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Home / Articles / Columnists / Sports Feature /  Fathers And Sons – And The Mothers Who Raise Them
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Wednesday, June 5,2019

Fathers And Sons – And The Mothers Who Raise Them

By Mark Tudino  

 

As we sit between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I’m thinking about the importance and influence mothers and dads have had – not only on our lives, but on the lives of stars in the sports world. I realize we could begin with the countless stories of sacrifices made, especially by parents of Olympic athletes, who spent hours ferrying their children to and from practices, competitions and training sessions. Detailing their accomplishments would take up 10 of these columns, and while certainly worthwhile, it would unintentionally muddy the purpose of this message. Instead, let’s focus on those parents who I believe exemplify the mental and emotional toughness that was passed on to each of these champions.

 

First up, Richard Williams, hometown, Compton, California – father to Venus and Serena Williams. One may disagree with his methods, his temperament and his motives, but no one can argue with his results. Two of the finest women tennis players of all time, the sisters Williams have won a combined 30 major championships. Let that sink in for a moment: They have won more championships than Billie Jean King, Margaret Court and Monica Seles put together.

Also in that vein, since we’re talking tennis, Gloria Connors.

Hometown, Bellerive, Illinois – mother to James Scott Connors (also known as Jimmy). His records include eight major tennis championships, and when Gloria Connors (and her mother, known as “two mom” to little Jimmy) put a racket in his hands, they imbued him with a drive and ferocity to be successful. Brash, outspoken and at times, vulgar, Jimbo rode that crest to a Hall of Fame career, and is generally accepted as one of the top 10 men’s players of all time.

Lest we stay only in individual sports, let’s move to basketball – specifically, college basketball. Let me introduce you to Press Maravich, hometown, Aliquippa , Pennsylvania – father to “Pistol” Pete Maravich. I realize others could fit this bill, but I chose the Maravichs because of the complicated relationship between father and son. While the dad bounced between college jobs, his greatest accomplishment was to create, arguably, the most gifted player to ever to lace up a pair of sneakers. Don’t think so? Go check YouTube for his highlights; 30 minutes later you’ll want more. But Pete, at times, resented his father’s command over his life and like many prodigies, he had issues – alcohol chief among them. Yet by the end of Pete’s life, father and son had reconciled; it’s just a shame the athletic world couldn’t experience more of his genius.

We could name dozens of others, but I wanted to present a cross section of choices; black, white, man, woman – it didn’t matter; the common denominator was a burning desire to succeed, and in turn, to have their children succeed. It would serve you well to remember that this Father’s Day when a golf champion is crowned at the U.S. Open and someone’s dad or mom could be the biggest reason they are there.

 

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