I have written many times in this column about youth sports, which is something very important to me. Judging by the reaction of both of my faithful column readers, it is important to some of you as well. After retiring from about 20 years of coaching more baseball and basketball teams than I can count, I can say with certainty youth sports have been a big part of who I am — or even perhaps who I want to be when I grow up (why rush things).
Life lessons learned through sports has been the topic of many of our father-and-son, let’s call them “conversations,” over the years. Which brings me to a story shared with me by Mark King, father of local Olympic swimmer Lilly King. Mark is an excellent writer, does freelance work for us, and, although he will deny this, is a friend.
Mark recently told me this funny story:
Ginny King, Lilly’s mom, had been a terrific age-group and college swimmer. Mark had been a college runner. So it stands to reason that sports would play a role in the King household. However, Lilly initially was not a very good swimmer (sorry Lil, your dad’s words!).
When Lilly was 8 years old, Ginny took her to a swim clinic at the Mount Vernon High School pool. Lilly struggled all day to keep up with the other girls and was last in everything she swam. Her mom was sure Lilly would be upset and end up hating the sport.
The clinic was put on by none other than Janet Evans, generally regarded as the best female distance swimmer in history with four gold medals in two different Olympic games and a number of world records along the way.
Evans spoke at length to the kids at the clinic, repeatedly emphasizing that while she was far from being the most talented swimmer, she had worked extremely hard to achieve her goals. It was a lesson Lilly obviously took to heart and demonstrated year in and year out.
Recently, while getting ready to practice with her Olympic swimming teammates for her debut in Rio, Lilly’s phone rang and showed a California number she did not recognize. Lilly decided not to answer. Later that evening, she listened to the voicemail, and the caller was Janet Evans.
Evans told Lilly she was planning to go to Rio for the Olympics and asked Lilly if she could meet her 9-year-old daughter, an aspiring breaststroke swimmer, at the games. The young girl’s favorite swimmer just happens to be Lilly King.
I know some of you — certainly my peers — are probably struggling to comprehend the photos below. In our feature story “Synced” beginning on page 24, we detail how the world of smartphones has literally changed everything.
My take on smartphones and our culture? It is safe to say in a love-hate relationship, there is no love.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Todd A. Tucker