Raising A Champion – Tori Trees Smith and John Smith

Author Eney Jones takes us up-close and personal with Tori Trees Smith and John Smith, parents of Olympic athlete Clark Smith


How do you remain a fan, a parent, a support system and a

Clark Smith swims the fastest 500 free ever. -courtesy of Tim Binning

friend to your child?

We know how much hard work goes into everyday for Clark. He is extraordinarily disciplined and focused. Swimming was our life for so long so it seems natural to watch his progression from age grouper thru college. We lived a portion of his life and feel connected because of it. Not as many parents feel the pain we do when their kid is fighting through the last 50 yards. Win or lose we remember those feelings first hand


What do you hope your kids take away from swimming?

Each of our kids grew up swimming competitively. They all know the meaning of hard work through swimming. But they have made life long friends through the years as well. In the end it’s a lifestyle that we share with each of them.


Both you and Tori had successful swimming careers. Was that a help or a hindrance in deciding when to step in and when to pull back?

After Clark was 12 we never talked deeply about our old careers and making comparisons along the way. We felt it was just too much pressure. At the Olympic Trials, he knew what his mother had done in the 200 m backstroke from Lane 8 all those years ago. He knew his dad swam in the same pool everyday for the same coach in Austin. Clark made his own path. Being a parent in the stands watching your kid race is one thing, but being an ex-swimmer is something additional. It is a gift of knowledge that non swimming parents don’t have, but it’s also a curse as well. You see every stroke technique correction and feel the changes in speed and nuances of the race. You know exactly what’s going on and how it is going to unfold. You can feel it. Yet you need to pull back and let the coach coach. It’s hard to do no doubt about it. You want to help but in the end you complicate things if you coach your kids in parallel. You have to force yourself to pull back. Fortunately Clark had a wonderful age group coach growing up in Denver, Nick Frasersmith. With Eddie Reese it is easy to let go. He is literally the greatest swim coach in United States Swimming. More importantly Eddie is just a great guy that cares about your kid.


What gives you both strength and how do you pass that

Clark Smith – Texas Longhorns dual A&M Oct, 2014 – courtesy of Andy Ringgold


Watching our kids succeed is what it is all about for us. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. But we get there in the end- together. Thursday night, Tori and I and the whole family watched Clark win the 500 freestyle,(in 4:08.42),  we shared that moment in the stands. Smiling. Crying. We were all proud of him. We know the work he has done and it is nice to see hard work win.  As Clark stood on the podium later that night, my wife’s name Tori Trees was on the Wall of Olympians behind him. It just felt good

About Eney Jones

  • Eney Jones has achieved remarkably diverse success as a leading pool, open water and Ironman triathlon swimmer, and is also a yoga instructor.
  • Masters National Champion 100-200-400-500-1500-1650 5k freestyle 2009
  • Open Water 5k Champion Perth Australia, May 2008.
  • National Masters Champion 200-400-1500 freestyle Champion, Portland Oregon, August, 2008.
  • Overall Champion Aumakua 2.4k Maui Hawaii, September 2008
  • Waikiki Rough Water Swim 3rd place 2006, second place Overall 2009, 3rd place 2012
  • European Record Holder and Masters Swimming Champion, 2005. Records included 200, 400, 800, 1500 m freestyle
  • Over twenty time finalist in U.S. Swimming Nationals, including Olympic Trials 1980
  • Gold medal NCAA 800 yd freestyle relay 1979, silver Medalist 200 yd freestyle 1979. United States National Team 1979-1980.
  • Professional Triathlete 1983-1991. First woman out of the water in every Hawaiian Ironman participated (6).

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Well, it is easy for John. Clark is 6’8”. Eddie recruited Clark. I want swimswam to interview John Shebat’s Mom so we can hear how she and John recruited Eddie. We, “parents of short kids,” want in on those trade secrets.


Regarding Shebat — if you go :46/1:42 backstrokes in HS and 19.3rs 50 free, it’s a good start. And if you do that after not doing club swimming in HS until junior year (Shebat was playing QB his sophomore year), that gets you noticed even more.


I know, that was meant as a joke.


Also, Eddie said 3 days ago that Shebat and his Mom recruited Eddie. I did not make that up.


I did see Eddie say that. I’d say it worked out pretty well for both sides! I know your comment was tongue-in-cheek. Sorry for not making it clear my response was in the same vein.


totally right – i heard that in the interview of John as well .

Speed Racer

Second time I’ve heard he wasn’t swimming until HS but he has USAS times dating back to age 7.


I didn’t know Clark was so Huge !!! Damn !! that explains more about his fantastic easy stroke – which is absolutely wonderful .


There is an out of print book on athlete parenting written by Summer Sanders that covers this topic in depth. It still can be found on amazon.


And an EXCELLENT book to that tone!