My Life as a (Junior) Olympian Track Mom
As I contemplated what I wanted to share about my experience as a Junior Olympian’s Mom, I pondered a recent ESPN June’12 article that proclaimed my daughter (known as the world's fastest 11 year old) Lauren Rain Williams is...
“A potential Olympian and one of the top 33 women that will change the way sports is played”
That's a big role to fill. I feel like I am approaching the top of the rollercoaster just about to drop down, and then I am brought back up to the top for more thrills, frights and a lot more twists and turns.
After all, we as a family have just gotten started in the amusement park of elite competition. Just like getting off one ride and rushing to the next for more excitement as well as a bit of the unknown. This is my life as TrackMom.
In many ways, with the recent conclusion of our 6th Championship Season, most would think our summer trek across the country would be old hat, a walk in the park. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While very little about any of the previous years of competition is familiar, this year brings one constant. Expectation, Hope and Belief that Lauren can and will perform her best. By the time the competitions were over on August 4, 2012 the USATF and AAU Junior Olympics Championship yielded Lauren two bronze (3rd place) 100m 200m medals at the USATF Junior Olympics and two Gold (1st place) 100m 200m medals in the span of two fast-paced weeks .
Before Lauren ran each of her races I whispered in her ear as I have done so many times since she was 6 and a half years old “ Now Go Meet Your Destiny.” As always, she smiled and walked away confidently.
Photo: Lauren Rain Williams
She has now finished what she started in early February. It's the end of another eventful season. There was a small injury, team fun travel, and personal bests four times. Lauren has grown a lot this year in the sport she loves and we have grown in how to nurture her just a bit better next season for continued growth both physically, emotionally and spiritually.
From the very beginning I had the idea of starting with the end in mind. So generally speaking, Lauren’s training for the upcoming season begins as soon as the final race is complete for the current season.
Let me explain further….. As team “Williams” my husband and I work for Lauren together. She and we all have duties toward her development academically and athletically. Henry is the coach, personal trainer, chief financial provider and great dad.
I am the team member that wears a lot of mini hats. Many tasks are probably similar to other moms such as cook, personal driver, private tutor and school project manager. Some of the things I do may not seem that average such as nutritional researcher, sports psychologist, logistical strategist e.g. booking flights (mostly post season), finding and choosing (with Henry’s help) the meets Lauren will attend, selecting potential high schools (only one more year) and very important recreational liaison (coordinator of fun stuff during the training season and off season alike)
Success in competitive sports depends on many key factors but here are five that I believe are very most important:
1. Preexisting talent (some skills that stand out to some degree from the norm - not necessarily the top but in a top mix of good athletes)
2. A strong internal drive within the aspiring athlete (A nature to push for excellence in most areas of their life)
3. A caring and sound social support system. (Friends and family peers that encourage the athletes’ pursuit of the highest level possible)
4. A family structure on which an athlete can depend for financial and emotional support (parents or guardians that give support to the athlete’s desire for success)
5. A consistent, focused approached to the skills needed over many years to develop an elite level athlete with a progressive coach, trainers and healthcare providers to support the development of the athlete. A program that is safe and maximizes the athlete’s natural and developed talents.
I believe from the very beginning Lauren’s drive to be the best showed in her desire to work hard. At a very early age she would try and try again in many activities until she could master whatever it was. Her desire for many activities outside of track has driven her to pursue lots of things which have naturally given her the balance needed in a child’s life.
While we are always seeking “balance as a family” sometimes it is just not possible because our life isn’t always balanced with travel and training to achieve what she has at such an early age. Actually it has been this way from the beginning. Lauren always wanted to win. I told her just go have fun, not believing she would, nor caring if she really did win. Well she did care and she did win. I don't think that’s either normal or average for a 5 1/2 year old while at a non-competitive summer daycare program. But it's who Lauren was from the beginnng.
One thing as parents we have done for Lauren that I think has been a secret weapon against injury and mental fatigue is allowing plenty of rest always, and never over-working her. Her workouts have been (since the beginning) only two days/week during the season. The off season she has other sports and sometimes three practice a week during post season for additional instruction on the fine tuning of her race and skill acquisition.
Of course Lauren's training schedule will change as she matures. We make every effort to give consistent and honest appraisal of her performances. She knows when we tell her she has run amazingly well that she truly has.
As mom, I take the responsibility for Lauren's fueling and hydration. She eats during the season four times per day depending on her workout schedule. I juice daily to every other day to help her (and us too) get the balance of veggies she just can’t eat (yet anyway) on a daily basis. I prepare regularly, during the season and off season, the most nutritious meals I can manage while working 30 hours per week.
During the season my schedule gets even more hectic with an additional 12 hours in drop off and pick up duty for practice. That's an added 200 miles per week, not including the other places I take Lauren for massage therapy etc.
When post season arrives it takes hours upon hours to figure out the best and cheapest ways to get her to Championship meets. The internet is a life saver for travel arrangements. Now if I could get a sports chef and a personal driver that would be great! The reason Lauren competes in two National Meets has to do in part with the fact that coach dad wants her to be exposed to single age group (AAU) and double age group (USATF) competition and to be pushed as hard as she can be when it counts most.
There is so much more to say about what life is like as a track mom but if I were to comment on what has helped Lauren most in her journey to Junior Olympic Championship success to date (20 National Championships so far) it is this: We are willing to go the extra mile for her to be successful not only in her sport of track and field but in her life and all the things she desires to do well in. We as a family and our extended family work together and enjoy the success, ups and downs together.
On July 25, 2012 Lauren turned 13 and began her 10th National Championship Meet. This was a milestone of sorts; becoming a teenager and realizing that, while she was running for Junior Olympic Gold, her Team USA Elite counterparts were running for Gold at the London Games.
Lauren ran this summer in a Team USA uniform I purchased especially for these meets and this Olympic season. Not for luck, but maybe it will give her a healthy dose of “what just may come” in a few short years with hard work, lots of practice and a dream she is hard at work crafting for herself. And of course we are supporting all the way.
My View From The Finish Line