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Mother Knows Best

Our moms do a lot for us, and we should celebrate them everyday. But that’s especially true on Sunday, which is Mother’s Day. To mark the occasion, we asked four star athletes to share the wise words from mom that helped prepare them for success.

Work Now, Play Later
Advice from Danielle Payton, mother of Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton

"Growing up, my mom always advised me that it was important to take care of my work before I played," says Elfrid. "I wasn't allowed to play basketball or hang out with my friends until all my homework was done. My mom always wanted us to prioritize work before play because she wanted to make sure we knew where to focus our efforts throughout our lives. To this day, I make sure that I take care of any work obligations first because my mom's voice in my head is saying, 'Keep working, keep working, and the fun stuff will be that much more rewarding.' Whether it's getting reps in the gym, eating healthy, or watching film — all of that needs to be done first. That work ethic has been ingrained in me since day one thanks to my mom. I give credit to my mom for fostering a drive for success in me because, as an athlete, you have to make sure that you focus on what you need to get done first and foremost. I also plan on finishing my education degree in a few years because I know how important it is, thanks to my mom. She works hard at her job helping people with disabilities find and maintain employment, and I look up to her for that. She always made sure we had what we needed. For that I am grateful."

Be a Leader, Not a Follower
Advice from Anita Jordan, mother of New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan

"My mom would always refer to 'the Joneses,' as in stop worrying about what other kids had," remembers Cameron. "At the time it was T-Mobile Sidekick phones and Allen Iverson sneakers — the Answers — or whatever the coolest video game was. She would remind my sister, Steffanie, my brother, Geoffrey, and me to stay in our lane. We needed to be happy and content with who we were and what we had. If we wanted something, we'd have to work hard and earn it. She'd also say it, as all moms do, with the old proverb of, Don't follow the crowd into a negative situation — always be a beacon of light and a role model and try to carry yourself with respect and dignity. The constant reminder has stuck, simply because of her readiness to drop that phrase and make it clear that we, as the Jordan kids, were held to her expectations — and they were high standards."

Always Challenge Yourself Academically
Advice from Kathleen Shipp, mother of Chicago Fire midfielder Harry Shipp

"My mom would always remind me that I couldn't rely on soccer," recalls Harry. "She'd say, 'You can get injured; then what will you do?' She wouldn't allow me to lower my standards academically either. In high school, I figured I would take some easier classes during my senior year. I thought if I had already gotten into college, why stress myself out? She pushed me to take AP classes and get college credits while I was in high school. That helped me big time when I was at Notre Dame. While I was there, she drilled into my head, 'Don't leave Notre Dame without a degree.' I listened and made the right decision. I was able to graduate in three-and-a-half years with a degree in finance and a 3.89 GPA. My finance degree set me up so that 10 years from now, when I'm done playing soccer, I can get my MBA and work on the financial side of a sports franchise. I thank my mom for my long-term thinking. A long and successful career in soccer is never guaranteed. My mom was there to remind me of that and keep me on track."

Never Give Up
Advice from Natalie Hawkins, mother of gymnast and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas

"At the 2011 Visa World Championships, I fell multiple times during the two days of competition," says Gabby. "Although I had hamstring and hip flexor strains, I was pretty hard on myself. Not only was I embarrassed and upset, I felt like giving up. But my mom always taught my siblings, Arielle, Joy, John, and me, to get back up when we fall and to remember that everyone who crosses the finish line is a champion, so never quit. If you happen to be first, that's just the cherry on top! Even though it was hard, I was determined to push toward my dream. I'm so glad I did because my mom was right about one other thing: She told me that regrets always follow when you quit for the wrong reasons. I'm so glad I listened because I have no regrets; I crossed the finish line and captured the cherry on top! I realize now that the most important thing is to stay strong, especially when you feel defeated."

Illustrations by Dean MacAdam

Elfrid Payton moms
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