(Cover photo provided by Tricia Forde
Randy Whetstone, Jr.
As a wise person once said, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” And even in the world of sports, this remains the same. We can’t negate the fact that an integral part of a male athlete’s success is the commitment, love, dedication, and encouragement poured out from a woman.
What abou the journalists who cover our phenomenal athletes throughout the world? The high-pressured demands that the business entails. The extensive research gathered to tell the perfect story. Having to be in different cities to cover sporting events.
Well, such a profile fits world-renowned sports journalist Pat Forde. Forde has had an illustrious career. Since 2011, he has been the national college sports columnist at Yahoo! Prior to that, he worked at ESPN from 2004-2011 in largely the same role. Before landing at ESPN, he was the sports columnist at the Courier-Journal from 1987-2004 and worked as a beat writer prior to that.
Forde has covered eight Olympic Games (1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer, and 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics). Along with that he has covered 26 Final Fours, multiple Super Bowls, World Series, major golf tournaments and every Kentucky Derby since 1988.
As he has told breathtaking sports stories over the years, it has been his wife Tricia who has stood as an elite paradigm to womanhood. With a foundation established on faith and fortitude, she has exemplified what it means to be a wife, mother, and inspiration to women in sport.
It was in the summer of 1987, on the Courier-Journal elevator, when cupid released his arrows into the hearts of Pat and Tricia. She was a copy editing intern straight out of Northwestern and he was the Indiana high school writer from Missouri. On that day, when they first met, it marked the beginning to a beautiful relationship.
Now 25 years later, both can affirm that each compliments the other.
Tricia worked at the Courier-Journal for two years. Becoming aware of job responsibilities, she was cognizant of her husband’s lifestyle.
“I think because I lived it and know it, I am much more understanding of his job, his traveling and his hours,” Tricia said. “I actually take a lot of interest in it because he loves what he does. I can also be a sounding board. He will run things by me for his articles at times and ask me to read a lead or something. The funny thing is he doesn’t really want my opinion; he is just using me more as a sounding board to talk it out.
Yet also in Tricia’s words, “opposites attract”.
“One thing I don’t do is edit his work,” she added. “I know most journalists don’t like editors and that’s what I was, the copy editor, so I don’t touch his work unless he specifically asks me to.”
In the words of Pat, his wife has been the crux of the Forde family.
“Tricia has undoubtedly been the glue that has kept the family together,” he said. “She is just so rock-solid in ways large and small, and that includes keeping everything together when I am traveling – which is pretty often during football and basketball seasons, plus Olympics and assorted other stuff. I’ve never felt like she begrudged my work schedule or harbored any ill feelings about it. She simply did everything when she needed to.”
And while family things are kept intact, Pat’s biggest fan of his work is undoubtedly his wife. As fans cheer for the athletes who Pat covers, Tricia cheers for the man who tells the story.
“I am thrilled at his success,” she stated. “I love his articles and they inspire me. I think what I love most about Pat’s writing is that it just comes across as his personality. He is so clever and he is so smart. So when I read him, I am proud of him and I think he is a fabulous writer.”
While Pat may be away at times, balancing being a wife and a mother can come with varying challenges. Mitchell, Clayton and Brooke are Pat and Tricia’s three children – and all three are competitive swimmers. Mitchell is a senior on Missouri’s swim team. Clayton is a freshman swimmer at Georgia. Brooke is a senior swimmer at Sacred Heart Academy.
With Tricia’s family dynamics – inheriting much of her mother’s personality and qualities – her organizational skills have kept the house in order. She wears multiple hats from family chef to educator, as she would be the go-to person when the kids needed assistance in schoolwork. And even making sure the children had a ride to their destinations.
“I would have to look at that week and what each child is going to need. I was very blessed to have my family all in the same neighborhood, so I would send calls and line up people for driving. In terms of running the household, I was very routine based and the kids knew what was going to happen. I get up with the kids no matter what time they have to get up. So for 5:00 a.m. workouts, I would get up at 4:10 a.m., and I make their breakfast and I wake them up so that breakfast is ready by the time they wake up.”
Aside from handling family duties, Tricia has established household principles of faith, love, and fellowship. As a devout Catholic, it was customary for the family to attend church on Sundays, and she always ensured the kids were rooted in the faith by praying with them at home. Vacations and eating dinner together were ways that Tricia would stress the importance of family time. Even when the kids would have different events at their schools, she made sure the family was always present.
As an avid reader and one who enjoys the outdoors, exercise has been a big part of her life and the lives of her children, which eventually led to the swimming pool.
Growing up in St. Matthews near the Jewish Community Center, Tricia would walk across the field with her older sister to the pool. Starting at age five, she decided to become one with the water. At age nine, she swam with a group of talented women at Lakeside, which would catapult her into being a magnificent swimmer and earn her a scholarship at Northwestern.
In high school, she became a national qualifier in the World Games – an international multi-sport event held every four years, the summer following the Summer Olympics. She attributes much of her success to the coaches and trainers she’s had in her life.
She said her most influential coach was Denny Pursley, who coached Tricia from ages 13-15. He went on to coach the Cincinnati Marlins and become a U.S. National Team Director. He taught her, “how to work hard and how to set goals and work incrementally toward them.”
After Pursley, Tricia sat under the tutelage of Bill Peak, who died of cancer 10 years ago. And in college, she gleaned and learned from Pat Barry.
“I had this great group of people to train with and I attribute any success I had to them and my coaches,” said Tricia. “I am a huge believer that you can’t do that on your own and if I didn’t have them push me, I don’t think I would have achieved them on my own.”
Tricia recalled a childhood moment where she was at the threshold of giving birth to her competitive nature.
“We had a boat growing up and my dad had told us if we did one year of swim team, we wouldn’t have to wear a life guard jacket when we were swimming in the lake. We didn’t want to wear them, so that was a big motivation.”
She vowed, though, that her children would not be swimmers. But after always just stepping out to enjoy the fresh air, the water would be calling her.
“It’s funny because I always told myself my kids wouldn’t swim, because it really takes a lot of dedication and time. So when I finished swimming and was working at the Courier, I said I would never have swimmers. But then we moved and when Mitchell was four, our first summer living there, I would take them to the pool. We noticed the neighborhood swim team and it just seemed like he should try it. Unfortunately, because I am a competitive person, the minute he tried it, I kind of got sucked in. So I said if he is going to try it, I want him to win. Then with Clayton and Brooke, they followed suit by being at the pool, and they wanted to do it too.”
Not only have the kids embraced the sport of swimming, but they’ve also found much success in it. Clayton and Brooke, in particular, competed in the 2016 Olympic Trials.
“With our kids,” said Pat, “she (Tricia) has a way of supporting and celebrating their accomplishments without making them feel like they’re better than anyone else. She is good at keeping them humble.”
As Tricia had the chance to exemplify her competitive edge as fan, she watched her children compete in a state of amazement.
“To be there and see them compete, it is kind of hard to describe the feeling. They were in this elite company, on this elite stage. It was a pretty cool feeling and [I] really enjoyed the experience. When it comes to my kids, I am most proud that they are good people with good hearts.”
The Forde children have learned invaluable lessons from their mother. She took those lessons to the classroom and is doing what she is passionate about: teaching and education.
From a literature teacher at Sacred Heart Model School, Tricia is now serving as the full time International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) Coordinator. Her job is to run and expand the program at the school. She made the switch from journalism to education because she is passionate about teaching and missed the interaction with kids. Having earned her master’s degree in education, she said the change was a “good switch”.
The blessing in disguise, so to speak, is that the young girls at Sacred Heart learn and are inspired from someone who has developed a tremendous resolve over the course of her life, making her the strong woman she is today.
Last summer, Tricia had a brain tumor called meningioma that was pressing on her octave nerve and needed to be removed. If brain surgery isn’t enough to measure her fortitude, then add to that the fact she has endured breast cancer and stands now as a survivor.
“It helps me keep things in perspective because it made me realize what is really important,” Tricia added. “When I was going through breast cancer, the main thing I prayed for is, ‘Thank you, God, it is me and not my children,’ and I prayed, ‘Please help me get through this so I can be with my family.’ It was really put into perspective what was important.”
“My mother has always been incredibly tough,” said Clayton. “Her intense surgery last summer really proved how strong she is. She was recovering, but was still trying to work and make meals. She is always trying to do as much as she can to help people. My mom has helped mold me into the young man I am today by always pushing me to be my best in school and swimming. She has set high standards and I have tried my best to live up to them.”
Brooke has learned much from her mother as a young lady as well.
“My mom is a role model through all her actions,” she said. “She has undergone a lot of hard things in her life and I have never heard her complain about them once. She has taught me to keep my focus on what you can control and what is truly important. She is able to maintain a perfect balance of being hard-working and independent, but also a loving and attentive mother. Ever since I was young I tried to emulate this behavior from her.”
“She is empathetic,” said Pat on his wife, “always interested in helping those in need, and especially attuned to including people who are not part of the ‘in’ crowd.”
As women in sports continue to evolve, Tricia’s immeasurable fortitude serves as a model and a message for all to glean from.
But the inspiring story of her resiliency isn’t just restricted to women. Instead, it carries the weight to impact humanity from a global standpoint.
Pat has told story after story, but perhaps the greatest story he has watched has been that of his wife. He’s had the chance to interview her for over 25 years as his love-mate who has stood strong by his side.
“She is the strongest person I know,” he added. “She has faced some major physical challenges head-on and barely blinked…. She’s offered some valuable examples of caring about others more than yourself, quietly persevering through obstacles, and a day-to-day strength that basically becomes habit-forming. You can condition yourself to handle difficult tasks by simply making a series of small choices on a daily basis. She has built healthy habits into her everyday life.”