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.
Over the years, the Kelly household saw more than its fair share of broken ironing boards. Using the ironing board as a net, Kamber (now Kelly-Brodock) and Kandice (now Gregorak) spent hours playing and learning what became the family sport.
The hours spent in the gym watching practices, entertaining themselves on the gym stage at Roundup High School and shagging balls translated into a combined five Class B volleyball championships from 1998-2002 while playing for their mom Laurie, numerous individual awards and standout collegiate careers at Montana State.
And yet, none of them can still quite get enough.
“We still love the game just as much as when we first began and I think that’s special,” Laurie said.
“It’s such a big part of me and my life,” Kamber said. “I got my education on a volleyball scholarship and everything I have today is because of that education.”
Life has taken them different directions since their days as a family in Roundup, but volleyball and their relationship continues to bind the three.
“We can talk the language and understand,” Laurie said. “We have different angles of insight, but we think alike.”
Laurie has been head volleyball coach at Rocky Mountain College for 10 years now. Both her daughters have either formally or informally assisted her after their playing careers ended.
On top of her career and family, Kamber has helped coach Rocky's setters at times and continues to play. She'll travel to Minneapolis at the end of this month to play in the USA Volleyball National Open Championships with a team comprised of players from across the state.
After collegiate coaching stints of her own at North Idaho College and the University of Montana, Kandice took over the Big Sky Volleyball Club in Bozeman in January.
“Kamber and I wouldn’t be the athletes and people we are today if we didn’t have a mom like her or a coach like her,” Kandice said.
During their childhood, Laurie was the PE teacher and multi-sport coach in Roundup. Both sisters remember hours spent in the gym, playing multiple sports, traveling for club volleyball, barrel racing and the work their mom put in so both they and their friends had opportunities to play.
“I remember being at the gym all the time,” Kamber said. “I remember being in the stands, sitting with my dad or on the bench coaching.”
And from the time they were young, they soaked it all up.
“It was really cool for us because we got to go on all the bus trips with all the high schoolers to all the tournaments and it was really cool relationship to get to be with my mom all the time,” Kandice said. “Being a coach you put in a lot of hours in and it was just cool that we got to experience that with her.”
“We were lucky that my mom wanted and was willing to do those things for us,” Kamber said.
Laurie, who grew up playing hockey with her brothers in northern Minnesota (three of whom went on to semi-pro careers), remembers getting the chance to play sports after school for one hour a week as part of the Girls Athletic Association. She went on to be an All-American field hockey player at Bemidji State University in Minnesota after the coach convinced her to walk on. She still holds the record for most goals scored in a single season.
“I even preach to my girls at Rocky how fortunate they are that they get to do all these things so at no time did my own daughters ever get the opportunity to not play sports,” Laurie said, “but they wanted to.”
Laurie helped convince the Roundup school board to add volleyball in 1986, just two years after the MHSA first added the sport. She coached at Roundup through 2003.
It helped that they lived in a small town and her schedule as both teacher and coach matched theirs, but she also brought along their friends when they went to tournaments and played on club teams.
“At the time I was exhausted; I was teaching, I was coaching everything, I had two babies and they were in everything, but it was the best time of your life,” Laurie said.
“I can’t speak for everybody, but I think everybody, all the kids that she’s done that for, really appreciated it and more so appreciate it now that they know the time that she put in,” said Kandice, whose husband, Ty, is defensive coordinator for the Montana State football team and formerly had the same role at Montana. “Me and my husband don’t get how she did it.”
Laurie knew that it was important for more than just her own daughters to have opportunities to play sports.
"Even though my kids were very successful, they could not have done it without their friends and without the rest of the team. And they know that and I know that,” Laurie said.
“It’s pretty cool how she can make everyone feel like family,” Kamber said.
Although it wasn’t always easy, they all recognize the uniqueness of their experience together.
“As a coach’s kid, you’re going to be held to a higher standard,” Kamber explained. “As a teacher’s kid, you’re held to a higher standard.”
“It helped that my mom was, one, a good coach, and, two, winning always helps,” Kandice added. “If you win lots, there’s usually a good experience tied in with it.
“My dad was awesome because we were always doing something and he did not miss a thing we did and it was just a really fun family thing. We loved it. I think it’s a special thing that a lot of kids don’t get to experience. Some kids wouldn’t want their kids as coaches. I loved it.”
Laurie recognizes that she also had an advantage in her coaching career because she had daughters and coaches in their sport. She was able to put the time in to be successful and still spend time with them.
“I see a lot of good women getting out because they happen to (have) a bunch of boys, and no parent should miss what their kids do, it’s that special,” Laurie said. “And I certainly became a better coach once I had kids because you understand the parent’s love for their child.”
Now they are all looking forward to the next generation’s athletic exploits. Kamber's 9-year-old daughter might be the first to pick up the family sport soon and Kandice's two children are getting used to occupying themselves in the gym, much like she and her sister did.
“I’m glad my kids still love the sport and I didn’t take that away from them,” Laurie said.
And whether they’re sharing ideas about what each could be doing on the volleyball court, playing on softball teams together or going to the kids’ soccer games, their common love of sport has helped keep them close.
“We had a good time and a good bond and we were very lucky and fortunate to have that,” Kandice said.