Family racks up major miles in sports shuffle

Matthew Busch/The Herald
Tori Sermersheim, center, mugged for photos with father Nick and mother Tammy on Saturday after the Jasper girls basketball team claimed the sectional title. This Saturday, the Wildcats will trek to Brownstown Central for a Class 3A regional clash with No. 7 Rushville, and Nick and Tammy are sure to make the trip, just as they’ve done for the last six months following the sporting events of three kids in high school.

Herald Sports Editor

Tammy Sermersheim’s kids made her sick.


She milled jovially around Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium on Saturday at the girls basketball sectional championship, even as the mother of four was shaking the effects of a one-day flu bug. The kids didn’t transport the virus home. Tammy just figures it was a case of energy debt, run down from keeping up with her kids’ everlasting and overlapping athletic calendars.

Between Tammy and husband Nick, the couple averages four to nine Jasper High School athletic events per week. And it’s been that way for the last six months. They follow Tori, a catalyst on sectional championship volleyball and basketball teams. They track Cole, a 1,000-yard rusher for Jasper’s top-five-ranked football team and a starting guard on the basketball team. Mondays should be their respite, but then they trail Luke, a freshman who follows Cole’s football-basketball blueprint and has many of his events on the first night of the week.

Every game, though — home and away — at least one of them is in the stands. Without fail.

“I can’t remember when they ever missed any of my sports, really,” Cole says. “I always have to give them that. They always take out of their busy schedule, because they’ve always got stuff to do other than going to our ballgames.”

“If one’s busy, the other one will definitely make it,” Tori adds. “It’s never where none of them’s there. They’re always there to watch us and do their best to get to every game.”

Saturday, the Sermersheims’ Pontiac Montana minivan will fire up yet again for the 156-mile round trip to Brownstown Central, where Tori and the Wildcats (15-8) will tangle with Class 3A No. 7 Rushville (20-3) at 12:30 p.m. in the regional semifinals; the championship is slated for 7:30 that night.

Nick purchased the family vehicle just four years ago. It’s already nearing the end of its lifespan.

“I bought the minivan with 30,000 miles on it, and right now I’ve got about 150,000. If that tells you anything,” he says.

Don’t ask them how much of their money goes up in vapors, because “we try not to think about” how much money they spend in gas, Tammy says. “I don’t want to get depressed. It gets up there,” Nick kids.

They both exude good cheer about the crammed schedules, even after making all three agonizing trips to Mount Vernon since October — it helped that one was for “the awesomest volleyball match I’ve ever seen in my life,” Tammy raved of the Wildcats’ comeback from two sets down to capture the regional crown. If you ever need directions to any high school gymnasium in a 50-mile radius, Tammy’s your gal.

“I can almost go anywhere blindfolded,” she jokes.

Nick’s job as a manager at Grand Rental Station keeps him tied up more in the fall season than the winter, though it helps Tammy’s schedule comes with flexibility. An independent distributor for Xocai Healthy Chocolate who also works part-time cleaning houses and at Let’s Do Lunch in Jasper, Tammy has time to fix dinner most days. The meal is markedly different at the Sermersheim house between Jasper and Ireland.

Dinner’s ready by 3:30 in the afternoon. Whoever’s home and doesn’t have an early practice gets to eat. Whoever didn’t get first crack at the grub heats it up later on their own.

They haven’t assembled as an entire family for dinner since ... well, it hasn’t happened anytime lately. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the last two instances Tori could think of.

Believe it or not, the family schedule used to be more wicked. When oldest child Mitch, now a senior at IUPUI, still lived at home, Tammy and Nick buzzed between about a dozen games per week. The kids’ activities aren’t shared by the parents — Tammy (Wahl), a 1984 JHS grad, didn’t play sports and Nick, who graduated a year later, was a wrestler — but being perpetually parked in gymnasium bleachers is just fine by Tammy.

“I enjoy every minute,” she says, noting that she kindled some of her best friendships through meeting other parents of her children’s teammates. “And you know what, it goes so darn fast, you’ve just got to learn how to go with the flow.

“I tell people to enjoy it, because it goes so fast.”

Nick’s stance is mostly parallel, with a slight qualification.

“Every once in a while it gets monotonous, yes. I’m not going to lie,” he says. “They’re playing and they do a good job, and as long as they give their effort, I’ve got no problem with it. We enjoy it.”

The Sermersheims usually muzzle the sports talk around the house, save for the occasional one-minute analysis from Nick. When he perceived Cole wasn’t exerting a premium effort in last week’s loss to Evansville Mater Dei, Nick told his middle son he wouldn’t come to anymore of his games if Cole didn’t try. That was an embellishment, of course, but Cole digested the message and cranked out eight points, seven rebounds and three steals in Tuesday’s victory over Princeton.

Tori and Cole, meanwhile, operate with an unofficial truce: Neither is obligated to go to the other one’s events. Tori attends most home football and hoops game, but Cole admits he’s been to a grand total of five volleyball and girls basketball games this year — and he doubts he’ll make the haul to Saturday’s regional.

He should have run of the house because Nick and Tammy, of course, will be following Tori.

“Pretty well that’s what we do. We follow our kids and that’s the way it is,” Nick says. “We’ve got a lot of other interests, we’ve got a lot of things we’d like to do together. But everything’s got to be on hold, you know.”

Part of their seven-acre property is proof how Nick and Tammy’s lives are slowly changing. They used to have a baseball field out back that got plenty of use — Nick even built a backstop, and a friend contributed a sign that read “Field of Dreams.” This spring, once the sports schedule relents, they plan to fully annex it for more garden space as they grow everything from tomatoes to popcorn to green beans to watermelon.

Once the kids are all out of the house, the parents are working on a list of things they want to get more involved in — auctions and cooking contests, for starters. Tammy indicates their lives will still be centered on following their children. But what will life be like without volleyball and basketball and football eating up half their year?

The couple, who will be married for 25 years in October, look at each other and just snicker.

“That’s going to put our marriage to the test. Then we’ll have to be together,” Nick says, bursting into laughter.

“Yeah. We’ll really have to talk and communicate,” Tammy jokes back.

Contact Brendan Perkins at

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