SwimSwam proudly presents the series, SwimMomMonday in which “ordinary” swim parent Anne Lepesant talks to “extraordinary” swim parents about the similarities and differences we experience in raising swimmers. This week Anne talks with Sharron Manuel, mother of American, US Open, and NCAA record-holder, Simone Manuel.
1. What is your background? Were you (are you) a competitive athlete?
I was a competitive athlete throughout high school. I played basketball and volleyball in high school. I did not compete athletically in college. Simone’s father played basketball in college, and both of Simone’s older brothers played collegiate basketball.
2. When did you first realize you had an exceptional athlete on your hands?
My husband and I both enjoyed playing and competing in sports growing up. It was only natural for us to introduce all three of our children to all sorts of sports. Between the three of them, they have played soccer, basketball, volleyball, dance, baseball, swim, and even played musical instruments. By watching them and observing them early on in various sports, it was evident to us very early that they were all athletically gifted.
Simone was introduced to swimming by watching her two older brothers swim summer league. She always loved the water and thoroughly enjoyed swimming. When she was 4 years old she asked to join the swim team. I didn’t think she was ready so to appease her, I told her she had to take swim lessons first (as her brothers did). We enrolled her in swim lessons that summer and on the 2nd day of lessons, the swim instructor had her swim across the pool. That was the 1st eye opener for me. Simone continued to only swim summer league and experimented with other sports and activities but swimming was her favorite.
3. How have you managed to balance your athlete’s school / sports / social life / family life?
Athletics has always been an integral part of our lives. Integrating school, social life, family life, and sports were an extension of everyday life for us. We have always had to juggle basketball tournaments, swim meets, school, etc. Simone was her brothers’ number one cheerleader, attending lots of basketball tournaments with her pom-poms and cheer gear. Her brothers drove her to lots and lots of morning and afternoon practices, and attended meets when they could. Although it was challenging, we told them that we would support them in pursuing their dreams. All we asked was that they did their best. Our family motto was, D.Y.B., which means “Do Your Best” (in everything). They also understood that school was a priority and it was important to do well academically.
4. How differently do you mother your other children?
I don’t think we parented them differently. All children can be exceptional at something. We always expressed to them that each one was special in their own way. The only difference was that each one had a different love language and needed a different kind of encouragement at different times.
5. What is the best part about being a swim mom?
The best part of being a swim mom or sport mom is being their #1 cheerleader. It’s rewarding as a parent to support them, cheer for them, offer words of encouragement, and watch them grow and mature.
6. What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was juggling their schedules; especially when we had 3 children going in three different directions. I can’t tell you have many miles we’ve accumulated over the years on our cars/vans!
There were times when I’d finally get to the end of the day and wonder how did I get it all done. There were times when I wished I could clone myself just be there for each one of their competitions.
Just this past March, we were faced with that challenge. Simone was competing at her first NCAA Championship and her brother was competing at his first basketball NCAA tournament. As a compromise, we went to her brother’s basketball conference championship and I attended the swimming NCAA championship. Between the first swim session, I spent my time in the hotel room glued to the TV with my SMU t-shirt and pom-poms cheering for my son and their team. The children make it easy for us because they are so understanding and often express their gratitude for the sacrifices we make.
7. What is your favorite memory of your child’s swimming career?
It’s hard to pick just one memory, so I’ll share two of my favorite.
The first one was when she made the 2013 World Championship team in the 100 freestyle from lane 8. It’s memorable because Simone set that goal a year earlier and I watched her continue to have faith that she could do it. Even though she was seeded 8th, she refused to believe that she was not going to make that team. To be in the stands and watch her go for it and actually make it was unbelievable.
The second favorite memory was watching her 1st NCAA Championship experience unfold. Simone decided not to swim in high school and club swimming was very different. Those smiles I saw on her face at the end of those relays, the high-fives, the team hugs, and the cheers shared between her and her teammates were priceless and a totally different experience for her. To see her that happy with her teammates made it all worth it!
8. Do you get nervous watching her swim?
Yes. It depends on the meet and the event. I don’t get nervous when she swims “off” events or at practice meets. I do get nervous at major meets or when she swims her best events.
9. How have you handled disappointing races/meets?
We work to keep things in perspective. They also understand that there will be ups and downs but to stay focused on the big goal. My role as a parent is to be there to listen to them, encourage them, guide them, and pray for them. We have also expressed and demonstrated to them that they are loved no matter what. If they understand that, they will be OK.
10. What advice do you have for other swim moms?
My advice for other swim moms would be to be supportive. Allow your children to dream. If they believe they can do it, step back and let them try. Just be there to guide them, encourage them, cheer for them, and enjoy the journey.
Anne Lepesant is an ordinary swim mom. Her four daughters have been with Swim Pasadena since 2004 and now two swim in college (Caroline is a junior at SCAD Savannah; Victoria, a sophomore at Princeton) and two in high school (Madeleine and Isabelle attend Pasadena High School). In this series, Anne explores the question: “ordinary” swim mom to “extraordinary” swim mom, what it’s like to raise truly exceptional swimmers? What experiences have we all shared? Where do our paths diverge? Stay tuned for some interesting #SwimMomMonday conversations.