The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 15, 2014

Father-daughter bond fueled by competitive nature

FAIRMONT — Kelsey Morrone stood in front of her team, which had just been ousted from the state basketball tournament for the second straight season, and she gave them a speech.

She told them one simple thing: Don’t let it happen again.

The speech wasn’t for her own good, nor would it help her sleep better on the ride back to Fairmont from Charleston. But what it did was help her pass on the competitive nature that she brought to the team.

And that’s something she got from her dad.

See, the blood of a competitor lingers deep inside the Morrones’ blood, and it started in Kelsey at a young age.

During a C-Ball tournament in Shinnston as a child, a 7-year-old Kelsey and her team had lost to a team from Bridgeport, setting fuel to her competitive fire.

“I remember asking her if she wanted to get something to eat,” her dad, Mike, said. “She just said, ‘No, I want to go home.’ So I asked her why.”

Her response would let her father know that she would eventually grow up to be an athlete.

“‘I’d rather chew my arm off and eat it than lose to Bridgeport,’” he remembered her saying. “That’s what makes you smile as a dad. You know that that competitive drive is there.

“If you know our family, we’re very competitive. That’s just how we were brought up. She picks right up on that.”

Dating back to his own childhood, Mike can recall the competitive nature that was shared between he and his brothers and even his own father, who was a standout athlete at Rivesville High School.

“We were always out on the old East Fairmont High School football field playing some type of sport,” he said. “That competitiveness was passed on to us, and I think that was passed on to her.”

Mike isn’t lying when he says his side of the family is full of athletes. If you flip through the family album book — or just about any college media guide — you’ll find a Morrone who excelled in a sport.

There are two nephews, Sammy and Matt, who played football and baseball, respectively, for West Virginia University; two nieces who play golf at Marshall; Mike, who played baseball at Fairmont State; and countless others.

Now, Kelsey will add her name to the list after signing to play basketball at Potomac State University following this past basketball season, a basketball season that added even more tinder to the fire that is the Morrones’ desire to win.

While Kelsey finished her final season as a Polar Bear, Mike was starting his first season on the coaching staff at East Fairmont.

After a talk with his daughter, the two hashed out a plan that worked for both sides: Mike was able to see his daughter play every game, watching her games while scouting for the Bees, and Kelsey got to keep her competitive spirit alive.

“I was a little uneasy at first, but then I was like, oh, competition,” she said with a smirk.

As the two of them prepare to celebrate Father’s Day today, they’ll reminisce on their favorite memories.

Some memories have escaped their brains, but for the ones that remain stored in their lexicons, almost all of them share a common thread: sports.

“Basketball has always been our common bond. We’ve spent a lot of time out in the driveway shooting. When her mother and I divorced, that’s what we had,” Mike said. “We always had sports.”

Whether the memories be of the old days of Kelsey playing at East Dale and beating West Fairmont 31-22, with her scoring 28 of the team’s points, for a championship. Or a game against Barrackville when an undefeated team was winning by just one point at halftime and Kelsey received her first scolding during a break. If there’s a memory that the father-daughter duo can recall, there’s likely a sport involved.

From the time Kelsey was old enough to pick up a basketball until now, Mike has been instilling the competitive fires into his daughter’s athletic career, and neither of them would have it any other way.

“He taught me everything I know,” she said. “There were a lot of times we butted heads, but he pushed me harder than everybody else and it’s paid off in the long run.”

And even though Mike stepped across enemy lines this past season, he makes sure Kelsey has her No. 1 cheerleader in the stands.

“I still think she’s the best player in the gym. That’s me being her father,” he said. “I’m still her biggest fan when I walk in the gym.”

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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