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Parenting Advice from Olympic Parents

  • Courtesy of

    Debbie Phelps

    Mom to 14-time Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Michael Phelps

    No Free Pass on Education

    “Through high school, Michael took on the credits he needed for graduation, and there was no fluff—no phys ed, art or music class. In order for him to get up in the morning, go to practice, come into school late, or be able to leave early, he had to meet his responsibilities and get the credits that he needed to be able to graduate.”

  • Courtesy of Nastia Liukin

    Anna Liukin

    Mom to Nastia Liukin, 2008 gold medalist for individual all-around in gymnastics

    Just Sit Back and Listen

    “Be your kid’s biggest fan—but also their best listener. A lot of times it’s more important to lend an ear than advise. And when Nastia has an off day, I always say, ‘It takes a sun and a rain to make a rainbow’.”

  • Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Olympics

    Charlotte Kessy

    Mom to Jennifer Kessy, member of Team USA Beach Volleyball

    Make It a Family Affair

    “Parents must get involved in the sport too, helping when and where they can. We did many hours of snack bar duty and bingo nights. In other words do not expect to drop off your child like it’s babysitting. Commit as a family.”


  • Courtesy of Merrill Moses

    Max Moses

    Dad to Merrill Moses, 2008 Olympic silver medalist and current goalkeeper for the Team USA Water Polo

    Realize It Takes a Village

    “Work with the coach. There is a secret in sports: teams and coaches become co-parents.  They become your partners and help foster good attitudes and social skills. You want your child to excel but you want to protect them at the same time so you divide responsibilities; a coach can push them and you can coddle them.”

  • Courtesy of Katie O'donnell

    Buddy O’Donnell

    Dad to Katie O’Donnell, forward on Team USA Women’s Field Hockey

    Expose Them to Sports

    “Just giving kids a start in sports is very important. All of our kids did multiple sports; we didn’t allow them to do just one at the beginning. Later, they can find where they have success, and what they enjoy the most.”

  • Courtesy of Jill Camarena Williams

    Marvin and Marilyn Camarena

    Parents to Jill Camarena-Williams, who competed in the shot put at the 2008 Olympics.

    Help Them Pursue Their Passion

    “Give your child the opportunity to pursue something they like, checking out the local YMCA or other programs to find it.  Once they have made their choice, the real key is to show your support all of the time.  Attend their games where you can, help them improve their ability, and volunteer when needed—all without being overbearing.”

  • Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Olympics

    Stacy Clary

    Mom to Tyler Clary, Team USA swimmer

    Don’t Pressure Them

    “Don’t push your kids too hard. Tyler always pushed himself, but if he had a bad swim we would always say that was a four-letter-word swim, as in over or next.  The only time we would ever get involved was when he didn’t want to go to practice. I said that he would have to call his coach; I wouldn’t.  But sometimes he would say he needed the mental day, and that was okay.”

  • Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Olympics

    DA Franklin

    Mom to Missy Franklin, Team USA swimmer

    Help Them Find Their Specialty

    “Encourage kids to try lots of different sports so they find out what they enjoy, and what they’re good at. Missy tried swimming, skiing, soccer, gymnastics, figure skating, dancing, basketball and volleyball. She decided eventually to focus on volleyball and swimming, and swimming eventually won out. Of course some body types are better at some sports than others; although Missy was able to eventually figure that out, it was important as parents to help her with that reality. Investing too much time and money in figure skating or gymnastics for a girl predicted to be more than 6 feet may not be the best choice.”

  • Courtesy of Andy Memmel

    Andy Memmel

    Dad to Chellsie Memmel, American gymnast who competed in gymnastics at the 2008 Olympics.

    Tell the Truth

    “The biggest thing we've taught her in life is that life isn't fair. We've taught her the reality of life. You can work as hard as you want but it might not turn out the way you want. We're candid with her.”