Summer Sanders Teaches Her Kids “Do As I Do”

Nearly twenty years ago, Summer Sanders made swimming history at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, winning four medals, including two gold. Since then, she has launched a career in sports and entertainment broadcasting, and will be commenting for Yahoo!Sports at the Olympics this year in London

The busy mom-of-two opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her children – daughter Skye, 6, and son Spider, 4 – and her best tips on how to raise a champion. She also tells us about teaming up with Team Kellogg’s and the From Great Starts Come Great Things campaign. And of course, she shares her excitement about the upcoming games in London: “My hope is that everyone catches the Olympic fever and understands what the Olympic spirit is all about.”

CBS: Tell us about being part of Team Kellogg’s at the Olympics this summer.

SS: “It’s such an honor! I’m with seven other athletes that make up Team Kellogg’s. It’s such a part of who we are as athletes. The Olympic campaign is called From Great Starts Come Great Things. And it’s basically what I say to my kids – you can’t get to the glory of the finish line without a great start. You have to start your day off right. My mom used to say to me, ‘You need to eat something that sticks to your ribs.’ I remember I actually visualized it – that I wasn’t going to get through my day if I didn’t have that good, hearty breakfast.

So I think it’s something every parent can understand – kids have the potential to have a great day. We as parents have to lead by example and start off the day with a great breakfast.

People can go to What makes this site so special and unique is that we are going to be glued to the TV this summer watching the athletes in London compete with all their heart. And on this website you can see the Team USA and Kellogg’s movie series called Start Story. You get to see Kerri Walsh at home with her kids and Jordyn Wieber at home. It’s a way for people to see these athletes as moms and daughters. You’ll be cheering for them even harder!”

CBS: Will you be broadcasting from London this summer?

SS: “Yes, I will be broadcasting with Yahoo. I’ve been doing a series already called Elite Athlete Workouts. We did it with a bunch of different athletes and now we’re focussing on Olympians. Then I’ll do swimming coverage over there for the first eight days. The following nine days will be following every story under the sun. We’ll cover inspirational, fun stories, night life at the Olympic games, I’ll have my kids there so we’ll cover experiencing the games with family. We’ll feature Team USA and the Americans who have come over. My hope is that everyone catches the Olympic fever and understands what the Olympic spirit is all about.

I was in Whistler for the last Olympics and I had my son there going, ‘Go USA, Go USA.’ He would then turn to me and ask, ‘Mommy what’s a USA?’ So I think he will get it this time and really be able to take it all in.”

CBS: Tell us about your book, Champions are Raised, Not Born.

SS: “My book is a message that is constantly revisited. It’s something that can stand the test of time. There was a point after the games when everyone was asking me about a parent guide for fellow Olympians. People would ask my what my parents did right. I felt that people needed to know we were somewhat normal and that we had lives and we did not eat, drink, and sleep our sport even though we loved it. I also used stories from other Olympians on how their parents could not have possibly put out their fire or their passion for their sport.

For me it was my mom biting her tongue, even though she knew swimming so well and how much natural talent and potential I had. She let me quit a couple times to try other things, and I found my way back. Then there was my dad who helped me balance my life – he made sure I had fun along all the hard work.

So there are lots of lessons in there for parents – and I should probably read it again!”

CBS: Are you hoping your two kids will be Olympians as well?

SS: “Omigosh, I have no idea! My husband is an Olympic skiier, so we get the question all the time: ‘Will your kids be Olympic skiiers or swimmers?’ And he always says, ‘If they have Summer’s speed and my endurance, they better be pretty good in math.’

So we have absolutely no idea…and that’s what is so magical about being a parent. You have no idea what your child’s passion, love, and natural talent is going to be. My job as a parent is to lead by example – both at the table and in life. That includes getting outside with them, exercising with them, introducing them to a bunch of different things like sports and music, holding them accountable and teaching them how to be gracious losers and humble winners, and be part of a team and stick to their word. And beyond that, I just hope that they smile when they find passion and love.”

CBS: Do you also think that part of the secret to raising great kids is taking care of yourself?

SS: “Yes! That’s why this program with Kellogg’s is so wonderful. I remind all my friends, ‘If you want to lose weight, you need to eat a healthy breakfast.’ It is your most important meal of the day. And this is not just my mom talking to me when I was 7-years-old. This is me talking to my 39-year-old friend, reminding her how important breakfast is.

So yes, you do have to show your kids how important healthy living is. And I am not the parent that goes, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ I strive to be the parent that is, ‘Do as I do.’ So I exercise with my kids, I run while my son bikes. My daughter wants to run, so we run together. We swim together and have races in the pool. And occasionally I even beat them accidentally and they get really bummed-out. But I teach them that you have to jump back on the horse and try to beat me again.”

CBS: How are your kids doing? What are they into?

SS: “Spider has just fallen in love with hockey…indoor, cold arenas, oh my goodness [laughs]. He is so excited about the potential of being a hockey player! And he looks so natural with it!

My daughter loves gymnastics right now. She thrives with gymnastics, but she hasn’t found her true love yet. She’s my little competitive kid, so I’ve had to remind her about being a gracious loser and to not give up when she’s not winning or doing something right. But she’s got that fire in her eyes, and it’s wonderful.

True love and passion for something happens because a child finds something that they’re great at. It gives them confidence, self-worth, and something to stand a bit more taller. It could be science, or music, or singing, or dancing, or sports!

I think they can build confidence in the classroom, but when it’s something outside of school to add to that confidence, it just makes them better at everything else. That’s the way it was for me. I found that magic through sports, but you can find it in a lot of other arenas as well.”

CBS: Any plans for baby No. 3?

SS: “I don’t think so. We like our man-to-man defense right now [laughs]. I have a lot of friends with three kids and in fact I just watched my friends’ three kids for the weekend. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know how people do it with more than two kids.’ It’s amazing how you have to juggle!

And I feel very blessed and I remind myself of that with our two healthy children.”

To see how Summer got her start in swimming at a young age, click here.

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