olympic swimmer summer sandersBy Alexandra Gekas
In 1992, 19-year-old American swimmer Summer Sanders made quite the impression at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, where she won four medals, two of which were gold. Since then, she's become a sports and entertainment broadcaster, a wife and a mother to daughter Skye, 6, and son Spider, 4. Now she's a member of Kellogg's Team USA to promote starting each day with breakfast and connect Americans with Team USA Olympic athletes. In honor of Mother's Day and the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sanders spoke with us about how she encourages her children to be the best they can be, and how her own mother played such a huge role in her athletic success.
How do you keep your children healthy?
I lead by example. My kids know what sweat is. They've seen me come home from so many runs and asked, "What's on your skin? How did you get it?" And I tell them, "It's from exercise!" So now my son will come home from a bike ride, take off his helmet and say, "Look, Mom. I'm sweating! I just worked out!" The kids know what I'm doing when I exercise, and that's powerful. So don't just tell your kids to go play outside. Take a moment off your computer, put on your tennis shoes, hop outside and help them start their game and run off some energy. I always say, "If the sun is shining we should be outside." It's the purest form of entertainment and the simplest way to give your kids confidence.
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How did your mom motivate you as an athlete?
My mom was the one who taught me to lead by example. A few years after I started swimming, she and my dad got divorced. That's when she started swimming competitively. She joined the Masters team in our area and the Dolphin Club, where they did open-water swims in San Francisco Bay without wetsuits. My mom was sad and angry when she got divorced, but once she found sports, she could see her self-worth. I could see it in her. She didn't need to sit me down and talk to me; I just saw her change.
What words of wisdom did your mom like to share with you?
Every day before I went to bed, my mom would say, "You can do anything you put your mind to, as long as you believe that." I thought every kid heard that!
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What special things did your mom do for you when you were down?
I don't know if she did this intentionally, but say we went to a holiday party-we'd come back and she'd tell me a compliment that someone had given her about me. She'd say, "So-and-so said how impressed she was by this about you." It wasn't her saying, "I'm so proud of you;" it was other people saying this. She was very clever and she always knew when and how to tell me. But she's also truthful. Even to this day, if I ask, "How do these jeans look?" she'll tell me how she thinks those jeans look. So I better be ready for the answer! I think some parents fall into a trap, teaching their kids that everything is always perfect and everyone is always a winner.
What do you as a mom to motivate and inspire your kids when they're down?
With my son, falling off his bike is usually what makes him upset, so a hug goes a long way. But girls are more complicated; my daughter will get bummed out because her friend hurt her feelings. In that case, we'll talk about it. I'll tell her that she's a great friend, and that she needs to talk to her friends about it.
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Do your children play sports?
My son plays hockey and both children swim, but with no pressure from me. I let them do what they love.
Have you ever made a mistake with your children that you've learned from?
Yes, of course! I see myself trying to control my daughter. I'm suggesting what kind of clothes and shoes she should wear outside, things she should say on the phone to my mom. So I need to remind myself to step back and let her do it, whether it's right or wrong. I've watched her walk out the door in sandals when there was snow on the ground. I tried for five minutes to tell her she should wear snow boots. I'm learning I can only give them my best advice, but they have to learn by experience.
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Tell us about Kellogg's Team USA.
Their slogan is "From great starts, come great things." Breakfast, for example, has become the new dinner in my house. That's when we have our conversations, about what we want to do for that day, about our hopes and our dreams for what we'll accomplish. I think readers would love to go to Kelloggs.com/TeamUSA to watch a Team Kellogg Inspirational Beginnings video, where the Team Kellogg's athletes and I are in our homes. When people are watching the London Olympics this summer, this will bring them closer to the team. And readers can send well wishes to the athletes via Facebook.com/Kelloggs. They will read them, and the messages do affect them.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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