The Loveladys love basketball.
So much that Mark and Jen Lovelady spend date nights scouting opponents at high school games.
So much that Mark accidentally referred to the Lovelady family dinners as “team meals.”
And so much that they don’t mind that most of their hours are spent watching and coaching two of their kids on the Life Christian Academy basketball teams — Luke, a senior starring on the boys team, and Landyn playing as a freshman on the girls team.
“We’ve had some very special moments this year,” Jen said. “We get to talk about the memories they are making and they have no idea, 10 years from now, how those will impact their lives.”
But of all these Loveladys — all with extensive basketball backgrounds — which is the best?
Mark, currently in his 24th season as coach of the Life Christian boys basketball team, starred at Steilacoom High School before playing a year at Highline Community College. He was 40 years old and playing basketball for the Tacoma Jazz semi-pro team (the oldest player in the league by eight years).
Jen scored 1,251 career points at Bickleton High School before playing at Pierce College, helping the team compile a 53-10 record over two seasons.
Luke is a 6-foot-8, three-time 2B Pacific League MVP on the No. 1-ranked Eagles, averaging 23.4 points, 13.1 rebounds, six assists, 4.2 blocks and 3.1 steals per game. He’s scored 1,483 career points and has 996 career rebounds.
And the 5-foot-6 Landyn has been a key contributor on the girls team even as a freshman.
“I’ve never said this in public and I hate to admit it, but the best basketball player in our family would definitely be Luke,” Mark said. “He’s way better than I was.
“His friends always joke, ‘Luke, you’re so blessed to be 6-8.’ But he’s 6-8 and skilled. I can’t compete with that.”
But don’t underestimate the Lovelady ladies.
Pitted against each other in a game of P-I-G, a shorter version of H-O-R-S-E, Luke was eliminated first by Mark’s out-of-bounds, over-the-backboard shot. Jen then eliminated Mark on a shot from just outside the left block. It was just mother and daughter remaining before Jen hits a bank shot from the opposite side that Landyn couldn’t match.
“Momma has game,” Jen said as she flexed her arms. “I tried to tell them.”
So they added a caveat for best shooter in the family.
“That is definitely mom,” Jen said.
She and Mark were set up on a blind date when Jen was still playing at Pierce and Mark was hired in his first coaching position at Mann Middle School in Lakewood.
“I didn’t think about looking for a basketball player,” Mark laughed. “But it was nice to find an athlete and somebody who knows the game — and is also very attractive. That was definitely a plus.”
Mark has since been the head coach at Life Christian for the past 21 years, with Jen sitting just behind the team’s bench for every game.
Just last week they had a date night. It consisted of a drive to Adna High School to watch a basketball team with a stop for pizza on the way. Jen will film while Mark jots down notes. The Life Christian girls (11-6) open the 2B Southwest 4 district tournament with a 5:30 p.m. home game Wednesday against Mossyrock, and the Life Christian boys (20-1) play their district game immediately after at 7 p.m. against Rainier.
“My friends joke with me about it: ‘You took your wife to a basketball game for date night?’ ” Mark said. “Uh … yeah!’”
The Loveladys have two TVs at home and Luke said at least one is always playing a basketball game. Their days during the season are spent at practices, watching film, heading to team dinners and compiling practice plans.
“And when we’re home it’s all about Ibuprofen and who needs to ice,” Jen said.
And family dinners?
“Oh, yeah, we sometimes do that,” Luke joked.
“We try to have team meals …” Mark said before stopping to laugh and correct himself. “I mean, family meals as much as possible during the season. But we’re all on opposite schedules, so for all of us to get together for a meal is like once or twice a week during basketball season.”
Mark and Jen had four kids total — Lexi, Luke, Landyn and Ashton. Lexi is currently studying social services at Pierce College, but had a sit-down talk with her father one day to discuss no longer playing sports.
“I remember she seemed so nervous, like you could see her kind of sweating,” Mark said. “And she’s like, ‘Dad, I got something to tell you … I don’t want to do sports anymore.’
“And I’m like, ‘Well, that’s fine. But what are you going to do?’ And she said she wanted to get into fine arts.
“It’s not about fitting my priorities around the kids. It is ... what are the talents and gifts God has given her and how can we use them? And she was a great actress.”
Ashton, the youngest, plays soccer just like her two older sisters did. Mark has coached all their soccer teams.
“But I’m working on that,” Luke said. “I’ll get her playing basketball.”
Mark had a sit-down talk of his own with Luke four years ago, as Luke was about to enter high school — even though he spent the previous years as Life Christian’s ball boy.
“We made an agreement that we would try our best so that I’m both dad and coach,” Mark said. “So after games if he doesn’t want to talk, we don’t talk, and I’m not going up to his room and talking for a half-hour about basketball. When we leave the gym, I’m dad unless he brings something up.”
Instead, Luke and Landyn said they spend most of their time talking basketball with their mom.
“So when I get frustrated with my dad after a game, I can go to my mom and talk to her about basketball,” Luke said.
“It’s a blessing knowing I have parents who both know a lot about basketball and knowing what it is to be a leader because they were both leaders on their teams. That helps me a lot.”
Landyn said most of her inspiration comes from her older brother.
She’s just hoping she hits a growth spurt like Luke did. He grew 10 inches in one summer and went from a size nine shoe to size 13.
“When I was younger I really liked soccer and volleyball, but seeing Luke get into it, I started to want to play basketball more,” Landyn said. “I was like, ‘If I do all this stuff Luke has been doing, and put as much time in, I’m going to see the results.’ And I definitely have this year.”
But is all this basketball ever too much?
“There’s never too much basketball,” Landyn said.
“We love it,” Jen said. “I will be very sad when it all ends.”
“For us, there’s nothing better than watching our kids do something they love,” Mark said. “Going to games and stuff – we love watching our kids play and being a part of their lives.”