Work hard, play hard is what Bryans instilling in children

Photo submitted to Times Observer The family that plays together... From left, Broc, Nick, and Ty off to a WCYFL football practice.

“Back in my day…”

An expression you usually here from an old man like myself — I turned 48 today this week, mind you.

Back in my day, which was like the late ’80s and early ’90s, you could drive past Betts Jackson Field on the west side of Warren and see boys playing a pickup baseball game. They’d grab their gloves, they’d grab a ball, they’d ride their bikes to the field.

They’d play.

You just don’t see that anymore.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Counterclockwise, from bottom left are Ty, Broc, Nick and Mindy Bryan.

Maybe there are fewer kids around town — riding their bikes. Some blame video games or cell phones.

Some blame travel sports. How can you be playing ball in town when you are out of town.

How can you do both?

The Bryans do both.

Sometimes on the same day.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Broc Bryan, center, celebrates during a travel baseball game.

Broc Bryan is entering fourth grade this week. And his little brother Ty, second grade.

Broc’s team had a three-day “travel” baseball tournament on a hot summer weekend in Olean, N.Y. So his father, Nick, drives him out and back on Friday, then back up at 7 a.m. Saturday for three games, then back out Sunday morning for two more.

As soon as Broc gets home, Nick and Broc’s mother, Mindy, sit down to rest and enjoy the rest of the peaceful Sunday.

Where’s Broc?

He and Ty are out in the back yard playing baseball.

Broc and Ty.

Let’s be clear — In this day and age of “helicopter parents,” Nick and Mindy don’t have to push their sons.

In fact, it’s the opposite, they have to try to keep up with them.

And try to the best of their abilities, according to momma.

“Our lives center around their well-being and happiness,” she said.

With Nick and Mindy, they make it work and then some.

Broc and Ty.

The kids work hard –do very well academically — and they like to play hard.

While their parents don’t have to push them into anything, they will certainly give them all the opportunities to succeed. Like they had growing up.

Nick and Mindy both grew up in Union City. “That’s how both of us grew up with our parents,” said Nick.

Everything was in Erie, for example, so their parents drove them.

“We went to Brokenstraw Pool in Youngsville, for example, for swim lessons,” he said.

So, Nick handles Broc, and Mindy takes care of Ty.

Mindy is a teacher, mind you, so she’s the one who organizes schedules.

They are often going separate directions.

“Dinner is something I try really hard for us to sit down together — the four of us,” she said.

Both have had to sacrifice.

Nick used to work different shifts — second shift — as a police officer. There are many things the parents have given up for their kids.

And they have zero complaints.

Again, if their sons are interested in something, the only rule is they have to finish what they started.

Broc did not like piano lessons, to put it mildly, “but we committed to the block of time, so he went every week,” said Mindy.

There’s been trial and error, of course, but currently, Broc plays football in the Warren County Youth Football League (WCYFL), takes karate lessons twice a week (and has been in tournaments), plays travel baseball and attends all the sports camps and activities he can sink his teeth on.

Ty plays flag football in Corry, plays baseball, and takes karate lessons.

“The boys attend as many baseball camps as they can — Seawolves, US baseball academy and Southern Tier are some of their favorites,” said Mindy. “When it’s nice, they play catch, throw grounders and popups to each other, throw balls against the wall, use the bounce back, tee, soft toss, hurricane, and pitching machine. They invite neighborhood kids over or have play dates just to play backyard Wiffle Ball. When it’s really hot, a sprinkler is home plate. Everything is a competition — how far can you throw, how many strikes can you throw in a row, how many can you hit over the back fence (which we took down because it was plastic and they just hit holes through it). When it’s raining and we’re stuck inside, they only have two video games — a baseball and a football game. They won tablets from WQLN (radio) for writing and publishing their own books and they use it to look up baseball scores and stats. They follow teams and individual players. They scout minor league teams to watch prospects. Ty is the only 7-year-old that I know that begged for a (Akron) Rubber Ducks hat. The only picture in my boys’ rooms is a painting of different grips to throw a baseball. They always have a ball and usually a glove with them at all times, and will try to talk anyone into playing catch with them. They will coach kids that don’t have the experience they do and challenge the kids that do.”

Good luck keeping up.

Nick said it’s easy to see how they get involved in so many things, from Little League to travel baseball, to working with their own personal coaches. Nick said the old adage is true; a father can tell a child something a hundred times, but if someone else says the same thing, it sinks in.

So, while Nick, coaches in every sport imaginable, he sees the benefit of having voices he trusts.

“As you start doing things, you network,” said Nick. He said Andy Teconchuk from Warren had turned an indoor space at the Warren Mall into a place to practice year-round, and that’s how the Bryans met former major leaguer Tom Tellmann, who started to work with Broc.

“The boys love baseball and play organized baseball from November until August,” said Mindy. “They are both pitchers so they start with a pitching coach in November and team open gyms start right after Christmas until it’s nice enough to play outside. They both play Little League and travel ball. They have both played organized football since kindergarten. K-2 they play(ed) in the Corry Munchkin Flag Football League and, in third grade, Broc started tackle in Warren. They have both taken swim lessons and passed everything but junior lifeguard only because of an age restriction. They have both been in karate since they were four. Broc has his black belt and Ty is one belt away from his junior black belt. They both have competed in karate and have consistently placed top three at states.”

And, remember, these are well-rounded little dudes.

“Broc has played the ukulele and piano and both boys play the drums,” said Mindy. “They are both published author/illustrators and have won many awards for their work. Broc enjoys hunting and both boys like to fish. Broc was just in Bugsy Malone Jr. (the play/musical).”

Nick and Mindy were asked what the boys are involved in, so they are just answering the question. To be honest, they should be proud, but they sometimes get pushback from other parents.

“I’m proud of my kids so I like bragging about them,” said Mindy.

“I know you asked (Nick) and he may have a different answer, but my answer is YES! I have always wanted to provide as many opportunities as I could for my boys,” she said. “I encourage them to try and fail as many things as they want. In failure, they figure out how bad they want it. They strike out… they want to get better… they practice. Broc wanted to try piano. My sister plays, and gave him an old keyboard. I signed him up for a session. He failed miserably! He hated it and didn’t want to practice. He finished the session and moved on to another instrument. He loves the drums and is taking lessons. Broc failed his first black belt test. Sensei said you can’t test again for three months. Broc helped teach underbelts, he studied and practiced even though it really didn’t count towards advancement, and took the test again and passed with flying colors!

“We support our boys as much as we can and we do push them,” said Mindy, “but if they don’t want to do something, we’ve never forced them to do anything. There’s always a question before any big goal: ‘Do you want this?’ Then don’t stop when it gets hard. It will always get hard if you are growing, but worth it if you want it. I love watching them play baseball, football, karate, and music. There is no other place I’d rather be than cheering them on. My husband and I both coach baseball and Nick coaches football. It is just as amazing as I thought it would be and much more!”

At the end of the day, these are kids you want on your team. They play, and they do it the right way.