Posts Tagged ‘
kids and sports ’
Thursday, September 11th, 2014
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.
For more information on the “Make the Play” contest, visit QuakerMakeThePlay.com.
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Friday, September 5th, 2014
Just before the Open American tennis star Sloane Stephens joined American Express and the USTA to participate in the Fresh Courts Challenge as part of the USTA’s Fresh Court Initiative. The campaign refurbished courts in the five boroughs of New York City to promote youth tennis and works year round to refresh courts across the country.While Stephens may have lost early this past tournament, she continues to be a champion for youth sports and living an active lifestyle. She weighed in with Parents on her pro experience and her advice to young players.
P: What does it feel like to be an American tennis player at the U.S. Open?
SS: I am always grateful for the overwhelming support from the fans at the U.S. Open. Playing in New York is one of the biggest thrills of the season.
P: Is it exciting or do you feel pressure carrying the banner for the next generation of American tennis?
SS: It’s very exciting. Of course there’s pressure I try not to focus on that. Mostly it’s personal pressure not public pressure. I have really high expectations of myself.
P: How can we better nurture American tennis talent?
SS: Grass roots programs are really important. We need to get kids active and involved early.
P: What attracted you to the sport at age 9?
SS: I’m passionate about sports & was always active. When I was introduced to it, it felt natural.
P: What are some of the benefits kids may reap from tennis – particularly benefits that are different from other team sports?
SS: Independence and confidence in decision-making are two that come to mind.
P: What was it like participating in Saturday’s event and playing with those kids from the area?
SS: Health and wellness for kids is something I’m really passionate about. I enjoy their innocence and how much joy it brings to them. It’s refreshing for me.
P: What is your advice to young players and to the parents of those athletes?
SS: For kids, practice hard and study hard. You have to do both. For parents, listen to your kids and support them as a kid not as an athlete. It’s important to let them find their passion and not live your dreams through them.
If tennis isn’t your sport, that’s ok! Get out and get active!
Photograph: Credit Craig Barritt/Getty Images
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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
On Monday, Parents joined the United States Tennis Association and boxer turned TV host Laila Ali to kick off National Obesity Awareness Month at the U.S. Open Championships. As an athlete and mom of Curtis, 6, and Sydney, 3, Ali is passionate about getting kids active from a young age. She shares her best advice for getting your kids up off the couch.
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.
P: How do you get your kids to stay active and healthy?
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.
Find inspiration for fun with your child with Parents’ Activity Finder.
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.
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.
Photograph: Courtesy of USTA
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athlete, celeb mom, childhood obesity, Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, kids and sports, laila ali, tennis, US Open, USTA, Youth Tennis | Categories:
Monday, June 2nd, 2014
The FIFA World Cup kicks off June 12 (just around the corner)! Parents caught up with U.S. soccer team striker Jozy Altidore to get his insight on the upcoming tournament and starting kids young in athletics. At the age of 24, Jozy has some pretty mature insight into the values that make a successful, kind kid—on the field and off.
P: How you were drawn to the sport at such a young age and what makes soccer a great sport for kids?
JA: My family, from their background, it’s kind of a natural thing. They’re from Haiti and in Haiti soccer is basically number one. My dad is of Haitian descent and he got me into soccer since I was 3. I’ve been playing ever since then and I just fell in love with the game.
P: What makes soccer special for young kids?
JA: I think any sport [is great] for kids because it keeps them off the street. I know that’s important. That’s one of the reasons why my family put me in, to make sure I was doing something that required discipline. I think soccer is great because it’s a team game, being able to function in a group. It’s kind of a brotherhood; you’re a group of guys and you grow together as people and as players. You travel together; you play; you go through a lot. It’s a great thing for young boys and young girls to get into. Most importantly it’s fun!
P: You turned pro at age 16. What was it like to still be a kid navigating a world of professional athletes?
JA: It was next to impossible. I struggled with it at first, obviously. There’s so much to do and you’ve got such little time and adjusting to playing with grown men and not children, that was hard as well. Just getting used to what comes with being a professional, the criticisms, fans and all that. [You have to] quit worrying about if everyone is going to like what you do or like you as a player and just try to have a positive outlook on everything and work hard. That was the biggest challenge I think for me.
P: What was your most memorable moment from the last World Cup?
JA: Just walking out of the tunnel that first game because I’ll never forget it. I cried a little bit. It was just so surreal to me. It was just amazing. I don’t think I’m going to be able to replicate it. It was so special to me.
P: What are you most excited for about the upcoming World Cup now that you’ve already been? Will you still have that adrenaline walking out of the tunnel?
JA: Most definitely. Hopefully I arrive at the World Cup in a more mature way and not that youth where I’m just excited and I want to run everywhere and bounce off the walls, you know? Hopefully, I arrive there with more of an understanding of what’s new for me and how I can help the team to the best of my abilities. Just try to impact the tournament in the best way I can for my teammates. I’m looking forward to that.
P: Is there any one match that you’re most looking forward to?
JA: The first match is special for a lot of reasons. It’s the first game of a childhood dream. You can’t replicate the feelings that you’re going to feel on that day. You can try. You can play a lot of big games against big opponents, but that feeling as a player that I’ll have walking out of the tunnel against Ghana will be immeasurable. I’m excited for that. I’m excited to be part of it and I’m excited for the guys to have that experience, as well.
P: You started the Jozy Altidore Foundation back in 2011. What inspired you to do this?
JA: Well in 2010 I went to the place in Haiti with the earthquake. I was shaken up because it hit close to home for me being that my family is from Haiti. I just felt helpless like I couldn’t do anything. It was in that moment where I felt like I should try and do something. My family helped me figure out how to do that by getting a foundation. I could have donated something, which I did, but I thought having a foundation would be a more hands-on approach. I looked into it and I started it and I haven’t looked back. It enables me to help in many different ways, not only Haiti but in many different areas.
P: Your foundation’s mission statement says that you specifically want to serve underprivileged children. What is it about young kids that you relate to or feel for? What draws you to help that population?
JA: I’ve always been a big fan of the youth. I guess when you go everything so young that kind of just happens. I want to help the youth and see them do well.
P: You’ve said that no one is ever too young to make a difference. How do you hope to encourage young people to volunteer and raise money?
JA: I think it’s an easy thing. Kids are very naïve in a sense where they just want what they want. So if they want to help, they’re going to help. I think that will naturally just happen. I think kids just have a good heart and are genuine about their feelings. I figure that the best way to teach [generosity] is to teach them young because that’s the time when our hearts are the purest and you know they’ll get the most out of it.
P: Aside from this spirit of volunteerism, what other values did your parents impart to you that you have carried on and have made you so successful?
JA: My dad always says to be modest. To this day he always says it’s better to be modest, it’s always better to listen and sometimes not speak. He said it to me yesterday, actually. He’s always saying that to me. I think a lot of kids and a lot of people sometimes lose sight of that. I think it’s something that might be simple, but I think we oftentimes don’t do it.
P: Do you have any message for young kids who are dreaming about careers in athletics?
JA: To dream big and big and bigger! I think that’s important for kids. You can’t really tell anybody that “You can’t do” something. I think they have to believe they can. With that and with being persistent, they’ll make it whether it’s being a big time athlete or something else. I think we need our kids to believe in themselves and believe in what they can do.
P: Father’s Day is coming up. Do you have any plans? Anything special you do on that day even if you’re not with your dad?
JA: In my family—I don’t think I’m dissing anybody else—but I try to make them feel that they’re special every day whether it’s how I call to speak to them or give my mom a call when she’s least expecting it because for me my parents have been instrumental for me from day one. [Father's Day] will be a nice day to express that again, but I try to do that every day because I’m so thankful. I’m so grateful. I don’t know where I’d be without them.
Soccer not for you? Use this video to teach your son or daughter to throw a perfect pitch!
For more suggestions of fun activities with your kids, download our Activity Finder app!
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athletes, confident kids, Father's Day, generous kids, kids and sports, Olympics, soccer, volunteerism, World Cup | Categories:
GoodyBlog, Time for Fun, Your Child
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
The Sochi Winter Paralympics took place March 7-16. Previously known only as a summer Paralympian in wheelchair racing, Team USA member Tatyana McFadden took on the snow in Russia—where she was born before being adopted into an American family at the age of 6. As part of Team Liberty Mutual, McFadden rose to the top. Born with spina bifida, the now 11-time medalist (track and sit-ski) chatted with Parents about overcoming obstacles—in life and in athletics, her adoption experience and her family, and fighting for equality in sports.
P: How does it feel to have won even more medals now in the winter Paralympics?
TM: It was just an amazing, fulfilling experience for me. I definitely exceeded my expectations. I really expected just to be in the top ten for the 12k and I got fifth and then in the sprint, I just really wanted to make the Finals and I medaled. And in the 5k I really wanted to be top 10 again and I got seventh.
P: Summer Paralympics, Winter Paralympics, New York Marathon, Chicago Marathon, the list goes on. What was it like to train for so many different events simultaneously?
TM: It was very difficult. I ran marathons all the way up until November  and at that time I was still in college. I graduated just this December , so as soon as I graduated I headed out to Colorado for snow training. It was a very continuous schedule.
P: You encountered quite a few obstacles in your childhood. When you were in the orphanage in Russia, how much of an understanding of your condition and your potential did you have?
TM: Living in the orphanage for six years, I never saw myself as any different. I walked on my hands for the first six years of my life. I didn’t have a wheelchair, but I was a child of determination and drive. If I wanted to get somewhere I would do it and I would do it by walking on my hands. You know, many others think that living in the orphanage was a huge setback in life, but being adopted into an American family brought me opportunities to rise on so many levels, as a student and an athlete.
P: Do you think that your lack of wheelchair as a child led you to gain the strength that has now served you as an athlete?
TM: I think it was just the personality that I have. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. I always had a Russian saying “Yasama,” which means “I can do it myself and I can do it by myself.” I didn’t want anyone to help me and I think walking on my hands made me extremely strong. But it was just having that drive and determination at such a young age. As soon as I was adopted, I became involved with sports to help be gain a healthy lifestyle.
P: Tell me a little more about your family and the adoption process and coming to America.
TM: The adoption actually saved me. I was very sick and very anemic living in the orphanage. I was born with spina bifida and I was laying in the hospital with my back open for 21 days, so it was quite a miracle that I lived without getting an infection and dying. I do believe there is a purpose for me being here and being alive. I also believe in fate and I remember a woman walking in [to the orphanage] and I looked at her and I told everyone that was gonna be my mom. It was just the strangest feeling. From that moment I really connected with my mom and here we are 19 years later. She’s been so supportive in helping me be the person that I am today.
P: You have two younger adopted sisters, Hannah and Ruthi. What’s that like all having different origin stories and coming together in one family?
TM: There’s lots of culture involved. I mean, we love each other. My middle sister Hannah is also a Paralympian. She’s missing a tibia and fibula, so she’s an amputee. She was in the final of the summer Paralympics with me in the 100 meters. That was the first time ever in track that siblings competed against each other. And my younger sister Ruthi, she plays basketball. We’re all involved with sports and athletics. It’s fun just having that one thing in common. I’ve always wanted a big family.
P: When did you first discover your passion for sports?
TM: Around age 7 when my mom got me involved with a para sports club called the Bennett Blazers. She got me involved with a sports club because being so sick and very anemic, the doctors said, “She probably has a few years to live, just help her try to live a healthy lifestyle.” But my mom really thought otherwise and she said, “No, I’m gonna help her get healthy.” The way to do that was to get me involved with sports.
I started gaining weight. I started becoming a lot stronger. I was able to be more independent. I could push my own wheelchair. Then I started to do my own transfers in and out of the wheelchair. Before I knew it I could do almost everything by myself. Sports allowed me to do that and I wasn’t even focusing on how far I could take this sport. I was just focusing on Wow I can live a healthy lifestyle. If it wasn’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be a healthy person and have fallen in love with sports.
P: Your work with the Bennet Blazers and your battle to pass legislation for equality in high school sports is so important. Tell me a bit more about your quest for equal access to athletics.
TM: I was a very different high school student. Coming into freshman year, I came back from the Paralympic games in Athens winning a silver and bronze medal and the only thing I wanted to do in high school was to be part of the track team. I was the only physically disabled wheelchair athlete at my high school and I remember the principle saying, “Get involved!” I wanted to be involved with track. First, they denied me a uniform, and then at track meets they had to stop the entire meet and let me run by myself. That’s not what it should be about. We should all be included as one.
P: So the idea is to have integrated teams of those who are in wheelchairs against those who are not? Not for a separate division or town leauges?
TM: It’s for people with physical disabilities to be part of high school sports. It was never to compete against, it was just to run along the side of. That’s what should happen especially if you’re the only athlete. If there were several others than of course we would have our own heat. It’s just about showing your athletic ability. It’s the 21st century and no one should be denied that. And if they’re denied high school, imagine what problems they’re going to run into later in life that they could be denied. Now it’s a federal law.
P: What is your message to kids with differing abilities and to parents of those kids?
TM: There are definitely gonna be challenges in your life and there’s definitely gonna be several setbacks, but it’s about being able to come back from those setbacks and rise in your own way. For me, I rose because of my mom and then in high school I rose because of the lawsuit creating opportunities for others. Now being an 11-time Paralympic medalist, I know these setbacks make us stronger so we can rise as individuals.
One mom’s story about adopting a child with spina bifada:
Photograph: Tatyana McFadden; Courtesy Liberty Mutual Insurance
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adoption, disabilities, kids and sports, paraylmpics, skiing, sochi olympics, special needs, special needs athletes, spini bifida, Sports, Tatyana McFadden, track, wheelchair racing | Categories:
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
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.
P: What makes swimming such a great sport for kids?
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.
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.
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Photograph: Katie Ledecky/United States Olympic Committee
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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Our journey to Brazil continues! This week: Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz and her mom Jeannine. The mother-daughter pair sat down with Parents at a Winter Olympic viewing party sponsored by Swim Today to talk about the personal rewards of swimming (it’s not all about medals), the importance of family, and why she’s focusing on the now.
P: What makes swimming such a great sport for kids and adults?
CL: I just learned so many things from it. I’ve had so much fun. I had to learn from a young age time management, how to get my homework done. I laugh because it was a threat if my mom wouldn’t let me go to practice. I had to get my homework done and learn how to manage other things in my life so I could still make it to practice because that was really what I wanted to do at night. It’s just been such a great platform for allowing me to talk about who I am and what I want to do in life and really learn about myself. In so many ways the personal growth is the bigger success than any medal I’ve won.
JL: I remember when she was in third grade she said she wanted to quit school and just swim and I told her she couldn’t be a dumb swimmer she had to be a smart swimmer. But, through most of grade school she was a very quiet little girl. I remember taking her to her first day at kindergarten and she was hiding in my skirts. The confidence as a person that she has built through her gifts of swimming has just been incredible. This little shy girl who hid behind me is now up on the world stage.
P: Tell me, Mom, what does it take to raise an Olympian?
JL: Oh gosh. Well you have to know that when she was 8 and doing really well just in her local level, my dad looked at me and said “Maybe she’ll go to the Olympics someday.” And I looked at him and I said, “I hope not.” And he said “Why?!” And I said, “Because you have to give up your entire life for it.” Little did I know what our road was going to be at that point. I think she’s given up a lot of her life but I think the gifts she has received through swimming and that our family has received has been immeasurable. It’s been worth every bit of it.
P: What does it mean to you to have such support from your mom and your family?
CL: It’s been tremendous. You know,during the Winter Olympics, when Noelle Pikus-Pace won her medal in skeleton she said: “We won a medal.” I just love that. When I won a bronze medal, it was a “We won the bronze medal.” I got to see [my family] right after I finished my race and have this we did this, we finished and we just did something amazing moment. There were so many things that parents and a family have to sacrifice. I don’t think any Olympian would be where they are without that good foundation of a family and support behind them.
P: What is your advice to moms of aspiring athletes at any level, but especially at this high level?
JL: Make sure they’re having fun and let it be their sport. It’s not your sport. So, if they’re not having fun figure out why and move them to a different sport if that’s what it takes. Just love them no matter how they do. Any time Caitlin got out of the water I’d say “Great swim!” and I’d give her a hug and she’d go “Not really, Mom.” And I’d go, “It was to me.”
CL: Which was huge, being an athlete. There are points where I didn’t want to keep swimming and my parents would say “We’re going to love you whether you swim or not.” My motivation to swim and do well was never because of pressure from my parents, it was always their support that allowed me to do well.
P: Gearing up for Rio, what are you most excited for?
CL: Well, the Winter Olympics got me excited just to race again. I love watching Team USA. Being a part of that is just so special. There’s just so much that builds up and leads up to the Olympics, that’s just the culminating point. The time in between from now until Rio is such an important time in terms of enjoyment and growth and learning that you know I try not to look too much ahead to Rio and just enjoy what I’m doing right now.
Will your kid be the next member of Team USA? Take our child career quiz and find out what she could grow up to be!
Get your little athlete to eat healthy with our advice in the video player below:
Photographs (from top down): Caitlin Leverenz/Arena; Caitlin and her mom, Jeannine
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Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
As our countdown to Summer Olympics 2016 continues (only 884 days to go!) we have two-time Olympic medalist Nick Thoman. Currently holding the world record in 100-meter backstroke, this 27-year-old swimmer got his start at a young age. Parents caught up with the champion and his mom, Kathy Brewer, at a Winter Olympics viewing party sponsored by Swim Today to discuss why swimming is a great sport for kids, his family’s role in his success, and his plans for Brazil.
P: What makes swimming such a great sport for kids?
NT: A lot of my best friends were swimmers with me. The friendships that you build along the way are definitely one of the things that brought me into it initially. [My sister] Vic was swimming and she was having a lot of fun and I was bored, bouncing off the walls so Mom found a speedo small enough and tossed me out in the water.
KB: Swimming was also the best way to find babysitters because you had all-age swimmers. You have kindergarden through high school. You really get to see the high school swim-team kids interact with the younger kids. You really see their character.
NT: It’s true. You did always use swimmers. I never knew why.
KB: Because they were really responsible!
P: What does it take to raise an Olympian such as your son?
KB: I think Nick’s determination. He and Victoria were both determined kids. The focus in swimming is all about lifetime bests. It’s inevitable that you’ll compare yourself somewhat to other people, but the coaches and the parents get you to focus on bettering your own time. But, we don’t coach our kids. Just let the coaches do the coaching and you’re there for the moral support. Good or bad, I love you. I’m proud of you.
P: How important was it to have the support of your parents to alleviate that pressure?
NT: It was awesome. One of the things that I actually remember most from the Olympic trials was my father sent me an email the day of my event and I didn’t actually see it until I had made the Olympic team, but it basically said “No matter what happens, we’ll all still love you.” That was a fantastic thing. He was always, both he and my mother, very very supportive. They did a great job of not coaching me and I know that was hard, [especially] for my father because he was also a swimmer. I really do appreciate all the support I’ve had. Driving me to practice at 4:45 in the morning. Hell, even when I got my driver’s license my mom would wake up and make me breakfast before I went.
P: What a good mom!
NT: She is a good mom!
KB: It makes a big difference if you get involved, too. That shows your kids you’re really supportive of all their efforts. Swim meets from the outside might seem boring, but if you get involved it’s not boring at all.
P: What does it feel like at the Olympics right before your event? What goes through your mind? What are you feeling?
NT: It’s kind of a surreal experience. I’ve only been once and I swam a total of four times. Ending up with two medals at the end was just amazing. There’s a feeling that you get—or that I got—that I knew I was going to go out and have a good race. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be; I didn’t know how I was going to place, didn’t know that I was going to win a silver medal, but I knew that I was going to race my best for myself, for everyone that supported me, and for my country and that was just a great feeling.
P: What is your message to young aspiring athletes?
NT: Have fun! Just go out and have fun and what you’re passionate about will call you back. Swimming always called me back. I even took nine months off last year, didn’t know if I was going to retire or not but swimming, again, it called me back. Have fun doing whatever you want to do—be it sports, be it musicals, whatever you get into.
P: Mom, what’s your advice for the moms of aspiring athletes?
KB: Oh boy. Be supportive. Allow the children to show their commitment to a sport and whatever they choose to commit to, be there for them. Back them up. One of the things that helped me was finding someone professional to talk to. Because I didn’t want to make my stress his stress. That was really important.
P: Gearing up for Rio, what’s on for the next two years?
NT: I took almost all of last year off and it really got me re-focused and hungry again. I was at a point where I didn’t know if I wanted to swim or not after the last Olympics. Taking that time off really helped. Coming up this year I’m really hoping to make the Pan Pacific Championships and the World Championships next year and we’ll see how we do.
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Photographs: Nick Thoman, Courtesy United States Olympic Committee; Nick with mom, Kathleen Brewer, and sister, Victoria Thoman
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