By Logan Lawson
There's no such thing as the lazy days of summer for a Neligh family.
With four children active in summer ball programs, the Matt and Angie family is going in every direction - all summer long.
“The month of June is very hard,” Matt Belitz said. “There’s very rarely a day where somebody doesn’t have a game.”
Matt and his wife, Angie, moved to Neligh about 10 years ago when Matt was given the opportunity to become co-owner of Overland Rehab. The two brought with them four children - Tyson, Cole, Garret and newborn daughter Mallory. With both Matt and Angie having spent their youth heavily involved in sports, it was only natural that their kids would be athletes as well.
All four kids have very distinct personalities. Tyson, a senior-to-be at Neligh-Oakdale, is a bit more serious and focused while Cole, a sophomore-to-be, is much more of a comedian.
Garret, who’s going into eighth grade, is the adventurous one of the group while Mallory, a soon-to-be fifth-grader, is not afraid to be different from the boys, as is evident with her love of dance.
With four different personalities, all four kids are motivated differently, their parents said. At times, Matt and Angie said it's difficult to figure out how to motivate each child, but fortunately they all enjoy what they do, making it easier for the parents to keep them going. The differences in personalities also shows in how they prepare for games as well.
“I try to get in the weight room as much as possible,” said Tyson.
“I watch a lot of Steph Curry videos,” Cole joked.
All the kids began playing sports as early as four years old, starting with t-ball. As they grew older, they all became more competitive with each other, especially the three boys. They would spend time in the back yard, facing off in heated basketball games. They would work with each other on different aspects of baseball. For a time, they also even played football in the yard regularly.
“They kind of stopped that when Garret was abusing the older two,” Matt joked. “They’d be in pads and Garret would be out there tackling people without a helmet. It didn’t bother him.”
As they grew older, the competitiveness became more supportive and they started working more to help each other rather than beat each other.
“Now, they do hold each other accountable,” Angie said.
The three boys have become mentors for Mallory as well. When they aren’t busy with their own games, they will watch and critique her softball technique. When she considered not playing basketball, the boys encouraged her to give it a try like they did. While she enjoys the sports her older brothers play, she also is making her own mark on the family.
“Her love is dance,” Angie said. “That adds a whole new and different schedule in and of itself."
As soon as his kids started playing sports, Matt said it was important for him to be involved. He began coaching the boys in baseball and helped coach them in youth football, basketball and soccer as well.
Angie spent countless hours in the yard, sitting on a five-gallon bucket as the catcher for all four of the kids. Her only rule was that she had to be able to reach it. If a ball was overthrown, the kids would have to chase it themselves. That rule helped the kids all become successful pitchers for their respective teams.
As they grew older, the kids started working with each other more, which meant that Matt and Angie’s roles in their athletic development was more subtle. Matt would spend time discussing things the boys could improve on or things they could adjust in their game, then the kids would head off to work on it on their own. Angie would do the same with Mallory, in particular in her softball game.
It has always been important for the two parents to be in attendance at all their kids’s events. However, with four kids going in different directions, along with their jobs, it's often difficult to make it to each game. They plan who was going to go where on any given day. Since Matt was coaching, he was always guaranteed to be at the game of whichever boy he was coaching.
Angie, in general, was always the one to go to the softball games. When trying to make it to all the games; however, it usually just depended on who was free, what time the game was or where it was.
“It’s a day-by-day decision,” Angie explained. “Sometimes even moment by moment.”
FINDING TIME FOR FAMILY
Family time can be very hard to come by for a family like the Belitz family.
During the school year, the boys have football and cross country in the fall, basketball in the winter and track in the spring before jumping in to baseball. Mallory participates in all the youth sports she can along with her year-round dance schedule. It takes a lot of organization to ensure everyone is on the same page.
“You have to have someone that maintains a good calendar,” advised Angie. “Get on all the coaches text lists and know that the calendar will change.”
When baseball and softball start, there are many weeks that the calendar is full, with games every day. There are many days that the family has to rely on friends and teammates to get everyone to the correct game. It helps that Tyson can drive now as well, as him and Cole both play Legion Baseball together, and one of them usually knows what the team schedule is.
“It’s not me,” admitted Cole.
Tyson plays for the Legion Seniors and Cole is on the Juniors team. By the time legion baseball is finished for the older boys, they don’t have much time left before the cycle starts all over.
“We literally end up with about a week,” Matt said.
On the rare occasion that all the kids do have an off day, the parents make it a point to spend time together as a family. They like to take trips to the lake, go to movies or just make sure to have a family meal, even if it just a simple meal.
“We do end up eating a lot of sandwiches,” Angie admitted. “Even if it is on the road.”
With the youngest Belitz being just a fifth grader, the family knows that they will be busy for many years to come. Tyson will be heading off to college soon and both him and Cole have goals to play sports after high school.
Garret is still finding what sports he enjoys the most, but also keeps himself busy with his animals. Mallory’s love of dance is likely to grow as she does. Matt and Angie are just fine with that. They just want the kids to do what they enjoy.
“Don’t make the kids do stuff they don’t want to,” Matt said. “It’s no fun for them and its just harder on you.”
As the Belitz family nears the end of their busy June schedule, they hope to get a little bit more time for each other. Mallory and Garret’s season will be wrapping up soon. Tyson and Cole are hoping they can extend their season into the state tournament in late July.
For the first time in 14 years, Matt is not coaching a team so he can enjoy time as a fan of his boys rather than as a coach. Angie is doing her best to help Mallory in her unique sports.
Once the season winds down, the family will take their week of a break and then start the cycle all over again.