Elite athletes on how their moms helped them in their physical literacy journey

Whether they’re heading to the Olympic and Paralympic Games or they’ve competed in previous winter or summer games, the one thing all our athlete role models have in common is physical literacy.

Inspired by the P&G “Thank You, Mom” commercials of the past (and one promoting Rio Olympics 2016), we’ve asked our role models to share how their moms helped them on their physical literacy journey. So this one is for you, moms. All moms. We thank you for everything you do to raise happy, healthy, physically literate kids.

Josée Bélanger

When I was 5-years-old, my mom asked me which activity I wanted to try. It could have been anything in addition to swimming lessons; my mom thought it was really important to know how to swim. I chose to play soccer. My mom said that from the first moments I was really passionate, and I was running to exhaustion, but would never give up. At 12, I got invited to join the regional team. All the trainings were 45 minutes away from my hometown, where I’d practice two to three times per week, plus a game. My mom drove me to every single one of them for six years, even though she was a busy mother of three, building a family company with my dad. And that was only for the regional team. When I was on the provincial team I also had to take the train to Montreal, a two hour and thirty minute drive away. I remember how frustrated I was sometimes coming back from trainings or games. But my mom was always putting attention on what I did so well. She was proud, but never put any kind of pressure on me. She allowed me to play, with a desire to see her daughter following her passion and her dream — even if, for a moment, it was hard to believe it was accessible — to become a professional soccer player.

Chandra Crawford

My mom is really strong and brave and a great role model. She got into mountain sports in her 20s when she met my dad, and raised me with tons of canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, and skiing in the mountains. I credit her unconditional love and support for my success in skiing. She didn’t follow my results, focusing instead on having fun meeting people at races and cheering her heart out for everyone on course — my mom exuded love of the experience for it’s own sake. A perfect example of how she fostered physical literacy is all the time she spent with my two younger siblings and I at the pool or playing outside. I could climb as high as I wanted in the trees in our yard and she always packed amazing snacks for backcountry adventures. She has a great imagination and managed to recount and embellish the Lord of the Rings stories while we were hiking, and make any experience pure magic and fun. I’m extremely grateful for her passing on such a pressure-free love of physical activity. I know for a fact it enabled me to soar on skis and love movement of all kinds to this day.

Travis Gerrits

My mom is not only the most dedicated and supportive woman I know, but a source of inspiration as well as my manager and dear friend. My Olympic journey wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the unwavering care she has provided me since I was even just 2-years-old. Growing up in sport has shaped me into who I am and I am forever grateful. I love you mom … happy Mothers Day!

Benoit Huot

My mom is my number one fan. She has been there since day one. Even if sometimes she’s over-protecting us, she’s always there to support and help us on good or bad days. She could say things that I thought didn’t make sense but at the end of the day I realized that she was right. Now that I am more mature, I understand and listen carefully to her recommendations, whether they’re related to my sport or personal life. At my first international competition when I was 14-years-old, my mom could not afford to come with me to New Zealand because the trip was too expensive. After the first race, I called her in the middle of the night (with the time change), with a silver medal around my neck and she started to cry because she was not there with me when it happened. She missed that special moment. She said to me on the call that it was going to be the first and last time she was not going to be with me at a big competition, so that going forward we could celebrate and live those incredible experiences together. She never missed another one.

Erin McLeod

My mom, whether she knows it or not, has led by example my whole life. Whenever I visit her I try and go walking with her walking group on Vancouver Island; she has always walked a few times a week for as long as I can remember.  She does abs every morning and is the reason I have so much discipline as an athlete myself.  My mom has always been my biggest fan and I’ve always been hers (tied with my sisters). Knowing I’ve always had her love and support behind me has been a gift, and the days that are hard, when the training feels like too much, I think of those times she lived in our Aerostar minivan just to pick us up and drop us off at sports and music. Those memories make pushing through the pain easier somehow. She’s always been there and we were never late for anything. Sometimes my mom says that the baby or child actually picks their parents before they are born – I don’t know if it’s true – but if it is it’s the best choice I’ve ever made.

Michael Woods

I am so fortunate to have a mom who believed in the importance of keeping me active and physically literate. There were very few sports and activities that I didn’t do as a kid, and if I ever expressed interest in trying something new, she was the one standing in line to sign me up, or driving me to the practice. If it wasn’t for my mom’s love and support, I wouldn’t be the athlete that I am today, and I wouldn’t have had the tools to keep me active and healthy throughout my life.

Dorothy Yeats

My mom, Kati, was an elite level gymnast in Hungary before moving to Canada. When my sister and I were young, she put us into gymnastic classes as soon as we were old enough because she knew how important physical literacy was. Not only for the physical gains, but also for the characteristics you acquire, such as discipline, organization, perseverance, etc., when you train and compete as a gymnast. When I decided to change sports to wrestling, my mom did everything she could to help make my life easier so that I could focus on achieving my dreams as a wrestler as well as completing my education. This included waking me up at 6 a.m. and driving me to go swim laps at the pool before my high school classes, and making sure I never missed a practice.  This continued on to driving me to my morning practices at 7 a.m. when I started CEGEP. If I had to lose weight before a competition (to make my weight class in wrestling), my mom would change the family meals to accommodate my dietary needs. In any place where she could, she helped me. She was always so selfless when it came to her kids, and I honestly don’t know if I could have reached my dream of competing at the Olympic Games for Canada if it wasn’t for her continual help and support. So grateful.

Image courtesy Michael Woods

Originally published on April 27, 2016. Article updated: May 9, 2019

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