Broken Clouds 35° Good Evening
Broken Clouds 35° Good Evening

Positive influences: Tom Brady, Serena Williams

Serena Williams returns to Caroline Wozniacki during the

Serena Williams returns to Caroline Wozniacki during the 9th annual BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Tom Brady wasn’t sitting up at the front of the ballroom with a panel of sports, corporate and media figures to talk about Deflategate or his Super Bowl ring collection with the Patriots. Serena Williams wasn’t up there with another panel taking a trip back through her 21 Grand Slam singles titles.

They were inside Manhattan’s Conrad Hotel Tuesday night at a DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation Sports Matter event. It was an event that included a Tribeca Film Festival showing of the documentary “Keepers of the Game” and an evening that highlighted the positive impact that participation in athletics has on kids and the current youth sports funding crisis across the country, especially with schools.

“There’s nothing more important to me than conveying how important sports has been in my life,” Brady said.

DICK’s has committed $50 million since 2014 for funding teams and increasing awareness of the value of youth athletics in the face of an estimate that 27 percent of public schools won’t be offering any sports by 2020.

Brady fell in love with football even though he couldn’t even start for his 0-8 freshman team. A sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan, Brady rose to become a four-time champion and three-time Super Bowl MVP. The 38-year-old quarterback passed a lot of credit to his parents for being supportive and not putting limits on his dreams.

“My dad taught me . . . at a young age: ‘If you’re going to do it, give it everything you’ve got,’ ” Brady said. “My mom was always the one, ‘You can do it, sweetheart.’ “

He drew laughs about her unwavering support when he added that he has told her, “Mom, guys like Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, they make all these great plays with their speed,” and then heard her respond, “Well, you’re just as fast as they are.”

Williams said, “Being African-American and playing tennis wasn’t super popular when I was growing up.” She said she and sister Venus “had to break down so many barriers” in the sport. Serena is still top-ranked at 34.

“Sports can make a huge difference,” Williams said. “It really opens up a lot of different doors and teaches you so many different core values . . . One value I would say is discipline and hard work and dedication.”

Missy Franklin, the four-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, credited athletic involvement with helping her accept her body image. She was 6-1 at age 13. Swimming also helped bring self-esteem.

“I went from an all-girls private Catholic high school to Berkeley, 35,000 undergrads, coed bathrooms in the dorms,” Franklin said. “That was a little out of my comfort zone. But I gained so much confidence from doing a sport.”

New York Sports