I Didn’t Set Out To Raise My Seven Kids As Ballers — But That’s What Happened
By Suzette Ennis
Photo © LinaVeresk/Twenty20
Feb 9, 2021
Becoming a parent was something I always wanted.
In fact, to be the mother of seven inspiring children (Brandon, Dylan, Tyler, Brittany, Dominique, Tyylon and Bryyson) is a blessing! But it never occured to me that basketball could be our future.
Our story starts simply enough. My husband Tony — a former hockey player — decided to help coach a girls basketball team with a friend of his.
While I initially had no interest — I was preoccupied, having just graduated from college — my mother encouraged me to go to the games and show my support. From there, everything snowballed.
From young ages, our two older boys Brandon (6) and Dylan (4) started playing, and their dad was their coach. I went to every game, the proud mother. When our third son Tyler was four my husband and I started coaching his team as well.
And from there, we’ve never looked back and love what the sport of basketball has come to mean to our family.
Interested in learning more about kids in basketball? Watch coach Tony McIntyre lead Ontario's high-profile basketball program here.
What it was like raising a team and a family
Each of our children played basketball from elementary through high school.
Our eldest son Brandon, who played Division 2 for the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), is now a teacher, trainer and coach in Houston.
Our son Dylan had a different journey, but he arrived at the same destination: Division 1.
"I'm their champion, of course, but I'm also their mother, and being away from us was extremely hard for them."
He played his freshman year at Rice University, transferred to Villanova and graduated before finishing up his college career in Oregon. He now plays overseas and is having the time of his life.
And our son Tyler went to Syracuse and did a "one-and-done," which means one year of college basketball before entering the NBA draft. He was a lottery pick, drafted by the Phoenix Suns — the 18th overall pick.
Needless to say, when the ball started rolling, everything got greater. Including the distance.
But this was only just the beginning.
Distanced Family Togetherness
Nowadays, with all my kids in different parts of the world, we make it a priority to always stay in touch.
Even with so much going on, we maintain an active group chat, and we speak every day. This is as important now as ever.
These seemingly small efforts are also our way of supporting each other, wherever we are.
We need this, because our life isn't that normal. From high school, my boys left home to pursue their dreams. I'm their champion, of course, but I'm also their mother, and being away from us was extremely hard for them.
Support is central to achieving success in my opinion, which is why there is always someone to lean on every day, no matter the time zone. Our family makes time.
Susan Goldberg is quick to admit she knows nothing about hockey. But that isn't going to stop her from forming a bond with her kid. Read that here.
What I’ve Learned
I take time to talk to my children when they’re stuck in the car for 4+ hours driving from city to city on road trips. It’s a great way to get to know what’s on their minds — what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling. One thing I know is you can’t love basketball more than your kid does.
Our younger kids are still in basketball. One of our daughters is living her dreams, and she’s realizing that sacrifice is required in order to balance playing the game with a personal life. It’s something I have to believe will come easier in time. But I’ve always been an optimist.
I'll be honest, it’s a little tougher now, even though I’ve been here before with the older boys.
"I communicate, I chauffeur, I do my best. And I aim to love every moment of it."
With Tony coaching and his schedule with his players, it’s usually just me, my older daughter and the two young ones going to games, and that is if Dominique and Tyylon don’t have a game at the same time.
Our second youngest son is playing up in age and our youngest son is following right behind in his brothers’ footsteps. Parenting is a many-hats situation on a good day, but with the addition of raising a family of ballers, it gets more intense — the directions you’re being pulled in are many. And though it’s hard work, I’ve learned that finding ways to stay positive and enjoy the moments with kids is the ultimate payoff.
So that's what I do. I communicate, I chauffeur, I do my best. And I aim to love every moment of it.
Remember the big Raptors victory? Craig Stephens does, and here he reflects on how the team spirit created a stronger bond between him and his daughter.
What You Can Learn From Me
Having seven kids has allowed me to use what I’ve learned from them and pass it on to the players I meet — future generations of athletes. For example, nothing they want will ever come easy, but it will all be worth it.
This is what I say to some players who may feel down, or feel like giving up. Basketball is a tough sport, because every player wants the same thing. And no journey is the same for all basketball players. There are no guarantees in basketball or life.
"... kids are dreamers, and they dream big."
I also try to lead with what I know — what has helped my kids to succeed. I speak highly of having a solid family foundation (whatever that looks like for you), good morals, dedication, drive, trust, loyalty and a willingness to make sacrifices. Because like anything in life that requires work, it’s challenging. There are highs and lows, and the support of a community or family has been the winning formula for our team.
Some might wonder why or how I do it. But ultimately, I hope what I’ve shown you is that kids are dreamers, and they dream big. They want opportunities that may seem out of reach, but that’s where we stepped in to say, positively, that trying requires effort. It requires sacrifice. And most of all, it requires work. And creating a safe and open environment to have these conversations worked, because they listened. And we have years of basketball to show for it. And a happy and healthy family.
It’s a lot of sacrifice, yes. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
Be sure to check out Anyone's Game on Gem, a six-episode series set against the backdrop of the high stakes Grind Sessions of the preparatory basketball circuit. Catch a glimpse of the competitive, high-pressure world of basketball's most successful preparatory program by clicking below.
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