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Thursday, January 30th, 2014
Just before her flight to Sochi, Parents caught up with 19-year-old Olympic ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson. Inspired by her father, Bill, Sarah started Alpine skiing at age 2 and then followed in her older brother and father’s footsteps into ski jumping at age 7. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes recently released a study showing that sports are a prime way for dads and daughters to bond. Sarah and Bill each took time to chat with us about Sarah’s dreams as a young athlete and how skiing helped to bring father and daughter closer than ever.
P: Congratulations on your huge accomplishment making this year’s Olympic team, not to mention the first team in your sport! What was the first thought that went through your mind when you find out you were going to Sochi?
SH: It’s been my goal since I was little and when I had my knee injury my dream kind of seemed to flash before my eyes. But I worked hard and luckily I rehabbed just in time. Obviously just super excited to represent Team USA and compete at the highest level. I don’t think I really realize it at the moment how big it is historically, but it’s really exciting.
P: And, Bill, tell me what you’re feeling.
BH: It’s a dream come true. Who would’ve asked for anything this tremendous and awesome? A lot of it hasn’t sunk in and I don’t think it really will until maybe I set foot in Russia and see all the fanfare. It’s just gonna be tremendous to see Sarah at the venue with an elite group of jumpers and to see how she can do.
P: How is it to have a child who is so determined to achieve her dreams?
BH: It’s pretty inspiring, right? As a parent we try to inspire our children so when things flip and you realize my child is inspiring me, that’s pretty impressive. You kind of ask yourself, where does that come from? What gives her that drive? I carry passion for life and passion for skiing and maybe I’ve passed some along to her. I’m just so impressed with her. She takes the time to be the best she can be within her sport. It just warms my heart to find that she seeks that thrill and that joy out of doing what she loves to do.
P: When Sarah was younger, when it wasn’t clear yet that she was destined for the Olympics, how did you manage to balance a healthy encouragement of her talent without stepping into pressurized territory?
BH: Most parents probably don’t think about raising a child to be an Olympian and I certainly didn’t either. It was just a matter of doing what you love to do and having fun doing it. I would do my best to encourage my kids to get out of bed on Saturday mornings so we could go up to the mountain and go skiing. Then it kind of just naturally evolved. Because you have fun you want to go back and do it again and again and again.
P: Sarah, your dad was a ski jumper. Were you drawn to jumping because of your dad?
SH: He jumped when he was in high school. My dad really helped me get my start when he taught me how to ski at the young age of 2 here, in Park City. He loves bringing me and my brother out and enjoying the snow and the outdoors with me, so when I wanted to start ski jumping, of course he was super excited that I was following in his footsteps and also in my brother’s.
P: Do you think ski jumping brings the two of you closer together?
SH: What brings dads and their daughters more together is that athletic bond. It’s really important to have that bond with my dad. He supports me in every way and we still love going out skiing together. He obviously didn’t jump after high school, but he always says how proud he is of me and how crazy I am for jumping the hills that I’ve jumped. I’ve jumped further than he ever did. We share the love of skiing and we have so many memories of going on ski vacations.
P: How is the father-daughter relationship different from the father-son relationship in your house?
SH: I guess I’m Daddy’s little girl. He thought having a girl, I would be a little princess, but I have a tough side to me obviously.
BH: As Nick was going through adolescence, as a father-son relationship he just needed some more space. But with Sarah, I think we got a little bit closer as she’s been going through that 15-19 range.
P: Do you think your dad ever worries about you as his little girl?
SH: He definitely gets nervous, as well as my mom. They’re the ones at the bottom peaking through their hands as I jump at World Cups or World Championships when they both came and watched. I think they get more nervous than I do.
P: Is that true? Were you ever fearful for either of your kids to ski jump?
BH: Not particularly. I have a sense of what it is and what it’s about and that under the right conditions it’s reasonably safe. It’s not without risk, but I’m a bit of a risk-taker myself so I can appreciate that they take some risk. In terms of damage to the body because women are different from men, I would say not a concern. But I did have the concern that, Sarah being just under 100 pounds, she doesn’t necessarily have the strength Nick does to deal with conditions that aren’t ideal. What she does have is amazing body control and finesse and smoothness and grace that usually more than makes up for any concerns I would have. She is Daddy’s little girl, but great things come in small packages. She’s a tremendous little athlete.
P: How were you feeling when she got injured?
BH: It pained me to have her going through such agony. It was almost like we were one. She’s feeling pain, I’m also feeling the same pain for her. As parents we don’t want our children to suffer any pain. So that was tough, plus I knew she had aspirations to go to Sochi and just the uncertainty of all that. Could she recover 100 percent? Could she recover in time? Would she be able to jump again? Would she experience the same level of joy that she did previously now that she’s crashed?
Learn about sports injuries and how to prevent your child from sustaining one with this video.
P: What is it about a sport, specifically, that lends itself to strong father-daughter bonds?
BH: Sports seem to really allow dads and daughters to spend time together. Participating in a sport, you have to let other things fall away and that passion comes out and it just opens up and exposes who we are as human beings. You really let the real you come out. I think that when we allow ourselves to be authentic with each other, whether it be dads and daughters or fathers and sons, that creates a special bond where we can know each other authentically and accept each other.
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2014 winter olympics, father daughter bond, fathers, kids and sports, Olympics, Sarah Hendrickson, ski jumping, skiing, sochi olympics, winter olympics | Categories:
Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
With the Sochi Winter Olympics just around the corner, Parents chatted with Olympic figure-skating legend Kristi Yamaguchi about her favorite Olympic memories, keeping herself and her daughters (Keara, 10, and Emma, 8) healthy, and her work for the 2014 Olympics with Team Kellogg’s.
P: What is your favorite Olympic memory?
KY: They’re all so inspiring. I would probably have to go with something from ’92. I would say participating in the Opening Ceremony. At that point, putting on the Team USA uniform and meeting all of the athletes and marching in as a team was…you just felt the honor and the pride of representing our country and you just felt the enormity of the event and it wasn’t just about going out and skating, it’s the Olympics.
P: Do you watch with your daughters? How do you guys get into the Olympic spirit?
KY: We wear red, white and blue and I try to tell them a little bit about the athletes we’re watching if I happen to know anything about them. It’s fun just to cheer on all the athletes and hope to see great performances from them. I definitely encourage them to check out the Great Start stories of the athletes from Team Kellogg’s. It’s fun to learn about who they are before you actually watch them, before Sochi.
P: What is each of their favorite event to watch?
KY: I think probably skating is one of them, but then again, we’re sure to have that on. My older daughter is becoming a pretty good hockey fan. They’ll be exposed to more this year because they’re a little bit older and can understand it a little more. I think they’ll enjoy the snowboarding and some of the skiing events.
P: Your younger one, Emma, skates. At this point, it may be too soon to tell, but what would be a sign to you that she could take it to the next level?
KY: If she shows me the desire. It’s still fairly new, she started about two years ago, and I’m not pushing it too hard. If I see that desire to always want to go in and learn more and practice more and experience more within the sport, then that’s when I’ll know.
P: Is 6 about the age when kids usually start?
KY: It’s different for everyone. You see some who are learning how to walk and they’re already out there. I think it depends what part of the country you’re in and how available the ice is. I was about 6. Boys tend to be a little later in skating.
P: What advice do you have to moms who want to start their kids skating?
KY: Go to the local rink and, especially this time of year, they’ll have group classes to sign up with. At that point it’s not a huge commitment—probably once a week—where they can try skating and get some instruction in a group atmosphere. If they seem to like it and take to it, after a session or two of that, perhaps see if there is a particular coach that is teaching at that rink that your child connects with personality-wise. You can probably ask for a short private lesson.
P: Are there safety precautions that are important? At the end of the day it is a sport.
KY: It is. The U.S. Figure Skating Association has some guidelines. They recommend all beginner skaters wear a helmet when they’re first starting out. Our kids did until they were 5 or at least until they had a little more control on the ice. I think that’s why it is a good idea to put them in the classes, because there they learn how to get up when they fall and learn some techniques that will help them be safer on the ice.
P: I know you live in California so it’s warm, but what are some of your favorite winter recipes to make?
KY: I’m not a huge cook. I do cook dinner, but my kids are very particular and not as adventurous as I’d like them to be. I would say stir-fry chicken with some vegetables and some steamed rice as a go-to just because I know it’s something they’ll eat and it’s pretty quick and easy.
P: Eating is just one part of a healthy lifestyle and exercise is the other part. As an athlete, you’re obviously still very fit. How did your body change after your pregnancies?
KY: It’s quite different, especially coming from the athlete side of things. My lifestyle changed, with me not training like an athlete and burning calories like an athlete. The body slows down a bit and I wasn’t as active as I had been. I definitely didn’t feel as fit. People would say, “You don’t look like you’re out of shape.” But there’s a difference between looking fit and actually being fit.
P: Was that activity essentially the key to what got you back to a comfortable level of fitness for your life as a mom?
KY: It was gradual. What did I have time for? What could I do that fits into the schedule with the kids? Working in a routine at home worked when they were little because if they were home and I was looking after them, I could fit just a half hour in and I felt like I was doing something for myself and I didn’t have to find a babysitter to get that workout in. Now I have the luxury that when they’re at school there’s a bit more open time.
Check out our Lose the Baby Weight Newsletter for great tips to regain your fitness after the little one arrives.
P: Do you still skate?
KY: Every now and then. Emma goes twice a week so I try to get myself on the ice while she’s working with her coach and having a lesson I’ll go on the ice and skate just for fun. I’m like one of the public skaters out there these days, just recreationally skating around.
P: Can skating be a lifelong sport?
KY: Oh absolutely. For sure. There’s definitely skaters who have picked it up at a later time in life and there are definitely skaters who enjoy the sport recreationally for their entire life. It’s always inspiring to see the next generation out there still enjoying it and I’m always hoping that I can continue to get out there and have fun with it, too.
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2014 winter olympics, celeb moms, celebrity interview, eating healthy, ice skating, Kristi Yamaguchi, mom fitness, Olympics, skating, sochi olympics | Categories:
Monday, January 13th, 2014
2013 Photography by Robert W Gilliard of Eppicmoments.com
To gear up for the bi-annual Olympic festivities, Parents checked in with Olympic gold medalist, World Ski Champion, and mother-of-four Picabo Street. Juggling her work with the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and her four sons (Eli, 10, Treyjan, 9, Dax, 4, and Roen, 2) is no easy task, but nothing gets this gal motivated like the games!
P: Do you watch every Olympics with your kids?
PS: Absolutely. In Torino [Italy, 2006] I was there, and in Vancouver [Canada, 2010] I was there with two of my children. This year unfortunately I won’t have my kids with me, but I will be there with FOX Broadcasting and the U.S. Olympic Committee and Ski Team. I am infected with the Olympic bug and will be a huge fan forever.
P: Do your kids have Olympic fever, too?
PS: They definitely get it, especially the older two who are 10 and 9. They started to ask some big questions about it: where certain countries are and what sports come out of them. We go online and they can send a well-wish to the athletes or donate money or buy mittens that will benefit the team through the U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor programs. Through Citi Every Step, my 10-year-old voted on my initiative [promoting injury prevention and awareness for Olympic skiiers and snowboarders]. You see all the Olympians that are in the Citi program and then the kids feel really close to it. They know athletes by name and sport, so when we watch the Olympics we’re into it. They’re just counting down to the Opening Ceremonies in February.
P: Is skiing their favorite winter Olympics sport?
PS: Trey likes the bobsled, the skeleton, the luge, all of those gliding sports. Trey and Eli love the skiing because they can relate. Three out of the four do ski. The youngest was only 2 last year when we were in Park City in March. I think that hockey is probably also a favorite.
P: What do you say to moms who might think that skiing is too dangerous for their kids?
PS: Get yourself out of the way and don’t put yourself in your kids’ shoes and automatically assume that their strengths and weaknesses are yours. That’s one of the most difficult things that parents have to do is to get themselves out of the way of their child. They are their own person and they are capable of potentially more than you are. If they’re gung-ho, make sure you or somebody with experience can guide them along the way so they are safe while doing it. Skiing is a great family vacation, I know it’s expensive but it’s like no other family vacation. It’s such a safe place to let your kids be free.
P: Are there safety precautions that you take with your boys as they ski?
PS: First and foremost is to wear a helmet, dressing them for success. I made sure they knew how to stop. We taught them speed control and how to make quality turns before we took them over to the chair lift. The next thing was teaching them etiquette of the resort, and that’s something we still work on. Eli, my oldest, was relentless. His persistence was very inspiring.
P: How do you ensure that your kids enjoy sports while still taking it seriously?
PS: You gauge off of them. You can tell what kind of motivation they need; whether they like tough love (like I did) or if they need a softer, more praising touch. From personal experience, competing at that level, we were all willing to do more than the next gal or guy in order to get it done and win. We didn’t have to be told. It was just something that we do. I grew up with “good better best never never rest til my good is better and my better is best.” I have to actually be careful not to step on my kids toes too much with who I am and what I’m about and what I expect of myself. I try to let them be them.
P: Do you ever worry that they might put pressure on themselves because you have accomplished so much?
PS: Of course, you worry about everything as a parent. I don’t really believe that I or anyone else has that much control, or any for that matter, over what our children like, what they’re interested in, and what they want to become. I can tell you my mom played 26 instruments all self-taught, I can barely hold a tune and cannot play a single one. All of my kids are musical, go figure. Why wasn’t I a musician? I’m just going to encourage my kids to follow their dreams and aspirations and do what they love. If it happens to be Olympic bound, here we go. If not, I’m fine with that, too. With four of them, my odds are good that we could be at the Olympics again.
P: How do you keep your boys effectively bundled in the cold weather?
PS: Layers. Layers. Layers. I dress the boys in layers and make them easily accessible so they can go to the bathroom while they’re up there and feel comfortable. Eli is alright with wool against his skin, but it itches Trey, so we go with silk or a polypropylene for him. Roen is the same as Eli. I like wool, polypropylene, cashmere and then fleece and then the outer layer is the key. It needs to have two components in it. It needs to have down and it needs to have a windbreak. With those two in the outer layer, you really don’t have to bulk them up too much inside. It keeps them from having a stiff-armed snowman feel all day. If it’s really cold you can change their temperature by what you put on their hands and head. Go gloves or mittens depending on the temperature. You can also just wear a helmet, or you can do a light little beanie super thin up underneath the helmet and cover the ears. If it’s super cold, you can put a neck gator on with a face mask and bundle all the way up. Make sure you’ve got sunscreen, sunglasses or goggles and water. Lots of H20. You have to watch the water intake. That’s key.
P: Your kids all have such unique names. How did you choose them?
PS: Treyjan I named after the Roman emperor. On his father’s side he’s the third Newt [Trey is a nickname for "the third"] and his dad and I just really thought it was a cool name. Eli is biblical, my husband chose it that way. Dax is a little French town and it was a kid in my class growing up and I wanted an ‘x’ in his name and I landed on him. I wanted his initials to be early in the alphabet, too, so I landed on Dax and my husband, John, agreed. Roen’s was tough. Dax and Eli’s names were early in the alphabet, I wanted Roen’s name to start with something close to Trey so I bounced around the S’s and the R’s. We finally landed on Roen. John said without the w. And I said R-O-E-N and he said love it.
Check out our Baby Names app to help you find names just as fitting as the ones Picabo and John chose for their kids.
P: Eli, your oldest, is your stepson and your husband, John, is Trey’s stepfather. What is your advice for parents merging two families?
PS: Definitely unconditional love. We also have to get over ourselves and really see our kids for who they are. I had to really get to know Eli and then earn his trust. Also, the best thing for someone who you’re new to and who is new to you is to be predictable and consistent. The more consistent you are the more stable your relationship is, the stronger it gets. Honestly, Eli and I have worked really hard to have a really strong bond and we can talk about everything and anything. It’s rock solid. As far as Trey and Eli went, merging them, that was tough. I wanted to protect Trey from the way Eli is because Eli is dominant, a real alpha, and he’s boisterous. Trey is sensitive; he’s harmonious. Eli would kind of beat up on Trey and I would get protective. When I talked to some of my expert resources, they told me ,“Eli is gonna toughen Trey up and Trey is gonna soften Eli and they’re gonna land somewhere in the middle and it’s gonna be a beautiful thing so unless they’re really going at it let them work it out.” It got easier when Dax showed up because he was a true brother to both of them.
P: Do you have plans for another?
PS: No ma’am. We gave up on having a girl with Roen. It is a lot to handle, but it’s an even sports team because there are six of us.
P: What is your best advice for other moms who travel a lot and might spend a lot of time away from their kids, as you do with your speaking engagements and your activism work?
PS: Take care of yourself and try not to beat yourself up too much for being gone and being someone who contributes to the family, and who pursues their dreams at the same time. Easier said than done. I leave notes when I go. I make sure to call and participate at the really important times during the day. I try to Facetime and Skype with them, so I can really see them and get a feel for them as much as possible. One of my goals is to talk to my kids and my husband first thing in the morning every day. The bottom line is to be honest with them about where I’m going, what I’m doing and why so that they understand. What’s tough is when I say “bye-bye” and then Dax says “But Dad, you’re staying with us right?” And I just think oooooooh. I’m picky about what I leave home for these days and my kids know I’m leaving for important things. They know all about the work that I do with the US Olympic Committee and with the sponsors and specifically now with Citi to make a positive difference in the next generation of Olympians’ lives. That’s what I am proud to go be a part of these days.
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celebrity interview, celebrity mom, celebs, kids and sports, Olympics, Picabo Street, skiing, stepparents, winter olympics | Categories:
celebrities, GoodyBlog, Time for Fun
Thursday, December 20th, 2012
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.”
Image via Luke Wooden Photography
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Friday, September 14th, 2012
I recently got to have breakfast with U.S. Olympic soccer team captain Christie Rampone (I even got to try on her gold medal from London! That’s me holding it in the photo). Rampone is a super down-to-earth mom of two who is working on keeping her kids healthy just like all of you.
Rampone recently returned from the London Olympics where she led her team to its third straight gold medal. Her world-traveling daughters Rylie, 7, and Reece, 2, got to see their mom play in London and loved every minute of it.
The Rampone family doesn’t travel with a nanny, but instead Rampone and her husband balance responsibilities. “Traveling can be a struggle at times because it’s hard to keep my girls on a routine with all of the time changes and jet lag,” she said. “But the benefits far outweigh the costs. It’s taught my daughters to be more self-sufficient. They love meeting kids of all nationalities. When they’re playing together it doesn’t matter if they don’t speak the same language.”
Rampone, a spokesperson for FRS Healthy Performance natural energy supplements, gave us some tips on how she keeps herself and her kids healthy.
Find time to rest.
Rampone makes a point of relaxing despite her hectic schedule. “This summer I was hooked on ‘Friday Nights Lights’ so I would sit down and watch that after a long day of games and practice. I also like to go on quiet walks with no music, just my thoughts,” she said.
Lead by example.
“I’ve noticed that Rylie will be more hesitant to try a new food if she sees that I don’t like it,” Rampone said. “She used to not eat seafood because I didn’t like it, but after she saw me try a bite she realized it wasn’t bad.”
Teach your kids how to plan healthy meals for themselves.
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Rampone teaches her 7-year-old how to pick nutritious foods by giving her healthy options and allowing her to pack her own school lunches. Beyond healthy options, she always lets her indulge in one treat.
Friday, August 17th, 2012
Editor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.
Let me say this right up front – not every child masters the monkey bars. Unlike sitting, standing, walking, potty training, or riding a tricycle, the monkey bars are not considered a developmental milestone. At well-child visits, doctors don’t ask, “Has your child mastered the monkey bars yet?” the same way they ask, “How many words are in your child’s vocabulary?” Trust me, I’m a pediatrician. There are even successful adults working alongside you who have never been able to master the monkey bars. Trust me, I’m one of them. I was never able to climb a rope or do a pull-up either. I always blamed my inabilities on a poorly-centered center of gravity. But enough about me. This is about our daughter who, happily, did learn to master the monkey bars. She absolutely had to.
Emily’s best friends in grade school were tiny wisps of girls who didn’t touch the ground when they walked because they were too light for gravity. For them, the monkey bars were as natural as breathing – they didn’t have to think twice before sailing from one end to the other, with each girl outdoing the other in speed and panache. When the monkey bars became the “must” place to be during recess, Emily was in a tough spot. Her feet did touch the ground while walking and the monkey bars were not automatic like breathing – they were more like hyperventilating. Not being a wisp came in very handy for Emily when she played sports later in life, but this was first grade and nothing mattered except the monkey bars.
Knowing no one would be at the school playground on Saturday, we packed everyone in the van and headed there for a monkey bars crash course. First, our oldest child (who was in third grade) tried to inspire Em by hopping onto the launch step and zipping all the way across, gracefully swinging from each arm to get to the next bar. He dismounted and encouragingly said, “See, Em, it’s easy!” Emily didn’t find this inspiring. In fact, she started crying. Next, the youngest child (who was in preschool) needed a turn. We held him up and walked beneath the monkey bars as he touched each one with his hands. Then he was off to the sandbox.
Finally, Emily stood on the launch step, grabbed the first bar with her left hand, stepped, and…just dangled there. Her right arm waved toward the next bar, but her body did not obey. She dropped to the ground and sobbed, “See?! I told you I can’t do it!” Of course, we asked ourselves how much of the obstacle was physical or mental. We pretended to be sports psychologists for a little while, probing her deepest monkey bar phobias. Yes, she was afraid of failure. Yes, she was afraid of embarrassment. Yes, she was sure everyone else was better at monkey bars. Yes, she would never, ever, ever have friends, in her whole life, if she couldn’t conquer the monkey bars. Ok, enough psychology – there were fewer than 48 hours before Monday’s recess. A miraculous cure was in order, and it had to be immediate.
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Harley Rotbart, harley rotbart series, No Regrets Parenting, Olympics, parenting, parenting advice, parenting challenges, parenting skills, parenting style, Summer Olympics | Categories:
GoodyBlog, Your Child
Thursday, August 9th, 2012
Zennie Coughlin and her husband raised two daughters, three years apart in age. Both girls swam competitively. The younger one, Megan, walked away from the sport during her first year of college. Natalie, now 29, swam on, eventually winning 12 Olympic medals–including one this week in London–and tying the record for most medals among U.S. women.
Because of the different paths Natalie and Megan chose, the Coughlin family provides a good example of how parents can successfully encourage kids to follow their passions without pushing them too far. While I was in London last week for the Olympics, I had a chance to sit down with three members of the Coughlin family–Zennie, Megan, and Zennie’s mom–while they relaxed in the days between Natalie’s races. (Alas, Natalie was not available. But the photo at right shows Zennie posing in front of a large ad featuring her daughter.)
From an early age, the girls’ parents insisted they become involved in something, some sport that would teach them discipline and keep them out of trouble. But beyond that, the Coughlins didn’t push. The girls didn’t have to stick with one sport, and each dabbled at times in other activities, only to return to swimming. But swimming competitively–certainly at the elite level Natalie has achieved–came completely from her own desire, Zennie Coughlin said.
“When she was going to her junior prom her hair was totally wet, she had to swim a relay and get ready for the prom that evening,” she said. “She has been the one to balance everything, and I think it has to be driven by the athlete and not the parent. Parents are there to support but you can’t force your kid into loving something that they might not love.”
Natalie’s competitive spirit and drive to push herself further showed from an early age.
“She always was very gifted in the pool with winning all her events,” Zennie Coughlin said. “She loved the competition–didn’t like practice that much but loved the competition…. She almost skipped over the junior times right into the senior times, and that was about the time we knew, when she was about 14, when she was at senior nationals making the finals in those events, which is pretty impressive.”
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Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
John Macready competed in the 1996 Summer Games as part of the men’s gymnastics team. He’s now a motivational speaker, dad to three kids–9, 7, and 9 months old–and was in London to cheer on Team USA. Fun fact: Macready said he’s childhood buddies with the lead singer of the band LMFAO, and sang me a line of “Sexy and I Know It” during our conversation. I spoke with him at the P&G Family Home last week while I was in London. (Procter & Gamble funded my trip and arranged the interview).
At what point did you realize gymnastics was more than just a hobby?
I think for me it was when the ’84 Olympics came to Los Angeles, and I got to see it first hand and ask all about it. I was just like, “That’s what I want to do.”
What about it made you so interested in it?
It’s the entire world coming together in the most peaceful manner you can come together. Obviously, we have wars, and you see in some of our sporting events how people are fighting. I think we’re more apt to fight than ever. But at the Olympics, it’s all put on hold. Athletes are able to leave it on the floor, and they’re able to respect each other. There’s nothing better to me than to see someone be upset to lose and then to shake the gold medalist’s hand and show them respect. That’s just awesome. And you see it over and over and over again here.
What advice do you have for kids who are starting to get into sports and might be dreaming of the Olympics?
You’ve got to always understand the big picture. I think people get lost in success and in trying to go for something they forget why they’re going for it. When you make a goal, whether it’s an Olympic gold medal or maybe something outside of sports, you have to be willing to do everything to protect that goal and go after it. But you have to be completely okay with not having that goal and not making it.
You’re going to be on this Earth, hopefully, if you’re lucky, for seventy, eighty, ninety years. You’re going to have many chances to be successful. Maybe it wasn’t your plan, but you learn that it’s going to bring something else more successful. There’s more to come.
What advice do you have for the parents of those kids?
Teach your kids how to motivate themselves. If you can’t teach them how to motivate themselves you’re never going to motivate them. You’re never going to be able to push somebody to be successful. You have to teach them how to find it themselves.
Do you think you’ll be here in the future as an Olympic dad?
That would be so cool. But that would be cool for me. I want whatever’s going to be cool for them. And I also want to see different stuff. Maybe my kid will be an amazing piano player, something I’ve never experienced. For me, my biggest dream for my kids is to get to watch them do something they love, for them to be passionate. I don’t care if it’s the Olympics. I don’t care if it’s school. I just love seeing passion.
More in Parents.com’s series on Olympians, former Olympians, and parents of Olympians:
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