The Nelson family focuses on doing their best — not besting others

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 11 2011 11:00 p.m. MDT

Part of the reason Chase and D.J. don't mind being measured against their brother's accomplishments is their affection for him outweighs their need to break free from his reputation.

And while sports is a integral part of Nelson family life, it is not the only, or even the most significant, shared passion.

Their commitment to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is something that binds them in ways that other things cannot. Last summer, the entire family traveled to Barcelona, Spain, to walk the same streets, sit in the same pews and enjoy the same people that Riley "fell in love with" while serving the church as a missionary for two years.

The experience, said Joni Nelson, was most moving to Chase and D.J., both of whom say they plan to serve missions of their own.

"For these boys to see how much you can fall in love with people through service was really wonderful," said Joni Nelson. "Riley really opened up to them."

The Nelson boys also have a deep affection for baseball (Chase's best sport), everything Cache Valley, quoting lines from movies like 'Madagascar' and television shows like 'The Office', their only sister, the hugs of their mother and the advice of their father.

All four children play the piano, and while D.J. is probably the most musical, the family agreed, that Riley's mission gave him an edge on the instrument.

Riley and Jordan were always a little closer growing up, while the two younger boys were inseparable.

"The family called them the bear cubs because they wrestled non-stop," said Joni laughing. "They just rolled around for so many years we didn't know who was D.J. and who was Chase. Riley was older, so he kind of broke it up."

Jordan Nelson Farmer, who married a Logan High teammate of Riley's, Cole Farmer, a year ago, said she enjoyed growing up among rough and rowdy boys. (Even if Riley did make her chase down baseballs that he hit off a tee.)

"It was a lot of Ninja Turtles, a lot of baseball and a lot of football," said Farmer, who attends Utah State. "I can't imagine life with sisters — or life without my brothers."

The siblings say they push each other, but only in the best ways. In fact, mom bristles at the suggestion that her children are competitive.

"I don't think of it as competitiveness as much as the fact that they work hard," she said. "We've always taught them to work hard and do their best. I always look at it as they're just trying to do their best. Their dad taught them to do their best from beginning of the game to the end of the game. And so I think of it more as just hard work and a good work ethic."

But then someone brings up the ping-pong table, and amid laughter, she concedes she might be realizing that they're a little competitive.

"There definitely needs to be a parent there to monitor it."

And Chase admits it's not just ping-pong.

"Chess has been taken away," he said grinning.

Still, Keith Nelson draws the distinction this way. He and his wife teach their children to do their best — not try and best other people.

"We want them to do their best, not try and be better than someone else," he said. "Whether you can teach competitiveness or not, I don't know. But if there is a tendency for it, I think it can be developed. As tight as we are, it seems kind of natural that we push each other, as well as help each other."

Email: adonaldson@desnews.com, Twitter: adonsports