Deidre Recker has been to every Ohio girls' basketball state tournament since 1978. She's proud of that fact, and mentions it often. She started bringing her children to those state tournament games when they were barely old enough to follow the action.
This is where you want to be, she'd tell them, and point to the court. This is where you've got to be.
Deidre stops, and she corrects herself. She hasn't been to every state tournament since 1978. Once, in 1993, she had to watch the games on television instead.
Deidre was eight months pregnant that year. With quadruplets.
Love and basketball
When doctors told Scott and Deidre Recker they were going to have four children at once, their minds ran wild.
Deidre was overjoyed. They had been trying to get pregnant for a long time without success. Finally, she thought.
Scott was excited, too, but at least initially his mind raced in a different direction.
"My first thought was probably, 'How are we going to afford four kids?'" he said. "Right away, I thought: 'We need four high chairs, four car seats ... '"
The Reckers got by just fine. Their four children -- three girls (Alivia, Amelia and Anessa) and a boy (Thayne) -- were born on May 14, 1993. They grew up playing all sorts of different sports, but the one that brought them together was basketball.
Deidre played basketball at Heidelberg University, where she was a post player and a four-year starter, and both parents have coached the sport. They taught their children to love the game, to play hard and to play the right way.
"They would watch our games kind of from a coach's eye," Thayne said. "They were always watching and telling me I did this well or I could have done this better, but never in a mean way. They were always supportive."
The Recker children were always outside their Findlay, Ohio, home playing basketball, until Deidre would have to beg them to come in for dinner. Summer after summer, the kids would pair off and play games of two-on-two, stopping only to take a quick dip in a nearby pool.
Inevitably the games would be halted by a scratch or a scrape, a bloody nose or a fight about who traveled and who didn't call a foul. Mom was always there to break up the spats -- and within a few minutes they'd all be back out there again, playing another game.
Those neighborhood games turned to youth practices -- usually the girls first, then Thayne. The family made sure to stagger basketball camps and tournaments during the summer so everyone could go together as a family. Deidre, a trucking company agent, and Scott, who works for the Ohio Department of Transportation, would take turns shuttling them back and forth, keeping their schedules and attending all the games.
Deidre created a routine for game days. Get to bed early the night before, bags packed, snacks or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ready. All so the kids would be well-rested and could focus on their homework instead of shuffling around to get ready for games.
"We were spoiled," Amelia said. "Her support was never-ending. She never complained about coming to pick us up or bringing us to games. Our bags were already packed for us on game days. The snacks were ready."
Their seasons are over now. Deidre misses that routine already.
Dreams come true
Arlington -- a small, rural high school in northwest Ohio with a senior class of 55 -- hasn't been known for its basketball prominence. Neither team had ever won a state title. The boys' squad had never even been to regionals.
The Recker children helped change all that.
In March, the Arlington girls' team steamrolled the competition en route to a Division IV state championship, the first in school history. Alivia, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward, led the team in scoring with 11 points as the Red Devils beat Berlin Hiland 52-37 in the title game.
Just a few days later, his sisters sat in the stands as Thayne's team took the floor for a Division IV state semifinal against the same school, Berlin Hiland.
"I was probably more nervous for him than I was for us," Anessa said of watching her brother, a 6-4 forward, play. "We wanted him to get as far as we did."
"It was hard to sit there and watch," Alivia said. "When we're playing, we can make a play. We can stand in the huddle and say, 'Let's go, make a play, get a stop,' whatever. But when you're in the stands, you just kind of have to sit there and just try to be loud."
Despite Thayne's team-high 14 points, Arlington lost 46-37 and fell short of the state final.
"We were the first team ever to go to regionals," Thayne said. "That was the goal, and it made it a great season for us boys. We just said that once we got down there (to the state tournament), whatever happens, happens. It was disappointing that we came up short, but it was cool to be down there."
It was especially cool for Deidre. Perched in the same stands she'd occupied every March but the one since 1978, she watched her children play the biggest games of their lives.
"At one point, Amelia ran up to Alivia after the championship game was over, and it dawned on me," Deidre said. "It was a dream come true for the girls, and it was a dream come true for me as a parent. I had always taught them that if you work hard, you get rewarded. And they did."
The next chapter
A few weeks after the season was over, Deidre was ordering graduation gear for her children -- four high chairs, four car seats, four sets of caps and gowns -- when a fellow parent summoned the courage to ask, "Deidre, what are you going to do? You're going to miss them so much."
Amelia, who was sitting beside her mother, responded.
"Mom," she said, "I bet we'll have a harder time with it than you do."
The children are together for the final weeks as teammates and as classmates. Amelia, who was named the Division IV co-player of the year, is headed to Huntington (Indiana) University next fall to play basketball. Alivia will play at Trine (Indiana). Thayne and Anessa are both going to Bluffton (Ohio), where Thayne -- who was second-team All-Ohio -- will play basketball and Anessa will take a break from the sport to focus on schoolwork.
"I'm excited for the next chapter in their lives," Deidre said. "They're great kids. They're so focused. I have no doubt they'll be successful."
Her children won't be around for next year's Ohio state tournament. It won't be the same without them along for the ride, with her in the stands or down on the court. But it doesn't matter.
"I'll probably go," Deidre said. "I just love it."