Editor's note: In honor of Mother's Day, 406 Sports is offering three stories about Montana athletes and their moms. To read all three, click on 406mtsports.com. And be sure to follow 406 Sports on Facebook and Twitter.

A decade before becoming an instant sensation in a Griz football uniform, years before he was an early pick in the MLB draft, Ben Roberts was a junior high school basketball player who wouldn't listen to his mother.

Mom was also coach, as natural a title as Cheri Roberts has ever held. She coached her three children in about every athletic venture they've ever had. Basketball, though, that's Cheri's specialty.

So when young Ben refused to plant both feet on his jump stops near the basket, expressly skipping to a stop in provocation, there was only one thing for a disciplinarian coach to do.

Son or not, Ben was walking home. Cheri kicked him out of practice early.

"We knew if he showed up at the house before Mom did, it wasn't going to be a pretty scene when she got home," recalled Olivia Roberts, Ben's younger sister by three years.

But through discipline and direction, Cheri helped mold a family tradition. After her youngest son, Mitch, graduates from Missoula's Sentinel High School this spring, he'll join the Grizzly football program as the third of three Roberts children to attend college on athletic scholarships.

Cheri, herself a former Lady Griz star, has raised three Division I student-athletes.

***

A 1980 graduate of Kalispell's Flathead High, Cheri Bratt was a highly recruited prospect entering her final year of hoops with the Bravettes.

Then she tore her ACL.

In an era before modern ACL surgeries and their miraculous healing times, such an injury wasn't exactly an athletic death sentence, but it did scare away every interested recruiter. Except for Montana's Robin Selvig.

In Cheri he saw a tremendous scorer and defender, a player who piled high more than 1,000 points in her Lady Griz career and 33 years later still holds the program record for career steals.

She had an intensity about her, Selvig reflected this week, a word her children echoed in describing their mother all these years later as a coach.

"She was totally involved in the action, just in a different place in a game," recalled Selvig, who retired as UM women's basketball coach last year after 38 years. "And that's a good thing, to be consumed by the moment."

She thrived playing under a coach like Selvig — a foot-stomping, jacket-wringing, interjection-shouting leader who walked away from the game with 865 career wins, eighth most in the history of women's college basketball at the time.

"You can't help but pick up some of that," said Cheri, who after a brief professional playing career in West Germany returned to the States to complete a degree in nutrition that she earned from Montana State in 1987.

"Every Lady Griz player will tell you that. You can't not see his passion in the game."

And she couldn't help pass it on to the next generation of Roberts.

***

Cheri hopped into coaching as soon as her oldest started picking up athletics. Which was early, just like all the Roberts kids. She and the kids' father, Raphael, were eager to keep their children busy and involved with friends.

For Ben, now 24, the outlet was baseball. Liv, a junior playing basketball at the University of Wyoming, found her initial love in gymnastics.

Two sports in which Cheri had little experience.

"It's not like she knows baseball well, but she would still give you pointers about attitude," said Ben, who played baseball at Washington State for three years before transferring home for a single season of football with the Griz in 2015.

"'Don't slam your bat after you strikeout,'" he continued, a hint of caricature in his voice. "It was always stuff you don't want to hear, but you know she's right. You can't help but listen to it."

They didn't always listen. The family home just down the block from Sentinel became a hotbed of games with the neighborhood kids involving various degrees of regulation.

Like the time the boys emptied the living room for a game of full-court basketball. Or when they wheeled the driveway's well-loved basketball hoop into the backyard for a dunk contest off the trampoline. Or when the neighbor's fence became a casualty of one-too-many climbers thanks to home run derbies. Or when a stray golf swing broke a light fixture in the family room.

And yes, the last of that list actually occurred a week ago.

***

Cheri's approach with her kids was two-pronged: instill proper technique and always be prepared. That applies to athletics, but also to life in general, and she distributed both lessons with a signature dose of intensity.

Sitting on the back patio of the family's home, Cheri laughs as her two sons recite mom's mantras.

"Warm up with a purpose! Stop dipsy-dooing around!"

She still looks the part of a hoops standout, her long arms cascading out of a sleeveless yellow-and-silver dress. Cheri, a dietitian by trade, is energetic and fit even with her last basketball game 30 years past. 

She expected a lot of her players, she says, even more when they were her offspring. And she was never shy with a comment.

"When someone travels and you know they traveled and no one calls it? Well it's still a travel, even in fourth grade," Mitch chimes in.

Cheri pushed them to be the best, even when they (frequently) pushed back. It wasn't until years later they realized the extent of the impact mom's molding had on them.

"I think that's what produced us," Liv said. "Through the process I was always angry. 'Gosh, my mom was always on me.'

"Looking back, wow, I would not be the person or the athlete I am today if it weren't for her."

0
0
0
0
0
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.