by Irene Middleman Thomas
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX – the federal law that leveled the playing field for female athletes in high school and college sports. One of the most visible success stories of this landmark legislation is Rebecca Lobo, the Springfield native, former University of Connecticut basketball star and recent inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
These days, Lobo works for ESPN as a color analyst for college and WNBA games, which will bring her to Colorado this month for the women’s Final Four.
While no longer battling for rebounds, the Connecticut resident still has her work cut out for her as the mother of four children, all under the age of 7. We caught up with her recently:
1 Did you always want to be a reporter and broadcaster after you finished playing?
A: I did not get my degree in communications but became very interested in becoming a broadcaster my senior year in college. I was given the opportunity because of my experiences as a player and I am truly fortunate that it happened that way. My schedule is different depending on the time of year. January and February, I usually broadcast a game on Monday night so I fly out of Connecticut on Sunday evening and return on Tuesday morning. March Madness requires many more games and a lot more time away. The WNBA season runs from the end of May through October and I average a game a week until the playoffs start in September. Then I am gone for a few games a week.
2 How is it balancing motherhood of four with such a demanding, high-profile career?
A: It is not easy but I think I’ve been able to strike a healthy balance. I keep my schedule to a certain number of games because I don’t want to be gone too much. I still get to volunteer at my kids’ schools, take them to swimming and gymnastics lessons and prepare a family sit-down dinner just about every night.
When we just had one child, my husband and I would bring her on every trip. Now, the kids don’t travel with me too much. However, the family would travel with me during March Madness if our youngest was under the age of 1. It was just too hard to pump milk and get it back home if I was gone for longer than three days at a time. My husband is wonderfully supportive. While he would prefer that I not have to travel for my job, he totally understands that I love what I do. Our marriage and our children are always our No. 1 priority. We’ve been able to make our careers work because we never lose sight of that. We also have a terrific babysitter who we have used for the past three years.
3 You were obviously active from an early age. How about your kids?
A: My children like being active and enjoy being outside. The 5- and 7-year-olds are starting to take an interest in basketball. We’ve always spent time at the park doing active things. My husband and I like doing things with the kids outside, and we like exercising, as well as watching sports on television.
4 What is the best parenting advice you have been given?
A: I don’t know where my mother first heard this, but I remember her saying that the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother, and vice versa. I learned what I needed in a husband and father of my children by watching my parents.
5 What did your parents do to encourage your interest in sports?
A: I was a tomboy and my parents did not have any issue with that. When I asked for a football uniform for Christmas, I got a football uniform. When I asked for a basketball instead of a doll, I got the basketball. I started to play around the age of 5 or 6. I was the youngest of three kids and wanted to do what my older siblings did. They were into sports so I followed their footsteps.
My advice to parents is to encourage their kids’ activities but to understand the balance between support and pressure. My parents never told me to practice. They never tried to coach me at home (even though my dad was a high school coach). They understood that I needed their support as a mom and dad more than I needed them to tell me what I did wrong in a game. I always felt like I was playing because I wanted to. Not because they wanted me to.
Irene Middleman Thomas is a writer and mother of three in Colorado.