha Colander-Clark. It is because of this couple, that I know  parental support is a significant part of the effort to becoming a world class athlete.  I grew up with their daughters and witnessed the evolution of a track star. Last year I went to visit with the Colander clan so that my daughter, Haven, could meet Latasha and see an Olympic gold medal first hand. I wound up having a ton of question for her parents, as I realized that could be on the same path in raising an athlete. It always amazed me that their daughters, for the most part, never felt more important than the other.  That is something I am very conscious of. The Colanders had the biggest impact on how I manage my children’s sporting careers.


As I raise my daughters, and navigate through what seems like un-chartered territory, I’d like to give thanks and credit to these spectacular parents for setting a precedence that is helping  to shape my parenting style. Some are famous and some are not, but they all have one thing in common, their children are successful, supreme, world class athletes….

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