MetroCareers: Raising Olympic Hopefuls
By Kathy Zucker
The London Olympic Games start in 18 days. The Summer Olympics are a big deal for my family since my husband and I met on our college fencing team, but this year is especially important since we know 14 of the 19 American fencers who will be competing in London.
How do I know these athletes? Many of them were children when my husband and I were national fencing competitors – only three are contemporaries: Maya Lawrence, Tim Morehouse and Seth Kelsey. Little did I dream, years ago when I was running fencing competitions in New York City, that the little kids constantly underfoot would one day wind up in the international spotlight. I walked through Times Square a few months ago and was stunned to see a picture of Race Imboden plastered across a billboard.
So how do I know these kids? Through their parents. I have spent countless hours volunteering with fencing parents, setting up competitions late at night and in the early dawn, on phone calls and planning committees, going out to diners to get endless cups of tea and bagels to fuel the invisible wheels that make everything run in the world of fencing.
Proctor & Gamble put together a fantastic commercial that shows the parents behind every Olympic aspirant. I have seen these parents in action for years, driving their kids to practice and competitions, working to pay for lessons and airfare, wiping tears after losses and icing injuries. The parents are there for the victories and losses, sacrificing their time and money alongside their children.
With a daughter turning six later this summer, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of what it means to be the parent of an athlete. For the last two years, my children have been participating in a weekend toddler fencing class. Even that minimal commitment requires effort and financial sacrifice since we hired a babysitter and arrange our schedule around the weekly Saturday engagement.
During the ten years I served as a fencing official, I talked to many parents. And the one thing I noticed about the mothers of elite athletes? They tend to work for themselves. Computer programming, graphic design, running a hedge fund, and writing books were all businesses operated by the mothers of Olympic and World fencing team members. I saw these moms working on laptops alongside their child’s fencing strip; because they worked for themselves they could go anywhere in the world and still stay on top of their professional obligations.
Related Article: Taking the Eli Manning Approach to Planning
I didn’t realize it at the time, but all those years when I was volunteering and serving on fencing committees were an apprenticeship for the life I currently lead. By running a business from home, I am not just making an investment in my career; I am also giving my kids the opportunity to maximize their potential. My flexible schedule enables me to take my children to last-minute modeling jobs, and to swimming, dance, music and drawing classes. To keep costs down, my husband coaches adult beginners in exchange for fencing lessons.
Every family maintains a delicate balance between time, money and career development. But how do you measure the investment in our children’s future? I do not know if my daughter has what it takes to become a world-class athlete. What I do know is that I am here to get her the tools she needs to forge her way to the top of whatever goals emerge as she grows up.
Kathy Zucker, serial entrepreneur and mother of three, writes about juggling career and family in an urban setting. See what Kathy is up to at her blog and on Twitter @kathyzucker.
Tags: career, CHOICES, fencing, sports