Vancouver-born Jeff Mallett is best known for building Yahoo! into one of the most recognized media and Internet brands in the world. Now he’s a co-owner of the San Francisco Giants baseball team and the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team, and he was an original investor in the Women’s Professional Soccer league.
Jeff and his wife believe in giving kids the right start in sports and activity. Active For Life spoke with Jeff recently about his love of sport and how he and his wife have helped their two daughters get active and stay active.
A4L: How do you feel that sports and activity have helped you?
JEFF: I firmly believe that my involvement in sports as a youth growing up in Vancouver and Victoria was absolutely critical in every part of my life. It helped me be a good parent to my two daughters as much as it helped me to be successful in business.
A lot of what I took away from sport is teamwork and the relationship between peers – to be ready, to be sharp, to contribute – whether it’s being a mom or dad, or running a multi-billion dollar company.
A4L: What sports and activities did you do when you were growing up?
JEFF: I was very active playing sports as a child. My first experience was playing organized soccer in Nanaimo when I was 5 years old. My parents helped start the minor soccer league. Then we moved to Campbell River and I started playing hockey, and I eventually ended up playing rep hockey at the midget level.
Then I went back to soccer and I went on to play at the University of Victoria. I was named an All-Canadian while I was there and I was in the player pool for the Canadian Olympic team. Later I played for my college team at San Francisco State and I was captain there. Eventually an injury sidelined me and I hung up my boots for good.
A4L: What have your children done for sport and physical activity?
JEFF: I have two daughters, ages 14 and 17. Both of my girls were extremely active from day one.
I took them skating as soon as possible, and both of them were swimming by age five. They played pretty much every possible sport.
Both of them played volleyball, and both of them played soccer and basketball, club and school..My younger daughter’s U15 soccer team is currently ranked second in the U.S.
My oldest daughter was also very big into competitive gymnastics from age 6 to 12. She was in the TOPs program, which is the funnel that U.S. Olympic gymnasts have to go through.
Both of them also play golf and tennis, and they regularly bike, windsurf, sail, hike and ride horses.
A4L: How did you make sure all of this was fun?
JEFF: We made activity into special time with mom or dad, or as a family. We made it a fun event. When we grabbed the skates and went skating, it was a great way to spend dad time. Skating was my thing, biking was my wife’s thing.
I think my single biggest thing is leading by example as a parent. It’s not necessarily running half marathons, but just showing that you value physical activity.
For example, don’t just tell your kids to get up and go outside to ride their bike – get up and do it with them. Establish it as a normal part of life. The other major factor is giving kids an early knowledge of foods and good diet.
A4L: How do you think sports and activity have helped your daughters’ confidence?
JEFF: I think confidence comes less from winning and standing on the podium, and more from learning how to deal with failing to make the pass, failing to win the race, failing to score the goal.
I think learning how to deal with disappointment has been a huge part of what builds their confidence, and when your teammates come and pick you up when things don’t go the way you want them to go.
A4L: Do you think athleticism and sport ability is acquired or innate?
JEFF: I think the vast majority of kids with good guidance from their parents, coaches and their peers can be successful. Not necessarily with medals around their neck, but successful in having fun and participating in a team. Riding my bike – hey, that was FUN.
The real shame for me is when I see kids who don’t get exposed. They don’t know what it’s like to feel good, to be physically aware. As parents we can help steer our children towards all of the benefits and lifelong positives of being physically active and healthy.
Jeff Mallett’s top tips on raising “Active For Life” kids:
- Lead by example. Be an active parent.
- Make sport or activity a special time with mom, dad or the whole family.
- Fit the coach to your kid.
- Teach your child about nutrition at a young age.
- Make sport and physical activity a natural part of life.