Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Vital Lessons on Court and Off

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Vital Lessons on Court and Off

Article excerpt

When he was 3 years old, Mohammad Abdelhamid told his mother that he was going to be a basketball player and -- like the pros -- buy a mansion.

His mother, Azza Abdelziz, took his ambitions to heart and raised him as a well-rounded athlete. He now plays three sports at Fort Lee High School -- soccer, basketball and baseball -- as well as participating in a private soccer club that travels all over the region.

Abdelziz, who laughed off the promise of a mansion, was full of encouragement Sunday as she watched him take on Paramus Catholic in the Jack Reilly Holiday Basketball Tournament, a season opener for a number of local teams hosted at Fort Lee High School. Also in attendance were relatives, friends and recruiters taking in the action as the warm bodies on the court pushed up the temperature in the gym.

But Abdelziz deserved as much applause from her son as she was heaping on him.

The sacrifices many parents in the crowd have made on behalf of their children's athletic careers are as remarkable for their size as for their duration. Abdelziz, for example, said that over the past 10 years, she has hosted relatives at her house less and less because of her son's games and practice schedule. She has also stuck with her job as a school bus driver because the hours are conducive to high school sports.

Jocelyn Picache, the mother of another Fort Lee player, said basketball is not even the most demanding of youth sports. She estimated that her family spent upwards of $100,000 transporting her eldest daughter around the country for weekly gymnastics competitions when she was between the ages of 6 and 13. Her daughter, who was a prospect for the U.S. Olympic team, had to give up the sport after a serious back injury.

"We could have made a down payment on a house," Picache said.

But in talking about such decisions, parents were full of pride, not bitterness.

Howard Breindel, the father of a player for Tenafly High School, said that making sacrifices for your children is what parenting is all about. …

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