Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Turn Mom Upside Down & It's Wow

Do you know who this woman is?

Until earlier this month I didn't either.

Her name is Debbie and she is a single mom. When her son was eleven years old, his coach approached her and said it was time for him to start training at a higher level. She thought the coach was kidding. He wasn't. He recognized the boy's skill and work ethic, and he told Debbie if they trained him right, one day he'd do things no one had ever done before.

This woman is a sports mom. She's a member of a special sorority of women worldwide who have spent countless hours and dollars to support their children in their athletic endeavors. A sports mom is a chauffeur, dietitian, nurse, psychologist and any other role she has to play. She watches her child compete and lose, and she is there to console and offer encouragement. She will dry tears and treat injuries and assure them the world isn't over. She may also watch her child compete and win, and she is there to rejoice. But win or lose, the next day the routine continues with practice, practice and more practice.

Then one day the big race comes -- the chance to compete at the very top. And for the duration, nothing exists outside that competitive arena. Her focus is narrowed to one competitor -- her child. The race becomes the longest minutes of her life. She clenches her fists, yells at the top of her lungs, encourages and urges and watches as her child gives the very best his or her body has to offer. She's done all she can do; at this point she's helpless and can only watch.

But when her child crosses the finish line first, her heart stops for just a moment as she double-checks to make sure it's true before she begins to smile like she's never smiled before.

The woman in the photo is Debbie Phelps, and on August 9th, her son Michael won his first gold medal of the 2008 Olympic games. Last Saturday, he lived up to his coach's prediction and did something no one has ever done before. He's won more Olympic medals overall than any other athlete. And he's won more gold medals in a single Olympic games than any other athlete. He surpassed the record of seven golds set in 1972 at the Munich games by swimmer Mark Spitz.

I watched her in the stands and knew in my heart how Debbie Phelps felt. Any mom knows the feeling, whether it's the sound of the baseball cracking off the sweet spot on the bat and sailing over the left field fence, sticking the dismount off a balance beam, a three-point shot arcing into the net, dancing the perfect jazz dance routine, digging a hard-spiked volleyball, being the first across the finish line or winning that eighth gold medal. It's pride and joy and a little sense of wonder about where all that talent came from.

My boys ran track in high school, and #2 son attended college on a track scholarship. He was a state high school champion several times, and in college he held a number of conference titles. He doesn't compete at the Olympic level, but I still know how Debbie Phelps feels. Many times I stood on the sidelines of a cross country course or in the stands of a stadium and I yelled and clenched my fists and watched as my son dug deep down inside to pull out the very best he had to offer. And every time I watched him receive a gold medal, I smiled like I'd never smiled before. I also wondered where the talent came from because you'd have to put a gun to my head to get me to run a mile. The DH and I joke about it being some sort of weird genetic mutation.

When he was younger, before every race I'd tell him to "win me a medal." We went to watch him at one of his college conference championship meets. After he won the 1500 meter run, he came over to me and handed me his championship plaque. "It's not a medal," he said. "But I hope it will do." That plaque hangs on my office wall and is a constant reminder that anything you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.

These days he's a graduate student at the same university where he was a track star. He's majoring in PE and is a graduate assistant coach. His goal is to be a head coach some day and help others the way all his coaches helped him through the years. And I have absolutely no doubt he'll do precisely that. Sadly, though, track and field isn't a huge spectator sport in the US like it is in other countries. Many people equate watching a track meet to watching paint dry. But I can assure you that when your kid is on that track, it's the prettiest, most interesting paint in the world.

All over the world, other mothers are watching their children compete at every level of competition. Not all will be able to share in a victory. Some will be picking their children up from a last-place finish, dusting them off and encouraging them to try again. It's something we moms do very well because it's just part of the job.

Have you been watching the Olympic Games? If so, what's your favorite summer Olympics sport? And what's been your favorite Olympic moment?

P.S. Does anyone else find it ironic that the Encore Presentation at 2:00 AM is sponsored by Ambien, a prescription sleep medication?


Jane said...

It was almost as fun watching Debbie's reaction as it was watching Michael swim. I like gymnastics, swimming and volleyball. I caught some fencing and table tennis, too. Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals has definitely been the highlight. The two most amazing races were the 100m butterfly, where he won by the narrowest of margins and the relay where the USA beat the French team.

PM's Mother said...

Ditto from a proud grandmother!

PM, when you were a kid you used to beat the boys in your grandmother's neighborhood when you raced them running around her house. They didn't like it, either.

Barbara Vey said...

I love almost all the competitions, but have always been a sucker for the gymnastics.

As a mom, I gave up weekends for tournaments and games and I wouldn't have done anything different. I can't wait to watch my grandkids compete.

Jolie said...

I watched most of Michael's races, but the once he finished--with a pocketful of gold--I kinda quit watching. :( I don't really have a favorite event--it used to be gymnastics, but not so much anymore. I'll pretty much watch anything. And I actually really enjoy track events--not boring to me at all! :P

birdzilla said...

Beautifully expressed PM!!!

I enjoy the track and field events-discus, hammer, shot put, sprints.

My favorite event of the entire olympics is the opening ceramony. As you pointed out, the most honorable aspect of the games is the competition itself. The joy and pride displayed on the athletes faces as they enter the arena is priceless.

MaryF said...

How fun! And how awesome about your sons PM.

I have been watching the summer Olympics, and although it is neat they don't show what I actually like....which is frustrating. I want to see the martial arts, the fencing, weight-lifting (that is just too cool), shooting sports...etc. Heck even the biking competition is nifty.

But you know, it is fun to watch what is available, and what really makes me happy, and proud (yes it is a vicarous feeling) is the fact they all do their best, and are proud to be representing their country.

Now, what we need to do is to participate...any one ready to train for a 10K?

Anonymous said...

It is such an amazing story. I watched every one of Michael's races. Unbelievable!

Kudos to Michael, his mom and sisters.

Instigator said...

ROFLMAO, Mary. Have you met me?

PM, I loved this post. I've been watching the olympics faithfully each and every night. In fact, it's messing with my sleep. I'm used to going to bed during the news. Unfortunately, the news is coming on at 11 or 12 or whenever they get done with coverage for that night. I'm a walking zombie.

My favorites are gymnastics, diving, swimming (thanks to Michael), the equestrian events, beach volleyball, even rowing on occasion.

Mary, you know they show some of those other events on different channels right? (don't know if the ones you're looking for are there but that's usually where the equestrian events are).


Playground Monitor said...

Mary wrote "anyone ready to train for a 10K?"

Did you not read the part about putting a gun to my head? LOL!!

You have to go to the other channels (on Directv it's channels 750 - 756) to see the less popular events. I've seen some weightlifting, and the fencing events were in the first couple days of the games. Check and see if they have archived footage of those events.

Can't wait for the women's beach volleyball. I actually understand about 75% of the game since the DH plays volleyball. Go Misty and Kerri!

And I can't wait to see Bolt run the 200. Will he do his showboat routine at the end like he did in the 100? Or has he listened to the criticism and learned it isn't nice to do that (not to mention he probably could have had a much faster time)?

Yep, Zilla, that opening was awesome. It's just a shame so much controversy is beginning to come forth about it. The sheer number of participants was breathtaking.

Liza said...

Gymnastics, swimming, and diving are my favorite sports. I have enjoyed the track & field too. They are also showing some of the less popular sports during the day on USA, MSNBC, and NBC.

Debbie Phelps and all the other parents have every right to be so proud of their children.

Problem Child said...

There's a good reason why they say "Hi Mom" when the cameras point at them.

And I don't run, Mary. Period.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I'd do it, Mary! I've done 8k, so think I could ramp it up to 10. Y'all, that's nothing in the scheme of things! It's not a marathon for heaven's sake. :)

Great post, PM! I watch the Olympics because my hubby turns it on. Otherwise I'm sure I'd forget it was on. I love the human stories, though. Watching Shawn Johnson's parents cry and hug after she scored so well on balance beam, while Bob Costas talked about them mortgaging their house twice to keep her at the level of training she needed, made me cry too.

And yeah, watching Debbie Phelps was almost as fun as watching her son. :)

Unfortunately, I'm in the paint drying category with track and field. :( I don't enjoy it at all. Hubby had it on the other night, and I left to work on the computer.

Gymnastics, swimming, diving, and equestrian events are great. I pretty much don't care to watch much else. Though fencing is kind of fun but mostly because I don't get it and I'm constantly trying to figure out what just happened, LOL.

Sherry W. said...

Pm, what a touching blog! Hubby and I love watching the Olympics and regular programing is put on hold until it's over. I don't watch much TV as a general rule but the Olmypics will have me parking my butt on the sofa. I guess the water sports, gymnastics, volleyball and track are my favs.
Have you noticed the tattoo on Misty May-Treanor's left shoulder? It is her mom's initials and a pair of angel wings. Oh, and when she scatters a few of her mom's ashes on the sand courts from various places she plays...OMG...tears well up in my eyes!!

Well Mary, I don't think you have a lot of takers on the 10K. But if you can borrow PM's gun, I'll go. :D Actually I use to love running, aerobics (I even taught for awhile) and weightlifting and would like to get started back. Now let's just see where that can be fit in my schedule.............??

Smarty Pants said...

Running? Um...yeah, my schedule is looking really full right now.

What got me all misty the other night was the woman gymnast (33 or 34 years old, I think, which is practically unheard of in gymnastics) who was competing for Germany on the vault. She was a former Russian gymnast and her son was diagnosed with leukemia. When she tried to get treatment for him, all the doors shut. Germany offered for her to come and let her son get treatment there and in return, she competed for them in this years games. She got the silver (almost the gold, actually). It was stunning.

Angel said...

Normally, I wouldn't pay the least bit of attention to the fact that the Olympics were on. I forget. *blush*

But hearing Instigator and the hubby talk about them got me to watching. I saw Phelps win his 7th and 8th golds (so yes, I could identify his mother). I also like gymnastics, diving, and we've even watched some table tennis. Badmitton was on the other day--that's weird.

As you can imagine, especially if you read my rant about cheerleading moms, I'm not much of a child sporting event watcher. I'm all for showing up, but writing in the stands. :) Of course, Drama Queen (Little Man is too small to tell) isn't much of a sports enthusiast. She got that from me, I'm sure. It might be different if they were really passionate about what they were doing.


KansasSue said...

Not a sports fan of any sort unless my child is the one out there, so I haven't seen even one second of the Olympics. I'm not even sure that the TV has been on except for news.

The kid, who is a senior this year is also a runner. Cross country, and the 4x800,400 and 800 in track. Just like you, PM, I'm there at each and every one, screaming my lungs out for my baby boy. If he makes it to state in cross country this October, he will be the first kid in the history of the school to make it there all four years. I'm more nervous than he is, and am tearing up just thinking about it. It's going to be a long season for momma! LOL

cfisher said...

I am a mother of a Basketball dreamer who also does Cross Country and Tennis. She is going into high school and has been working since she was 8 years old. Athletes are amazing. They give so much to their passions!!!!

Kathy said...

What's this about cheerleading mom's, Angel? Hmmmm?

Hey, I love watching sports. The only thing I don't watch is basketball. I watched Olympic Tennis, gymnastics (what's with the judges?), every Michael Phelps heat and all the other swimmer's heats, track, volleyball, fencing (cue SP!), water polo, etc... To think about the dedication it takes to make it to the Olympics, the sacrifices... chokes me up.

Give me a...A, A. Give me a N, N. Give me a G, G. Give me a E, E. Give me a L, L. What's that spell? Angel!!! :-D

Playground Monitor said...

I loved the story about the older German gymnast too. It's a "mom story" too and shows just what a mother will do for her child, including competing against girls young enough to be her daughters.

When Shawn Johnson won the gold yesterday in the balance beam, they showed her parents who mortgaged their house twice to keep her with a good coach.

And my heart broke for Lolo Jones and her mom when she clipped that ninth hurdle and lost the gold medal. Lolo's story is a great one about determination and persistence.

To be so un-athletic myself, I sure do enjoy watching the Olympics. And yes, my mom was correct when she said I could outrun all the boys when I was in elementary school. I won the 50 yard dash at field day every year from 4th grade through 8th grade. Sadly, there was no high school track program for girls (or softball program either and I was darned good with a softball bat), so the talent was never developed. I think that's why I encouraged my boys when they showed prowess at track.


Playground Monitor said...

KansasSue -- good luck to your son. I hope he makes it to state this year. Keep us posted.

MaryF said...

Sooo, I see a few takers on that 10K....

I also felt awful for Lolo, I hope she gets back in and goes to the 2012 olympics.

As for finding the olympics on T.V.; thank goodness for the internet...LOL :)

I start training next week...I am going to try the couch to 5K at first...*snicker* ought be fun.

MaryF said...

Sooo, I see a few takers on that 10K....

I also felt awful for Lolo, I hope she gets back in and goes to the 2012 olympics.

As for finding the olympics on T.V.; thank goodness for the internet...LOL :)

I start training next week...I am going to try the couch to 5K at first...*snicker* ought be fun.

Jen said...

Honestly, watching the Olympics, nearly every event makes me weepy -- all the dedication, the elation, sometimes the heartbreak.