The family that plays together, stays together.
With five children, from just under the age of 3 to 16, Ben and Katie Kettler of Hiawatha have their hands full of activities. But they love it.
With a physical education teacher and coach for a father and a nurse for a mother, the Kettler children are no strangers to physical activity.
With everything under their belts from running, swimming, basketball, baseball, triathlons, climbing mountains and much more, the Kettler family is proving that nothing is insurmountable for their family.
Katie and Ben lead by example, with biking, swimming and running filling her time in addition to her shifts at Hiawatha Community Hospital. She also is coach of 8-year-old Connor’s baseball team. For Ben, he helps coach Connor’s team, teaches CCD at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, and is a coach for middle school football, high school boys basketball and high school track. He tries to take part in extracurricular activities when time allows.
“We did more triathlons and road runs in the past, but our kids’ activities always come first for us,” he said. “There have been a few occasions when we’ve been able to do a tri with them.”
Although school sports fills quite a bit of time for the older girls, Molly and Elizabeth, you would think that summer would offer some down time. But with swim season right around the corner, that means that Ben helps coach and four out of five of the kids swim competitively. Give 3-year-old Declan another year or two and he will be following his older siblings into the water.
They said the older girls have participated in a winter swim team through the Atchison YMCA for several years. This meant that the family was on the road quite often to the Kansas City area for meets. They also compete yearly in the Sunflower State Games.
With five kids, Katie and Ben agree there is very little down time. Even coordinating meals becomes a challenge. For instance, the Kettlers just finished up the winter sports season. This entailed Katie coaching Connor’s rec league basketball team and working her shifts at the hospital; Ben as middle school physical education instructor and assistant high school boys basketball coach, Molly playing basketball, Elizabeth playing eighth grade basketball and being involved with Science Olympiad, Abby and Connor each playing rec basketball.
“Declan was just along for the ride everywhere, teaching himself how to dribble,” Ben said.
Being active has always been important for the Kettler family.
“It has always been part of our lives,” he said. “It has not been difficult because our kids see us exercise and they just know it is part of our lives and they understand the health benefits. They each have favorite activities and sports they look forward to. They loved swimming first and we found ways to incorporate that into another activity with triathlons.”
Katie said they used to have more time for them, but with summer league basketball and tournaments, it has been hard to stay active with triathlons.
“Abby (age 10) has done a couple too, but after trying an indoor track meet the past winter with Elizabeth and Connor she decided she wanted to run some meets this summer,” Katie said, noting that Molly and Elizabeth have both enjoyed participating in triathlons too.
Let’s see what some of the kids have to say:
Molly: Molly is a sophomore at Hiawatha High School and participates in basketball, track, cross country and swim team, in addition to taking part in other school activities such as plays and musicals and Headliners. Molly said she enjoys singing and especially the choreography that goes along with being in a show choir.
Her favorite sport is basketball.
“I fell in love with basketball when I was a little girl, watching my Aunt Mallory Sheeran play,” she said, noting she began competing with a team during her third grade year.
She started swim team in second grade and said her favorite stroke is freestyle.
“That is the stroke that I am best at,” she said. “I really enjoy swim team and would love the opportunity to swim year round.”
Molly said she gets some nerves at competitions, but once she enters the water nothing else matters but the race.
There have been some years where Molly and Elizabeth compete in the same divisions, despite being two years apart.
“Elizabeth and I are both very competitive and like a good friendly competition between the two of us,” she said.
Molly has also been fortunate to play on the high school’s varsity basketball team, earning a regular spot on the court despite being an underclassmen.
“I would love the opportunity to play basketball at the collegiate level,” she said. “It would be a dream come true.”
Elizabeth: Elizabeth, 14, is an eighth grader at Hiawatha Middle School. She participates in a variety of activities, including basketball, cross country, track, indoor track and swim team. In addition, she loves extra activities such as Science Olympiad and Scholar’s Bowl.
Her favorite sport is basketball.
“It gives me confidence and I like following in the footsteps of my older sister, my aunt and my mom,” she said.
Elizabeth also loves to swim and has done it since the age of four. Her favorite stroke is butterfly.
“I love that it is not only against other people, but also against your own time and trying to improve,” she said. “Normally, we work around our schedule, but occasionally we’ll miss swim team for basketball.”
Elizabeth said it has always been a natural thing for her family to be active and couldn’t ever imagine her parents forcing her to compete in something she wasn’t already comfortable with. Her parents are very encouraging.
“If anything, it makes me feel better and stronger,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth also has dreams of continuing her athletic career into college, hopefully with basketball.
Abby: Abby, age 10, is a fourth grader at Hiawatha Elementary School. Her favorite sports are basketball, swim team, track and volleyball.
Like her older sisters, her favorite is also basketball.
“I like the competition and it’s something I love,” she said.
She, like her siblings, also swims competitively and her favorite stroke is breast stroke.
“It gives me a rush of happiness,” she said.
The two youngest siblings, Connor, 8, and Declan, who will turn 3 in June, are showing signs of being just as active as their sisters with the elder brother competing in basketball, baseball and swim team and Declan learning the ropes from all of his older siblings.
And for the Kettlers, it’s been a fantastic but whirlwind ride that keeps them together as a family.