Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Duff kids make mom proud

Athletic brothers making their mark in volleyball, hoops, baseball

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The three Duff boys tower over their 5-foot-2 mom but having her behind them has made this family something special.

Janet Duff's two oldest sons, Justin, 21, and Brayden, 18, are both student athletes at the University of Winnipeg with the Wesmen men's volleyball and basketball teams, respectively, while younger brother Darnell, 15, managing the Wesmen basketball team.

Six-foot-7 Justin, in his fourth year with the Wesmen volleyball team, is also a member of Canada's national men's volleyball team. Six-foot-4 Brayden, who won two straight AAAA provincial boys' high school basketball titles with the Garden City Fighting Gophers, is in his freshmen year with the Wesmen basketball team. Darnell, a 5-foot-10 Grade 9 student at Maples Collegiate, is finding his sports niche in baseball.

"Sports has made them so disciplined, so respectful and they've taught me so many things. Sometimes when I look at them, I just can't believe it myself. They've accomplished so much. I'm just so incredibly proud of they young men that they are," said Janet. "They deserve every ounce of credit, they've done it on their own with hard work and dedication. Sports has made them so disciplined with respect to their bodies and their lives. They've grown into such remarkable people.

"Once Justin and Brayden found what they loved to do, they were very committed, they wanted to achieve and they did. They beat all the odds."

The family has been at the Duckworth Centre for the past few days where Brayden has been participating in the 2009 Wesmen Classic tournament.

Janet, a single parent who essentially raised her boys on her own, said there have been lean years where she struggled to make ends meet with the cost of sports registrations, travel and equipment. But she never doubted the value of belonging to a team would have for her sons.

"There were days that I'd be driving the three of them to all their different sports, right from work, I wouldn't be home until midnight. You couldn't talk to me, I was so busy! I had no friends! I was never home!" she said laughing.

"At the time, I didn't appreciate where this was going go, I just knew it was important to them. Now when I look back, I think, wow, it was so worth it."

Janet said Justin started it all by being involved in every sport possible as a youngster and then taking on part-time jobs to try to help with costs.

"Justin just persevered... he's been a role model for the other two," Janet said, noting her three brothers and her mom, Margaret, have been a strong support system all along for her and her sons.

"Our mom gave us every opportunity to do anything that we wanted in sports. I know how far I go is up to me," said Justin, who was recruited for university sport in basketball, athletics as a high jumper and volleyball. Now as a Team Canada player, another door may open for him in the possibility of playing volleyball professionally in Europe once his university career is over.

"With that kind of commitment from a parent, it gives you a greater respect for what you are doing and makes you want to do well. We want to make her proud."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 30, 2009 C6

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