Collier was always athletic, her mother said. To release her bountiful energy, her parents put her in gymnastics as a toddler.
“It was playtime, it was fun, but she tried to be the best at whatever she was trying to do, like her flips, she just kept going, ‘I have to get this right, this round-off, what does a round-off look like?’” Ponda Collier said.
Eventually, though, Charli grew too tall for gymnastics and switched to the sport both of her parents had played in college — her mother at Southwestern University and her father at Eastern Montana College.
When Charli’s recruiting letters started piling up, Elliott Collier would handle them, talking to coaches across the country, Ponda Collier said, as both parents tried to preserve her childhood for as long as they could.
When his daughter was a sophomore in high school, Elliott Collier learned he had lung and liver cancer. Charli said she had to start preparing then for a life without him.
“It took a toll on them,” Ponda Collier said of her two children. “But I really feel like their strength came from the way he was. He was being so strong through all of it, and they kept trying to make him happy, so he’d have some good news.”
A few weeks before he died, Elliott Collier read Charli her invitation to try out for the under-17 Women’s National Team from his hospital bed, and he was radiating with pride and envisioning her as a No. 1 draft pick in the W.N.B.A., Ponda Collier said. He died on April 4, 2016, at age 53.