How to Balance Being a Sports Parent

How to Balance Being a Sports Parent

Raising an exceptional athlete brings highs, lows and lots of windshield time. Four local moms share their stories and experiences.

How to Balance Being a Sports Parent
Headlines are filled with stories of crazy sports parents who push their kids to the breaking point and lose all perspective.
But for a parent whose child is dedicated to a sport – and maybe even darn good at it – how do you tow the line between supporting your child's athletic ability and not going overboard? How do you NOT become one of those nutjobs that takes all of the joy out of your child's passion? And how do you balance the demands of having a star athlete with the daily realities of everyday life?
Here, four moms behind high-level area athletes tell us about the demands of their child's athletics as well as the benefits reaped from the time, cost and commitment required for their child to excel. They share the good, the bad and the ugly about bringing up a champion.

Cheryl Davis

Hometown: West Bloomfield
Kids: Olympic ice dancing champion Meryl Davis and Clayton Davis
Sports Truism: "Believe in yourself. Have faith. Keep your head up."
Cheryl Davis of West Bloomfield thinks that her daughter Meryl is perhaps better known for her recent Dancing With the Stars Season 18 win than her ice dancing Olympic gold medal. Either way, she considers her daughter's recent accomplishments surreal – not to mention a long time coming. Meryl, 27, first hit the ice at age 3 on the lake on which her family lived.
"It would freeze over, and the whole family would go out and ice skate," Cheryl recalls. "She loved it. She loves the cold."
By 5 Meryl was taking private lessons, and by age 8 she was competing regularly as a single. "When she met Charlie (White) and made the switch to ice dancing, that's when she really got serious about skating," Cheryl recalls.
By the time she was in middle school, Meryl was practicing every day after school and on Saturday. It was a challenging schedule, but one that worked for her.
"She's a very active person," Cheryl notes. "She paces when she's not skating."
As Meryl and Charlie progressed in their sport, the travel demands increased to the point where she missed seven to 10 days of school each month during the season, which runs from October through March.
"She had to be very detail oriented," Cheryl says. "She asked a ton of questions and made up any assignments she missed."
Despite her demanding training and travel schedule, Meryl still maintained an active social life.
"We encouraged her to go to parties and to be involved in school activities like the talent show and to attend her prom," Cheryl says. "We knew the importance of her being part of a group."
To make sure her younger son Clayton didn't feel like he was living in his sister's shadow, Cheryl made extra efforts to spend time with him. And when mother and daughter traveled for competitions, Cheryl's husband Paul used their time away to plan some extra father-son time.
"Clayton and his dad had bonding time," she explains. "They ate out. They skied together. It was special time for them."
Upon reflection, Cheryl thinks that her son, while younger than Meryl by three years, is perhaps wiser than his famous sister.
"She is bright, but ice skaters live like moles," she says. "He has more everyday experience."
A new challenge for Cheryl will be helping her daughter acclimate to life after the Olympics.
"I think it's more difficult for Meryl now than for me," Cheryl admits. "I still have the life I've always had. Meryl has been so scheduled since she was little. It was all day, every day. Now what? She has so much energy."
Meryl will continue to support her daughter as she finishes her degree at the University of Michigan, where she is majoring in anthropology, and in whatever professional endeavors she next tackles. She's confident the lessons a life on the ice have afforded her will help her on her way.
"This sport has taught our kids that disappointment is part of the journey," Cheryl notes. "It has taught them to believe in themselves, to have faith and to never give up."

Jacqui White

Hometown: Bloomfield Hills
Kids: Olympic ice dancing champion Charlie White and Jason White; stepdaughters Lindsay, Stephanie and Emily
Sports Truism: "You learn as much from failure as from success."
For many high-performance athletes, the pinnacle of their endeavors is an Olympic gold medal. It's a feat to which few can lay claim. But for local ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, it was a dream realized when they skated near perfect performances at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and earned top honors.
Jacqui White of Bloomfield Hills is one of the moms behind the medal – the chauffeur, financier and confidante who knows well the glamorous and unglamorous aspects of raising a champion. Charlie first hit the ice at age 3 when Jacqui and her husband, Charlie Sr., were looking for a family activity to do with their son and his four older siblings.
"He really liked it," recalls Jacqui, who herself grew up ice skating on the canals of Belle Isle. "So I signed him up for a mom-and-tot ice skating class at the rink in Berkley. The sole goal of the class was for each child to learn how to get up by him or herself after falling down." When the rink closed for the summer, Charlie was still itching to hit the ice. Jacqui came upon a flier for the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Township.
"I discovered then that we had a world-renowned skating club in our area," she says.
She enrolled Charlie in a learn-to-skate program, and he never looked back. By age 8, Charlie was playing travel hockey and competing in ice dance with his partner Meryl.
"We had no idea when we started him in ice skating lessons that he would compete at nationals or the Olympics. We were just looking for something fun and recreational."
Unlike many competitive ice skaters, Charlie attended school full-time while training. When competitions required out-of-town travel, Jacqui and Charlie would meet with his teachers to discuss how he could keep up with his studies from the road. "Thank God he was born in the computer age. He was able to submit many papers online."
School was always the priority. "Meryl's parents were on the same page, thankfully," Jacqui notes. "We saw how many people lost perspective. We didn't want that to happen. We didn't want ice skating to take over."
Charlie always maintained an active social life in addition to skating, school and violin lessons. And at times, it did cause him stress.
"He and I had many conversations. I was checking for cracks in the egg that it might be too much. I'd remind him that it was his life. He got to call the shots. He knew he never had to do something to make us happy. I certainly had plenty of other work to do!"
When in 2006, fellow ice dancers Ben Agosto and Tanith Belbin competed at the Winter Olympics, Charlie and Meryl felt they had what it takes to shoot for that same goal.
"They thought, 'If they can do it, we can do it,'" White recalls. "Charlie and Meryl felt they were moving in on Ben and Tanith's skill level."
Still, the road to the Olympics is not easy, and disappointments were not uncommon.
"Thankfully Charlie is a really positive person," White says. "You almost have to be. It's a very unforgiving sport. You're as good as your last competition. You'll give up if you're too hard on yourself."
Instead, Jacqui encouraged Charlie to use disappointment as an opportunity to learn, and the lessons paid off. In February, Jacqui saw her son reach his lifelong goal.
"There are no words invented for the feeling of seeing your son win an Olympic medal," she says. "I can still see their faces when they finished their programs. That image will resonate in my heart for the rest of my life. It's a glorious feeling of happiness. They put their heart and soul into this."
The lessons ice skating has taught her son, family and herself are many.

Vote! 2014 Team Sportswoman of the Year

vote for Meryl!

The Women's Sports Foundation's Sportswoman of the Year Award is one of the most prestigious awards in the game and we need your help deciding the 2014 winners!
Read on to learn more about this year’s finalists or scroll to the bottom to place your vote.  Voting runs from August 25, 2014 to 11:59 p.m. EST on September 8, 2014. Don't miss your chance to let your voice be heard!

Winners will be announced at the 35th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Gala on October 15, 2014, at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Tables and Tickets for the most exciting night in women's sports available here. 

Athletes were considered for the 2014 Sportswoman of the Year Award based on their athletic achievements between August 1, 2013, and July 31, 2014. The winners are determined by the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Awards Committee and the public. Please note only one vote per email address permitted. Read full bios of the 2014 Team  Sportswoman of the Year finalists here. 



Sun Valley Ice Show

Davis and White: grace on and off the ice

The excitement in and around the Sun Valley ice rinks was palpable this weekend because reigning Olympic Gold Medals ice dance pair, Meryl Davis and Charlie White were, as they say, in the house. But before performing two graceful, moving and perfect programs at Saturday night’s Sun Valley On Ice, the champions showed grace of another sort.

Sophie Hansen, 12, from Salt Lake City was treated first-hand to this grace. Currently on a wait list for a liver transplant, she and her family planned an end-of-summer special vacation to Sun Valley so Sophie could see the superstars perform. When representatives from The Primary Children’s Hospital of Salt Lake City reached out to let Sun Valley know Sophie was coming, Jennifer Uhrig, director of the Sun Valley Recreation Department, quickly set the wheels in motion. Hansen is a huge fan of skating and especially of White and Davis.

“We received a message from Primary Children’s Hospital that Sophie and her family had tickets to attend the ice show Saturday night and asked if there was any way for her to meet her idols,” said Uhrig. “Immediately, we wanted to make sure this would happen. Rink manager Scott Irvine suggested she attend the rehearsal Saturday and we planned on her being backstage during that time. We knew she would be able to get photos and autographs but we had no idea that it would turn out the way it did. Meryl and Charlie were so gracious and wonderful.”

The meet and greet turned into much more when Sophie was asked to lace up her skates and take to the ice with the gold medalists and Dancing With the Stars celebs. Sophie, who is a figure skater (and trains at the same rink as Sun Valley On Ice’s “Jumpin’ Joe” Sabovcik) was lifted overhead by Charlie and skated like a champion with all the pros. Charlie also presented her with a Sun Valley goody bag filled with swag. That night at the show, Sophie proudly wore her new Sun Valley sweatshirt and settled onto a new blanket laid on the bleachers. And Sophie and her family, as well as the rest of the huge crowd, were treated to a flawless, breathtaking performance that no one will forget.

“Sophie’s family said that she had an amazing time in Sun Valley,” said Primary Children’s Hospital spokesperson Sandra Orton. “Her mother said she couldn’t stop smiling and that the experience made her entire year.”
One more golden performance featuring Evan Lysacek is scheduled next weekend for the final Sun Valley On Ice of the season on Saturday night, August 30. The 2010 Olympic gold medalist, Evan holds ten major titles in the sport and is one of the most magnetic, athletic and graceful skaters ever to take to the ice. Evan has strong ties to Sun Valley and his shows beneath the stars are a hot ticket. You can still get yours today by clicking HERE.
Special thanks to Meryl Davis and Charlie White for sharing their special magic with the audience Saturday night and a very special audience of one on Saturday afternoon.

NASCAR: Pure Michigan 400

Meryl Davis, Charlie White talk Austin Dillon, skating future
Olympic ice dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White served as grand marshals, starting engines for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Of the pair, Davis appears to be more likely to become a NASCAR driver.
"I've had long, stern lectures from my dad about slowing down my driving actually," Davis said. "He's going to be keeping his eye on me while we're here."

White recalled enjoying the feeling of speed while on the Autobahn in Munich en route to the Sochi Games, but he's not sure he's ready to follow fellow Olympic gold medalist, swimmer Tyler Clary, and experience the speed himself behind the wheel of a car.

"It's fun for us to go fast," White said. "Obviously, we're used to a little bit on the ice, but there's an aspect of it that seems dangerous unless you're used to it. As to racing, I'm not sure I'm there yet. Maybe I'll see these guys go around the track a few times and I'll be like, 'I want to do that.' But we'll have to wait and see."

When the skaters were asked to recall their worst crash, Davis said, "On the ice, one time, unfortunately Charlie broke my fall with his head so that was probably the worst we had, and we made a quick trip to the hospital for that one."

"That was kind of a rough one," White said. "It's kind of similar in figure skating as it is in NASCAR events. As I've seen, it's incredibly dangerous, but everyone is so professional and takes precautions that we're fortunate that rarely accidents happen."

The duo met NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Austin Dillon and said that they shared similar experiences in preparation and the intensity of competition. Davis referred to that intensity when explaining why he and his partner are taking a year off from competition.

"Coming off of the 2010 Olympics with a silver medal was great for our confidence and obviously a step in the right direction towards a gold medal, but then for the next four years, your expectation and really your only goal is to win a gold medal at the coming Olympics which is hard for your brain to handle, day in and day out," White said. "So having achieved that, we're looking forward to taking it easy for a little while, coming out and enjoying things like this and sort of just seeing how we feel in terms of getting back into the sport."

Following a stint on "Dancing with the Stars," won by Davis, she said that they are looking forward to doing shows with skills that they learned on the show.

"Right now we're putting some new programs together for the shows that are coming up," Davis said. "It's the first time we're choreographing and putting things together after doing 'Dancing with the Stars,' and it's been a lot of fun to incorporate some of the things we've learned, some of the new ability to move in different ways into our skating, which is a great feeling of pride."

On Sunday, they were enjoying the time away from training as they attend their first NASCAR race and enjoyed the experience.

"Just going around, getting a chance to meet everyone and an opportunity to dive into a whole new world for us has been great," White said. "We've been training so much and just so focused on our own goals that we've kind of had to miss out on a lot of opportunities like this and just experiencing new things. So this for us is just a dream come true."

MIBigShow radio interview

Pure Michigan

Olympic ice dancing champs teach NASCAR rookie how to skate

Olympic ice dancing champs teach NASCAR rookie how to skate

CANTON, Mich. — Rookie NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon can handle himself on any race track, wet or dry.
But on ice — well, for a beginner, he's not too bad at all.
Dillon, who drives for Richard Childress Racing, looked pretty stout Thursday during his first-ever outing on ice, warming up and taking it easy at first and gaining some speed and confidence toward the end of the session.
Of course, he had two veterans helping him sort out the conditions — 2014 Olympic ice dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who dropped by the G-M Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Mich., where they train, to offer Dillon some free advice.
The trio met up to promote the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR event at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 17, where Davis and White will serve as grand marshals and give the order "start your engines" before the Cup race and to watch Dillon, who drives for his grandfather Richard Childress. Dillon is battling for a spot in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup playoffs, in which he is currently in 13th position.

"I'm pretty nervous — I'm going to need a helmet and a HANS devise on," said Dillon, who drives the No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet, before stepping on to the ice and sharing the arena Thursday with more than two dozen young Olympic hopefuls. "Are you kidding me? There are good people out there. I don't have training wheels on. I'm going to get run over."
Before Davis and White coaxed Dillon on to the Canton ice and out of his comfort zone, they talked racing, future skating plans, Big Ten football and the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine.
"Charlie and I are from the Great Lakes area and are proud to represent Michigan all over the world, and the link for us acting as grand marshals for the Pure Michigan 400 race is great," said Davis, who, like her longtime skating partner, is a student at Michigan. "Speed is a huge part of what we do (on the ice). But, obviously, we've never experienced anything like Austin goes through. We are super excited to be going to MIS."
White, who is a serious Michigan football follower, will be taking in his first NASCAR race at MIS.
"We're getting a chance to embrace other things after the Olympics," White said. "Michigan will be our first real race experience — what a start!"

Dillon, an all-around athlete who played on a Little League World Series team, said he watched the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, earlier this year.
"I've never been ice skating before but I watched the Olympics in Russia and looked up Meryl and Charlie's background and bios," Dillon said. "They're pretty awesome."
Since the Olympics, Davis and White have been performing in ice skating shows around the globe, having just returned a few days ago from dancing in Japan. They also competed in the popular TV series Dancing with the Stars but have chosen to take the current season off from international competition to recharge their batteries.
"There were other things we wanted to do," said Davis, who is from West Bloomfield. "We've been excited to do some shows and skate in a different capacity. But I think at the end of this competitive season, we will really take a look at whether we want to return to competition and go for another Olympics."
White is enjoying the break from the cutthroat world of international ice dance, he said.
"Four years (until the next Olympics) is such a long time — a lot could happen," said White, who was raised in Royal Oak. "We've just expected so much out of ourselves for the last four, eight — well, our entire career — to just have a year stress-free and then kind of re-evaluate ourselves, we are looking forward to that."
Regarding the Russia and Ukraine situation, White paused a moment, somewhat uncomfortably.

"I think any time that there is violence and strife in the world, regardless of if you competed in that country, I think like everyone else, you are hoping for a peaceful conclusion," he said.
Now they have a little more time to themselves, Davis and White say they will take in a U-M football game or two this season.
Can the Wolverines regain national recognition and compete for the Big Ten title?
"I think so," White said. "It's been a tough transition from Lloyd Carr to Rich Rod to Brady Hoke and the philosophy of the program has been trying to find itself. I think we have been getting the right kind of player and that will translate to the field. But I'm not going to lie: I'm still very nervous."
When asked about their romantic lives, White described a recent trip to northern Michigan with his fiancée and fellow ice dancer, Tanith Belbin, whom he'll marry in April.
"I was able to take my fiancée to Petoskey for her birthday," White said. "That's one of those trips Up North everyone loves to talk about."
Davis, who partnered with dashing Maksim Chmerkovskiy to win season 18 of DWTS, was a little less forthcoming when asked if there was a love interest in her life right now.
"Not today," she smiled.
Dillon, could there be someone special?
"One day at a time," he replied with a grin.
After lapping the G-M Arctic Edge Ice Arena for about 20 minutes, tutored by Davis, Dillon returned to the pits — well, the boards — for a rest.
"Now, that was a blast," said Dillon, who looked to be a natural on ice. "I'm definitely going to do that again. I had the best teachers you could ever have."
Brudenell writes for the Detroit Free Press