This year, our OC superstars have excelled to the top of the nation and beyond. These young talents not only put in hours of daily hard work and practice to hone their skills, all while holding down the usual school and social obligations, but they are doing so in sports that might seem a little out of the box. There might not be the recognition of school pep rallies or cheer squads screaming their names, but they are true athletes (and perhaps have a better than usual shot at scholarships in their chosen sport). We talk to their parents about what goes into raising an elite athlete.
By Sascha Zuger
Photography by Ana Brandt
Jim Caiopoulos, Parent of
Archer, member of US Cadet Archery Team, Compound Dream Team, JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) in Orange County Archery, and Joy Lee Archery Academy.
Highest Achievement State/National Competitions: 9 Gold medals; International Competitions: 3 Gold medals.
What have you learned about being the parent of an athlete? First and foremost, patience and organization. It is a family commitment, given her practice schedule and arranging family vacation time to coincide with travel to all her competitions, both nationally and internationally.
How do you encourage Athena? We keep her looking at the big picture. Let’s face it—practicing can be quite boring. We try to maintain a positive outlook during both the highs and the lows, the wins and the losses. We encourage her to see the lessons learned from her losses, even when those losses bring her to tears. A warm hug and shoulder to cry on is always there.
Is there a moment in her career you are most proud of? Of course when she made the United States Archery Team at age 13, that was a very proud moment for us. But looking back, watching her grow personally and professionally has been wonderfully rewarding.
Advice for other parents with an athlete? Don’t be the soccer or little league parent—just be the best cheerleader you can be! Let their coaches train them—without your input!
What’s been the Coolest Moment in Athena’s Sports Career? “Taking first place in the Las Vegas Shootout, and winning a thousand-dollar scholarship towards my college fund.”
Dee Lochmiller Parent of
Track/Road Cyclist for Team Rokform
Highest Achievement: 2014 Road, 3rd place National Champion Criterion Race; 2014 Track, 1st place National Championship.
What have you learned about being the parent of an athlete? It’s a lot of work and time!
How do you encourage Wulfgang? By trying to make it as fun as possible and meeting others who have same interests.
Is there a moment in his career you are most proud of? 2014 Track Nationals.
Advice for other parents with an athlete? Quote source unknown: “Your child’s success or lack of success in sports does not indicate what kind of parent you are. But having an athlete that is coachable, respectful, great teammate, mentally tough, resilient and tries their best IS a direct reflection of your parenting.”
What’s been the Coolest Moment in Wulfgang’s Sports Career? “Winning Track Nationals and setting a time trial record.”
Cindy Chung, Parent of
Synchronized Swimmer with Orange County Synchro
Highest Achievements: West zone: 1st place duet; Regional: 2nd place duet; 2015 U.S.Junior Olympics: 13th place.
What have you learned about being the parent of an athlete? It takes a lot of commitment. A lot of driving back and forth (also, eating in the car very often!).
How do you encourage your child? By supporting them and making them feel comfortable. Also, being patient.
Is there a moment in Ashley’s career you are most proud of? I’m proud of my daughter every day, whether she does well or not. I’m just very happy that she is strong and has a desire to get better.
Advice for other parents with an athlete? Stick to a sport that your child enjoys, but don’t give up just because later the child doesn’t like it. OC Synchro team started with more than 10 members. As of today, there are only 2 (including my daughter) who are still on the team. When the child learns to give up and change sports constantly, I believe it sets a bad path in their life. I believe encouraging the child to succeed at a few things adds much more value in the child’s life than encouraging the child to succeed at many things. Focus is the key. I have a son who plays tennis every day and is a ranked tennis player. We don’t put him in any other sports because we want him to focus on becoming the best he can be.
What’s been the Coolest Moment in Ashley’s Sports Career? “Going to North Carolina for Nationals.”
Kristen Smith, Parent of
Sport Rock Climbing and Bouldering for Sender One Climbing Team
Highest Achievements: Placed 6th in US Divisionals/ Going to Georgia to US Nationals in July.
What have you learned about being the parent of an athlete? Mostly just to love them and support them as they continue to grow in their sport. It’s important to remember that this is “their” experience and “their” journey and our job is to be there for them on the good days and bad days.
How do you encourage your child? I try to remind him that he started doing this because it was fun. If he is not enjoying it anymore or having fun at what he is doing, then it is time to take a break.
Is there a moment in their career you are most proud of? Yes! He went to Regionals and made it to Divisionals in last place. We already thought it was a huge accomplishment to get that far so early in his career. At Divisionals, he worked hard and made it to the last day of finals and actually placed to go to Nationals. It was so rewarding to see all his hard work and perseverance pay off.
Advice for other parents with an athlete? Remember you are the parent, not the coach. It’s your job to love them and support them no matter what.
What’s been the Coolest Moment in Cade’s Sports Career? “Making the National Championships!”
John Jenkins, Parent of twins
Ryan and Morgan Jenkins
Saber Fencers with Laguna Fencing Center
Highest Achievements: Ryan — National Champion Y12, 8 National Medals. Morgan — Former National Champion Y10, 7 National Medals.
What have you learned about being the parent of an athlete? Be quiet. Bad calls and disappointments will happen. They don’t always want your advice, they just need you to be a good listener.
How do you encourage your child? I remind them you can’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day, and you can’t get complacent if you have a good day. You try your best and work hard and find satisfaction in that. Your best effort is always enough.
Is there a moment in their career you are most proud of? I’m proud of them every time they face off against an opponent on the strip. It takes courage to stand toe to toe with someone holding a saber.
Advice for other parents with an athlete? Let their coach be the coach. Don’t offer advice. Enjoy the luxury of being their biggest fan.
What’s been the Coolest Moment in Ryan and Morgan’s Sports Career? “Winning at Summer Nationals (Y12). My sister and I made it to the final strip in our Y10 year and I took home the Silver. I was happy for her, but I made it a personal goal to be the one on the top of the medal stand at Y12 Summer Nationals. Accomplishing something I worked hard for was extremely rewarding.” —Ryan
“Winning Gold at Summer Nationals (Y10). My sister and I ended up on the final strip together. I knew defeat wouldn’t be as bitter if I lost to my sister. It was a great feeling to hug each other at the end and know she was genuinely happy for me, even in her disappointment.” —Morgan
Erik Mayol, Parent of
Jake and Max Mayol
Sailors with the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club and US Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA). Also International Laser Sailing Association (Max) and International Naples Sabot Association (INSA) (Jake).
Highest Achievements: Jake — INSA Sabot Nationals 4th 2014; (Intl) Lake Garda Optimist Meeting – 1st Place Bronze Fleet 2015. Max — Jr Olympic Gold Sailing CFJ 2014; Olympic Class Laser Regatta Silver 2015.
What have you learned about being the parent of an athlete? To juggle a demanding schedule and teaching the kids balance in their life.
How do you encourage your sons? By being at every event possible, lifting their spirits when they are down and getting them to have a positive attitude.
Is there a moment in their careers you are most proud of? I am especially proud of their getting to travel to Europe and represent the United States.
Advice for other parents with an athlete? The rewards are great and it is worth the time and commitment to watch them achieve their goals.
What’s been the Coolest Moment in Jake and Max’s Sports Career? “Representing Team USA in Lake Garda, Italy.” —Jake
“Representing Team USA in Lake Garda, Italy.” —Max
JoAnna Fearnley, Parent of
Varsity Single Sculler with Newport Sea Base Rowing
Highest Achievements: 1st place in the single at long beach invitational Christmas regatta; 4th place in the southwest regional championships in Sacramento California, Lake Natoma.
What have you learned about being the parent of an athlete? That you cannot push your child to be what you want them to be. Young athletes are not living our dreams but their own.
How do you encourage your child? I encourage Kendall by constantly reassuring her of her many strengths, her beauty inside and out, and the amazing gifts that she has been given to be able to be the athlete and amazing young lady that she is.
Is there a moment in their career you are most proud of? There are so many I can’t count!
Advice for other parents with an athlete? Listen to what’s right for them. I was ridiculed for allowing Kendall to switch sports on occasion, but I wanted her to know that while follow through is important, finding what fits you and following your heart is equally as important in sports and life.
What’s been the Coolest Moment in Kendall’s Sports Career? “Not coolest, but most defining. In the women’s single varsity race in Sacramento I placed fourth. If I had placed third I could have gone to Nationals as a sophomore. I felt what it was like to be so close to your goal.”
OC Goes for the Gold
Sports Programs with Olympic Ties
By Bonnie Hebert
Sea Base Rowing
1931 West Coast Hwy., Newport Beach
Olympian: Erin Cafaro
Orange County Badminton Club
1432 A N. Main Street, Orange
Olympians: Kevin Han (pictured) and Howard Bach
Mission Viejo Nadadores
27474 Casta Del Sol, Mission Viejo
Olympian: Chloe Sutton
5742 McFadden Ave., Huntington Beach
Olympian: Sam Mikulak
Aliso Viejo Ice Palace
9 Journey, Aliso Viejo
Olympians: Sasha Cohen, Ashley Wagner (pictured)
SOCAL Water Polo
Sport: Water Polo
Olympian: Tumua Anae
Long Beach Shore Aquatics
Sport: Water Polo
Olympian: Lauren Wenger
Newport Aquatic Center
1 Whitecliffs Drive, Newport Beach
Olympian: Esther Lofgren
Professionals: Chris Klotz, Kevin Friedland.
Olympians: Jonathan Bornstein (pictured) and Benny Feilhaber Chad Marshall. Technical director, Don Ebert, was 1980 U.S. Olympic team captain.
Irvine Novaquatics, Inc.
Olympians: Amanda Beard, Jessica Hardy (pictured) and Aaron Peirsol, Mike (Milorad) Cavic, Stacianna Stitts, Derya Buyukuncu, Colleen Lanne,
Gabe Woodward, John Mykkanen, Jason Lezak
Japan Martial Arts Center
10585 Slater Ave Ste. 1A, Fountain Valley
Olympians: Jordan Valle, Charles Watson, Andrew Watson, Tanya Baeza, Mina Yamazaki (pictured), Diego DiGiovanni
Gym-Max Academy of Gymnastics
2969 Century Place, Costa Mesa
Olympians: McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross (pictured)