I was recently honored to be on a panel in Cambridge, Mass., with our younger son Todd and Tom Brady, Sr., along with Nancy Brady (Patriot quarterback's father and sister). We had lots of things in common and the audience learned some insider stories about the famous quarterback and the support group that is his family. During the question and answer session, an audience member asked the question that I am most frequently asked after publishing MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS(the story of Todd and his brother in the minor league system from rookie team through "AAA"). We were asked, "When did you know your sons were elite athletes?"
My answer is always the same. As a mom, you keep hoping that your kids have the skills to simply make the team at the next level! Never once did it cross our minds while they were growing up that they would enter the ranks of the pros. After all, we lived in a small town in Rhode Island, and although Tim and Todd were both on all-star baseball and ice-hockey teams, we had a rather small circle of comparison. Our goals athletically never looked beyond the team at the next higher level. Finally, when Tim and Todd were in college and playing intercollegiate ball, we had a more legitimate basis for comparison. At that point, when college coaches were telling us they might be good enough to play professionally, we listened. The major league scouts at the game were tracking them, but they were tracking a lot of other players, too.
Of course, we facilitated our sons' wishes to play at each new level. They attended baseball camp at the University of Maine and hockey camp at Providence College during the summers, and still played all-star baseball and hockey eleven months a year. When college coaches began recruiting them, we took them to a selection of schools to meet the coaches. It was instant like or dislike.
Tom Brady, Sr., agreed with me. He had no idea if Tom would ever continue to play after a disappointing freshman year in high school. Tom was the backup freshman quarterback in San Mateo, California. "Tommy rarely made it off the bench, never threw a touchdown, and his team never even won a game that season," he said. But Dad hired private coaches, sent him to camps, and produced a recruiting video so Tom, Jr., would earn a scholarship to the University of Michigan.
Tom, Jr., was in love with football, just like Tim and Todd loved baseball. Tom was a back-up quarterback at Michigan with big-league dreams. "You don't limit their horizons because of your horizons," Tom, Sr., told the audience. "We got our chance. Now they get their chance."
I added a P.S. to that story: have a back-up plan! In our home, education was the top priority. That was one of my jobs as a mom: to make sure they stayed focused on their studies. Our expectations as parents became their expectations. My other job was always to support their performance on the field, and not to criticize. There were coaches to do that.
In Tom Brady, Jr.'s, case, he probably won't need a back-up plan. But when the seven years of minor league ball were over, Tim and Todd did. By that time, Charley and I knew our kids were gifted athletes, but there were lots of other things they had gifts for, too.
...with thanks to Brooke deLench for her blog on MomsTeam.com