Steve and Lorri Zeller raised three sons that not only excelled at the sport of basketball, but all three made it to the NBA. They spoke with us about parenting talented children and how they kept the Zeller sons grounded.
Q: Were both of you involved in sports growing up?
Zellers: “Yes. Steve played football, basketball, and baseball in high school. Lorri played basketball, softball, and track in high school. Lorri also played basketball and softball in college.”
Q: Did your sons gravitate to basketball naturally? What other sports did they play?
Zellers: “While growing up, all of our boys played a variety of sports, including football, soccer, Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, and Cross Country. As they continued to grow toward seven feet tall, basketball became the obvious choice for them.”
Q: At what point did you realize that they had the talent to play at an exceptionally high level?
Zellers: “When our sons started being recruited by top Division I college teams, we felt like they had the talent needed to play at the next level.”
Q: As parents, how did you help them stay balanced between sports, school, and family life growing up?
Zellers: “We stressed that academics were more important than sports. We lived our faith, and made it our priority. Steve would often be involved in their workouts, and take them to the gym. He used this as family time, as well.”
Q: As Luke, Cody, and Tyler began to get recruited by colleges, how did you help them navigate the process in choosing a school?
Zellers: “We helped them control the process, rather than letting the process control them. While outside the home was often filled with media, recruiters, and people asking them about their college decision, we made the inside of our home a safe place where they could discuss their college choices, or sometimes not even mention it and get away from it.
As parents, we told them that we would not make the decision for them, because we didn’t want them to someday come back and say…”you made me go there”. But we facilitated the decision by taking them to several colleges to visit, we discussed the choices with them, and then supported them 100% when they made their choice.”
Q: What advice would you give to parents on performance who desire to help their child succeed?
Zellers: “It is important that your child knows that you love them, regardless of their performance on the court, or field, or whatever event they have. Performance based love often leaves a child with lower self-esteem because they might think if they fail to perform, their parents don’t love them. Parents can support their kids after an event – regardless of how they played – by telling them 5 words…”I love watching you play”. This is unconditional love and it will help the child know their parents love them, and support them…regardless of performance.”
Q: What Bible verse impacted your parenting the most as your sons were growing up?
Zellers: “All things work together for good to those who love God.” Romans 8:28
This verse helped us because it reminded us that there will be good times, and rough times. But through it all, God is faithful. Everything that happens is in His plan, and everything will work out. It helped us to turn things over to Him, knowing He was in control of every situation.”
Left: Tyler Zeller is a center/power forward for the Boston Celtics. He played college ball at North Carolina where he was the 2012 ACC Player of the Year and a 2nd team All-American. In high school, he was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2008. Tyler was drafted 17th overall in the 2012 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks.
Middle: Cody Zeller is a power forward for the Charlotte Hornets. He played college ball at Indiana where was First-Team all Big 10 his sophomore year, and was 2nd team All-American. In high school, he was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2011. He was drafted 4th overall in the 2013 NBA draft by the Hornets.
Right: Luke Zeller last played in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns. He played college ball at Notre Dame where he served as a captain his senior year. In high school, Luke was a McDonald’s All-American in 2005. He currently runs the Zeller youth sports program DistinXion.
You can learn more from the Zellers by checking out their book here: zellerbook.com