To her teammates, professional soccer player Christie Rampone is “Captain America.” But to Rylie, 9, and Reece, 4, she’s simply Mommy. As the leader of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team and a 3-time Olympic medalist, Rampone has proven her athletic prowess, and after being diagnosed with Lyme disease she proved how truly tough she is. Parents caught up with Rampone to talk about her unique schedule, how she addresses her health with her kids, and what she hopes her girls learn from Mommy.
P: You’ve been an athlete your whole life. Are your daughters also naturally athletic?
CR: They are. They’re both playing soccer right now. Rylie is obviously more competitive, Reece just played small season with small goals and was fun to watch. Rylie’s playing basketball and they’re both dancing, so very active.
CR: In the spring and summer we do a lot of bike riding. When I do some of my workouts Rylie will come along with me and try to understand what it takes to be where Mommy is—she always says she wants to be like Mommy. We do fun activities in the backyard where I make obstacle courses. I don’t have a hard time with them getting outside; it’s more getting them inside that’s the question for me.
P: Playing on the Women’s National Soccer Team what is your travel schedule like? Do the girls ever come on the road with you?
CR: The travel this year is pretty intense because it’s a World Cup year so I’m on the road for three weeks, off for a week. We’re doing a lot of overseas trips to Brazil, England, France, Portugal. I bring Reece, the little one, with me most of the time. My older one will come when she has a break from school or we’ll do a long weekend where she’ll leave Thursday night, miss Friday school and come back Sunday. We try to make it work. I don’t want to be apart for too long, but Rylie has a lot of activities and I want to make sure she’s there because she has committed to her soccer team and basketball. It’s kind of up to the girls if they want to come.
P: When you are home, how do you spend quality time with them but ensure that their routine isn’t compromised?
CR: They’re aware that Mommy has good and bad days. There are certain days when Mommy needs a break or Mommy’s not feeling as well. They’re so independent and they understand. I just have to communicate with them. I try to explain to Rylie that Mommy does have some health issues, but you still push on and you have to fight through. The way [my husband and I] explained it is like when she’s feeling tired in a game, that’s how Mommy feels some days just waking up. It definitely wasn’t a scare for them. We explained it in a positive way.
P: What advice do you have for other parents who may receive a difficult diagnosis or have to deal with a chronic health issue.
CR: Take care of yourself as a mom and educate yourself. The next step is figuring out what works for you. For me it’s making myself more aware of my immune system, focusing on my eating and health, exercising, taking my EpiCor, and kind of pushing through the tough days. Education and awareness is huge.
P: As captain of the team and with three Olympic medals, it’s no question you’re a role model for young girls. Who did you look up to when you were a kid?
CR: I always looked up to my dad who was into sports. He was just so active and always willing to go outside with us and play—wasn’t huge into TV. I was inspired to try to earn a scholarship and go to college and enjoy sports just how my dad did.
P: What do your daughters do that was just like you when you were a kid?
CR: They are so competitive. I think of how stubborn they can be at times. It’s their way or no way. I would say that that’s how my parents had it. I would say that’s little Christie out there. It’s interesting seeing a lot of the similar signs of wanting to win and being competitive and learning how to lose.
P: We know a lot more about teaching kids to win. How have you taught her to learn to lose?
What do you do with your kids to get active? An NFL quarterback wants to know!
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is helping launch “Make the Play” with Quaker Oats to help motivate families to eat healthy and get active. Parents can submit their favorite ways to play with their families. The winning family with the most innovative game or original way to be active gets to participate in a “Day of Play” with Luck. Parents caught up with Luck to learn about the importance of kids getting active with their families.
P: What inspired you to get involved with “Make the Play”?
AL: This is my third year getting to work with Quaker. It’s really because we share so much passion for healthy lifestyles and encouraging kids to get outside to play for at least an hour a day, to eat good breakfast, and sleep well. I think those are great messages to get behind. I feel strongly about them and so does Quaker.
P: How did active play influence your childhood?
AL: It was a big,big part of my childhood. I have three younger siblings, so the four of us were outside all the time after school playing games, making up games. My sister made up a game called “roof ball.” We’d play that constantly. She always beat me in it, and it made me very mad. But we were outside all the time. We’d wait for my dad to come home from work, and he’d take 15, 20 minutes to just throw a football or shoot basketball hoops or kick a soccer ball or play volleyball. That was always a big part of my childhood, and I know it must have helped me with sitting down and doing homework later or falling asleep. It was a great way to use up some energy.
P: What was “roof ball” like?
AL: “Roof ball” was a game where we’d throw a ball on the roof and the person who caught it got points. I shoulda won, but I rarely did.
P: What are some advantages of children getting active?
AL: I do think studies have shown that getting active for at least 60 minutes a day helps with concentration and focus, so I think that’s important. Just an active lifestyle is great for health overall.
P: What athlete inspired you as a kid to be active?
AL: My dad [Oliver Luck] played football in the NFL, and he was a quarterback, as well. He was always an inspiration, and I loved watching Peyton Manning and Steve McNair. I enjoyed watching those guys.
P: How does eating right affect your performance?
AL: It’s a big part of being a professional athlete. To me, breakfast is my most important meal. It’s often the meal you play a game on. I make sure I have oatmeal, milk, and fruit. It’s the fuel you use to hopefully do your best, so eating right is a big part of being a professional athlete. I wish I paid more attention to it earlier in my life.
P: What’s you favorite oatmeal topping?
AL: Fruit! All types of fruit—berries, especially.
P: What are some ways parents can inspire their kids to get active?
AL: I always appreciated my dad coming outside and playing with us—or my mom—and being a part of the game we were playing or refereeing it or just being outside. That was fun for us, and it was very encouraging.
P: What are you looking for when judging the “Make the Play” contest?
AL: Two simple things! One: Involve other people. It’s fun when a bunch of people are playing the game and families. Two: Have fun. Make sure you’re having fun, and that will come through on the videos.
P: We’re here today to kick off National Obesity Awareness Month. How important is this cause to you as a mom and an athlete?
LA: It’s so important because it’s an epidemic here in the Untied States. Whenever children are involved they can’t be to blame. I’m always trying to spread awareness and inspire people to be the best that they can be, first, and then of course teach their kids those habits.
LA: First and foremost, my kids see their parents being active. We live an active lifestyle so they get included. They’re introduced at a young age to different sports and they realize they like it. I think the key is getting them started young, giving them options and taking them outside.
P: What do you say to a parent whose child doesn’t want to get up off the couch?
LA: I think you definitely have to get involved as a family. Parents can’t be like, “Get up and go outside.” Sometimes you have to go outside with your kids, sometimes you have to go to the park, you have to go skating, you have to go to the beach and go biking. There are so many things that you can do just to get active. Also set parameters. “No you can’t watch TV right now, figure something out,” like they used to say back in the day. You’re going to find something to do because you’re going to be bored. It takes work and it takes consistency.
P: With your son just turning 6 and a 3-year-old girl, do they often have sibling squabbles? How do you deal with them?
LA: It’s a constant struggle in my life: these two fussing and arguing and my daughter coming in and wrecking whatever her brother built. He gets upset and I say “I understand you’re upset, but you can’t fight.” There are a lot of time outs in my house. They get tired of sitting out and they learn how to play.
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P: What are you most looking forward to as your kids get older?
LA: I’m looking forward to getting them involved in sports because that’s a regret that I have—that I didn’t get involved in sports at a young age. I’m definitely getting one of those nets and racquets and setting it up in my driveway. I can get out there and play with them. I’m really excited about that and learning as I go.
While the Road to Rio is a long journey counting down to Summer 2016, Olympic medalist Katie Ledecky has had tons of success in her (so far) short career. At the age of 15, she was the youngest swimmer on Team USA at the London 2012 Olympics, where she took home the gold in 800m freestyle (for which she also holds the world record). Katie and her mom, Mary Gen, sat down with Parents at a Winter Olympics viewing party sponsored by Swim Today to get her take on swimming, her family’s incredible support, and all things Olympics.
KL: I think the competitive atmosphere and the people that are involved in the sport. It’s a great outlet to meet friends and engage with them. That’s what I have always enjoyed.
MGL: When the kids first joined the summer pool we really didn’t know anybody there and that’s, I think, one of the reasons she and her brother decided to join the team. Right away they had like a hundred friends. The thing I think is interesting about swimming is that it’s not just one age that goes and practices together. It crosses a couple of ages and it’s co-ed. She’s working out with girls and guys and they have such great camaraderie and ability to support each other. You don’t see that with a lot of other sports.
P: Did you gravitate to swimming on your own or did your parents guide you?
KL: I think my mom taught me how to swim when I was probably 3 or 4. But then I joined summer swim team with my brother when I was 6. Then we joined a club swim team that fall. So I’ve been swimming on teams since I was 6, but up until about age 10 I played basketball and soccer, a few other sports. Once I got to about 9 or 10 I started to go to swim practice over basketball practice. I Gradually I just started to lean towards swimming.
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P: What’s it like to raise an Olympian?
MGL: Well, it’s been great. We always say that she makes us look good—our kids make us look good. My husband and I feel that we’ve gotten a lot of support from our community, our club, our summer team. I’m very very proud of her. I’m proud of how she’s handled it.
P: Does it sometimes feel like a full time job to be the parent of an athlete at this level?
MGL: You know, I think no matter what she would have decided to do, it’s great to see one of your children finding and developing the passion. My feeling is is that it’s not really hard to support your child in whatever direction they want to go—whether it’s sports or music or academics. It’s been pretty easy to support her.
P: What does it mean to you to have your Mom and your family cheering you on? How does it help with some of the pressure of these moments?
KL: It’s the best. They’re at every meet. They take me to every practice. That support means a lot to me. At the Olympics I saw them in the stands and knew they were there. It was kind of a relaxing thing to know that. I was 15 years old and traveling with the team on my first international trip. My parents had prepared me well for it and I knew how to handle it all.
P: What is your message to young aspiring athletes?
KL: If you find a sport that you’re passionate about stick with it and be dedicated and mainly just have fun with it. That’s what success will come from. If you’re happy doing something and you have friends doing it that’s gonna be your best path to success.
P: What’s your message to the moms of aspiring athletes?
MGL: Mine would be the same. To really make sure your children are having fun. If they’re not having fun with it, find something else or support them looking for other outlets and make it fun. [Swimming] is great for building confidence in both my kids, making great friends, learning how to support goals, setting goals and reaching those goals and setting new goals, helping them to be organized. As long as they’re learning from it it’s good for them.
P: Looking ahead to Rio, what are you most excited about?
KL: There’s a lot in between, but yes it is coming up quickly. I just want to make the Olympic team again. That’s going to be the biggest challenge. I’m excited most about training over the next two years. I have my goals set and I’m excited to see what my limit is over the next two years.
Football season is now in full swing. Whether your little athlete plays on a team or prefers to watch from the sidelines, you’ll want to encourage a positive attitude towards sports. We spoke with Andrew Luck, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, to get his advice for keeping kids moving and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
Make sure it’s fun. “Even as a professional athlete, if it’s not fun, something is wrong,” Andrew says. He recommends letting your child play as many sports as she wants. “Diversity helps. Playing basketball helped me become a better football player.”
Emphasize the commitment. “My parents never forced me to play anything, but if I started a season of any sport, I had to finish it out,” he says.
Help your child prepare correctly. That means fueling up on the proper foods, getting enough sleep, and understanding what the body needs.
Practice, practice, practice! “I used to throw for hours with my dad after work,” Andrew says. “But on occasions where he didn’t have a lot of time, we’d just do five minutes. Even that helps.”
Andrew also gave us his tips for throwing the perfect spiral. Perfect the move yourself, and then teach your little one:
1. Grip the football correctly. Hold the ball so that your ring and little finger are across the laces and your thumb is underneath. Your thumb and index finger should make an “L” shape. Don’t grip the ball too tightly–you should hold the football firm, but it should still be moveable and comfortable in your palm. 2. Position your body. Face 90 degrees away from your target and turn your hips to the side you throw with. Keep your front shoulder pointed at your target. 3. Keep it by your ear as you prepare to throw. This will keep the ball at the proper height. 4. Release the ball with your fingertips. As the football leaves your hand, it should only touch your fingertips. The last part of your body to touch the football should be your index finger, giving it a nice spin. 5. Practice makes perfect. Play a game of catch with your child, and you’ll both get better through repetition.
Want to win a $15,000 grant for your school? Andrew has teamed up with Quaker Oats and Fuel Up to Play 60 for the Make Your Move video contest. Film and submit a video of students showcasing how they are active by November 27, and your school could win all sorts of great prizes! Check out the video below for more details.
We recently had the chance to talk with Lashinda Demus, Olympic hurdler and mother of five-year-old twins, Duaine and Dontay, about balancing life as a star-athlete and mom. Here, the 29-year-old track star shares her struggle with pregnancy and her experience adjusting expectations in order to fulfill her dream to become a legendary competitor and parent.
Do you think that in today’s society there is pressure for women to establish their career first and then have family, rather than the other way around?
I think that [we put pressure] on ourselves. The more vocal women are, the more we want to attain and do [we think], “Well I just need to get straight first.” And I think, “What happens to having a union and you guys working together?” Some women think when you become a mom or married, you automatically fit into this box of what a wife and a mother are supposed to be. I fell into that, too. I would find myself not dressing up, not going anywhere, and just making sure [my boys] look good. I didn’t care how I looked. I had to snap out of that.
Your biography refers to your pregnancy as unplanned. What was the original plan?
I always wanted kids, but my plan from the beginning was to compete until 2012, which would have me making three Olympic teams. I made ’04 my junior year in college, and then I hoped to make ’08 and then ’12. Then, I’d be 29 and start having a family. My husband and I were together for four or five years before I got pregnant in 2007. It wasn’t planned at all and I don’t think I was ready to have kids and that’s why I went into my little depression. I find that I’m more attached and more hands-on now because I constantly think about how I didn’t even want to be pregnant and that sets me straight. Now I’ve made my twins a part of my dreams.
Once your life started to take this different course, did you consider becoming a non-working mom?
I did not. I would get discouraged because I knew my body went through a drastic change and I thought “I don’t know how I’m going to get back to being number one in the world athletically, after having two human beings in my body.” I’m actually one of those women that won’t mind being the stay-at-home-mom. That’s one of the things that I think I’ll like to do. But at that point, I knew I was gonna get back at it.
You said your goal was to go through 2012.
I’m going to go to 2016. Once you’ve run as long as I have—I’ve been running since I was five years old—you want to make sure you finish the book. I want four things out of my track career and that’s an American record—which I have—a world championship title—which I have—Olympic gold and a world record. Almost had that gold this year, so I have two more on the bucket list.
Do you see that in your boys, that thirst to be the best?
I see not a will to be the best, but I see them wanting to please me, and that’s scary. That’s why I kind of keep them away from track…for a while. I don’t want them to think they have to stand up to what I’ve done. To me, that’s a lot of pressure. I want them to be passionate about something, but not passionate about pleasing me or outdoing me.
How is it being the mom of twins?
I always wanted twins that had that “I feel what you feel” thing, and they really have that. They’re best friends. My family is a family full of fraternal twins: My great-grandmother had four sets and they’re all fraternal.
That’s quite the legacy. In past interviews you mentioned that your legacy is what you want to leave your boys. Other than the markers, what message do you want your legacy to send them?
The message of greatness—not just in athletics, in whatever you’re passionate about. Since I was a little kid, something was put in me that I’m the best at this. I want them to just exude greatness. I’m going to have grandkids one day so I want them to have an example of “she was a woman, a mother, an athlete and she still, she put her best on the line all the time.”
With the end of the London Olympics rapidly approaching, you may have noticed that there hasn’t been much coverage of baseball or softball at the Games. Actually, neither sport has been at the Games; after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to remove them.
Jennie Finch is a strong supporter of returning softball to the Olympics. Once called “the most famous softball player in history” by Time, Finch led the U.S. women’s softball team to a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. Finch retired in 2010 and now spends most of her time taking care of her children with her husband, baseball player Casey Daigle. They have two sons together, Ace, 6, and Diesel, 1, and Finch recently announced that she is pregnant (congrats, Jennie!).
Tell me about your work with Hershey’s.
The program is something I’ve always been about: balance. Finding balance in your life, and happiness through well-being, and enjoying precious moments that we don’t get very often. I’m excited about putting the “active” part back in family activity. My role within the campaign is promoting a way to live in the moment and enjoy it. I’m one of the Good Life Gurus, and we have a Good Life Promise to live in the moment; for me, it’s finding time to be present with my boys.
You’re promoting how to make physical activity fun for the entire family. What are some ways you keep active with your family?
With our boys, we have so much fun with just a cardboard box or a ball. My husband gets involved with playing games of Wiffle ball or setting up a goal and playing soccer.
What about your little one?
He just takes off in his walker and chases, follows, and bounces a ball — his favorite toy. On rainy days or days when it’s too hot outside, we build forts inside. We make little treats like banana chocolate chip cookies using Hershey’s recipes. These are the little ways we engage the whole family. We also have a trampoline and play games like tag or hide-and-seek.
Will you encourage your sons to play sports?
Definitely. Having played my whole life, I’ve been able to see firsthand the benefits of sports. There are so many life lessons that transcend the playing field, such as teamwork, leadership, discipline, and sacrifice. My older son is playing T-ball now and we’ll see if he likes it. There is so much pressure at a young age to be part of individual and team sports, but whatever his passions are, we’ll let him decide what he wants to do.
You showed the world that it’s possible to be feminine and an athlete. What’s your message for little girls who want to play with dolls but who also want to get dirty?
I loved having a bow in my hair and I did wear makeup on the mound, but to each her own. You can still compete and be whoever you want to be, in whatever makes you feel comfortable. One of the greatest things about sports is the diversity within it. There’s room for everything. It doesn’t discriminate against anybody. It’s about ability and having fun, being outside, being active. Off the softball field, I always tell young kids, young girls especially, to find their gift and run with it. We’re all made differently. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Instead of constantly comparing ourselves with others, find your gifts and let them shine.
What did you learn from being an athlete that applies to motherhood?
Sacrifice and discipline. Also, not to take things seriously. With my 6-year-old, I may say, “Crying will only get you a snotty nose and all worked up over nothing.” As an athlete and a mother, you just have to let loose and have fun with your kids while being a kid with them.
Parents, coaches, and health educators can benefit from this DVD as kids become interested in and take more part in sports. Serious problems can occur if the body isn’t used to new exercise routines, so this 2-hour DVD offers easy step-by-step guidelines on how kids can strength train safely and prevent sports injuries.
Kids can also develop strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility without enrolling in expensive gym program, and learn the proper way to stretch before and recover after workouts. Flashcards within the DVD also offer instructions on how to exercise for specific sports at all player levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). A related mobile app will be available in the near future.