by Kaitlynn Nordal
Being a parent is a unique experience no matter what your child decides to do with their life. But for Don and Cindy McMorris of Regina, Saskatchewan, it’s much different. They are the parents of Craig and Mark McMorris, professional snowboarders, and they knew that snowboarding was more than just a hobby for their sons at a young age.
“I would probably say when they first developed the provincial snowboarding team around them for the Canada Winter Games up in Whitehorse,” said Don. “The boys had hung around the Off-Axis sports shop quite a bit and there was a fellow in there and a young guy that wanted to be the coach who thought they should start a Sask. snowboarding team. They asked Mark and Craig right off the bat … and then they went to the winter games. That’s when we knew it was probably more than just a bit of minor hockey, that they were playing, that it was their passion. I would say it started then and then I would say the real-time for Cindy was when Mark won a world cup event in Calgary at 15.”
Cindy agreed, stating that moment in Calgary was when she knew it was more than just a hobby for Mark.
Their sons finishing their education was important to Cindy and she wanted Craig and Mark to stay in school. Craig did complete his grade 12 but by tenth grade, Mark was already traveling various places for snowboarding competitions.
“When he came home it was always an argument about doing schoolwork,” said Cindy. “But then I realized the sponsors wanted him now they weren’t going to wait until he was done grade 12.”
It was in their Bantam and Peewee year of playing hockey that Craig and Mark hung up their skates to pursue snowboarding. During the summers they were in wakeboard competitions, so snowboarding was just a natural progression. Although it was not an easy choice as parents to let their sons who were teenagers at the time to start snowboarding in the way they do now Don and Cindy wanted to be supportive.
“The biggest thing was to support it. They were young enough that we could have said no you’re not doing that, but we decided to be supportive,” said Cindy.
As a way of being supportive they decided to let their sons snowboard whenever they could.
“It was obvious what they wanted to do, and they would do it all night here when we had a bit of a set up in our backyard that they could ride on. They would spend hours at that and went out to Mission Ridge or Assassippi and then when they were fortunate to get out to the mountains which they did quite a bit and we just let them pursue it,” said Don.
Now at 27 and 25, the McMorris brothers are living out their dreams with Craig doing backcountry snowboarding, filming, and announcing while Mark continues to snowboard competitively.
Being the parent of professional athletes does come with certain sacrifices, but Don and Cindy are okay with them as they understand it is for their son’s careers.
“It’s not the easiest because we talk to our friends and their kids are either living around here or coming home for a week or two weeks. But, they got such a busy life right now and so many commitments to sponsors that that’s how they make their living,” said Don. “They are not home very much they got home a couple times this summer but it was only for 48 hours and there is usually an entourage of people around them filming or whatever so you don’t get any alone time with them very often but you have to accept that it’s their life and they are loving it.”
One of the scariest days of Don and Cindy’s life happened in March 2017 when Mark got hurt in accident while backcountry snowboarding with Craig and a few friends.
“It was scary initially because it was life-threatening and we were here, and he was being airlifted to Vancouver,” said Cindy. “But being a nurse I received a call from the radiologist to give consent to do the procedure to stop the bleeding and I had worked in the area where they do that so I had a good understanding of what they were going to do … but it was still very scary walking into ICU the next morning and seeing him in the condition he was. But, things progressed really quickly we knew it was going to be a long haul but nothing that wouldn’t heal.”
Although they were worried about Mark competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang South Korea so soon after his accident they understood it was his choice and were proud when he won bronze in slopestyle.
Knowing their children as well as they do Don and Cindy understand no matter what happens there is no talking their sons out of their chosen careers.
“He’s (Mark) been determined since he was 10 years old about what he wants to do … (and) he’s been very committed.” said Don. “He’s been able to do etch out a living in a sport that’s very untraditional from Saskatchewan. So, all we do is encourage.”
When it comes to their hopes for their son’s careers its simply to be happy with what they are doing.
“We’re the cheerleaders,” said Cindy. “I think they will always be involved in the industry, (and) as far as hopes I just want them to be happy and (do something) they can make a good living (at).”
Don and Cindy do have advice for parents who like them, have children who want to pursue sport professionally.
“Make sure you support your kid in what they want to do not what you want them to do… That would be the one thing I suggest. Make sure you encourage your child to pursue their passion, not your passion” said Don.
Cindy agrees with her husband completely.
“You sometimes see parents pushing their kid in the direction they want but I think it’s important to let the child go the route they want to go as long as it’s constructive and relatively safe,” she said.
Feature ImagePhoto Credit: Mark McMorris Facebook