Trials and Tribulations: The Rhodes
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
Sometimes it can be hard for a parent to find commonality with a child. That’s no problem for Jerrie Lynn Rhodes, a Masters swimmer and swim coach at SwimMAC Carolina. An avid swimmer, Rhodes shares the sport of swimming with her daughter, Lauren. Both have qualified for a national championship in similar events. Jerrie has competed at the Masters National Championships, while her daughter Lauren will compete in next month’s Olympic Trials.
This week, we catch up with the Rhodes to talk about their unique swimming bond. If you have swimming stories to share, please email me at Trials.Tribulations.email@example.com.
Does swimming give you and your daughter one more thing to talk about?
Jerrie Lynn: She thinks it’s fun to see me on deck. She’s swimming and will walk by and give me a hug. I can see her throughout the day. She’ll think it’s cool when she’s 40 and I’m 80. I saw women who were 80 years old doing a 500 free, which is amazing. I don’t terribly embarrass her. They’re so young and fast. When I swim, I’m like, “I almost did under a minute!” And they’re swimming under 49. I can’t even imagine. But at least we have something in common.
Lauren: We do bond a lot over swimming. My mom is my best friend. She’s my role model in life. But swimming has pulled us together. I swim 8 days a week. It’s a huge part of my life, and a huge part of her life – she coaches and swims. It ties us a lot closer.
You two swim similar events. Do you share racing tips?
Lauren: We both swim mostly the sprint freestyles. She does give me tips at meets. She always tells me after watching races, things to work on or things to do for finals. She mostly coaches younger kids, but it helps that she’s watching.
Jerrie: Once in a while. She thinks she’s so much faster than I am. [Laughs.] Given that she’s 16 and I’m 44. She can swim a 50 free almost in 22 seconds and I’m more like 27. I give her certain tips that maybe her coach didn’t say to her. Sometimes she listens. Usually I stay out of it. We have confidence in her coaches. If we need to, we will, but we usually don’t.
Many kids and parents struggle to find commonality. You have both qualified for national competitions in the same sports and similar events. Is it a special bond to share that?
Jerrie: I think so. Swimming is a lifelong sport. Right now, they’re training so hard. Maybe they can’t appreciate it. As she gets through high school and college, she’ll realize that. I’m hoping she’ll always get in the water and feel special. You can swim forever. You can’t play soccer forever. I think it definitely brings us together. I hope someday I’m a senior citizen and she’s a mom, her kids will swim, and we’d all be in a meet together. It’s good on your body. Running kills your body. Maybe we can swim together one day. Right now, we’re in a different level. But some day.
Lauren: It’s great because it’s a whole family sport. My mom does it. My sister does it. My brother does it. My dad loves the sport. It’s good because I can relate to my whole family. It’s a fun family sport. We always have fun going to meets.
Jerrie, your daughter will compete in the upcoming Trials. As a competitor yourself and swim coach, how proud does that make you?
Jerrie: Very proud. Given she’s just turning 16, it’ll be more an experience. Who knows what will happen. But I’m friendly with the Berens. We coach together. I can imagine the pressure she feels for her son, given Ricky is 25 and was on the Olympics before. It’s not that kind of pressure. It’s more like, she made the meet and it’s a great honor. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It opens more opportunities. She gets to wear the Olympic gear and feel good and be part of the team. No pressure. At sectionals when she was trying to qualify, that was pressure. This will be like a vacation.
Lauren, are you excited for the Olympic Trials coming up?
Lauren: Yeah. I am really excited. I’m not that nervous, but once I get there, it’ll still be surreal. When I got my cut, I was so shocked. I was hoping I’d get it. I trained for so long. Once I get to Trials, the first thing I’ll think about is all the people around and watching. Usually, you do swim in front of a crowd. But at the Olympic Trials, it’s you and your heat and 12,000 people.
Is it inspiring having a mom as a “swim mom,” coach, and swimmer?
Lauren: It is inspiring. She can relate to me, and I can talk to her about swimming. I can talk to my friends about it. But when it’s in the family, it’s cool, because we can both relate to it. She’s in her 40s and still doing it. It inspires me to keep going. It’s a lifelong sport.