Managing motherhood and athletics

Published on August 18th, 2020

Sarah Newberry-Moore (USA Sailing) and Pam Relph (GBR Para Rowing) are two female athletes from different sports and countries, one a mom and the other an aspiring mom, coming together to talk about professional sport and motherhood on their podcast, Mum’s the Word.

In this episode they are joined by double Olympic medalist JJ Fetter. JJ shared her journey through sport and into motherhood, and talked about the support she received from teammates and family that enabled her to be both a top class athlete and a mom.

JJ and her family lived all over the world when she was competing and she shared stories about leaving her kids for the first time for training and competitions, and the emotional toil that took. A lot of quality advice and tips were shared for aspiring athlete moms.

Born into a sailing family, the youngest of three children of Jane and Tom Fetter, with dad being a former commodore of the San Diego Yacht Club. She learned to sail and race in the junior program at that club, beginning in Sabots, but disliked how girls and boys were viewed differently in sailing.

“The junior regattas were open to everyone, but there was a winner’s trophy and a ‘first girls’ trophy,” she recalled. “I always wanted just to be first, and hand that other trophy off as ‘the first boy trophy’. … I finished second, third and fourth in the Sabot Nationals, but never won, meaning I was always getting that ‘first girl’ trophy, and I hated it.”

JJ would go on to have three Olympic campaigns, the first one right out of college for 1988, and while not selected to represent the USA, she parlayed the experience to win the bronze medal at Barcelona 1992 Olympics. However, for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, she was now balancing motherhood with her sailing.

“I actually was a way better campaigner because I was a mom, I was much more efficient with my time, and much more focused,” reflecting on her silver medal effort. “I was also way better at compartmentalizing the stress of the campaign and taking those breaks. So I think psychologically, I was a much better competitor.”

To listen to the podcast, click here.

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