(This post is an annual round-up, updated for 2013, of female athletes who are also moms. Let us know in the comments who else you think should be included.)
Being a professional athlete is demanding but being a professional athlete and a mom? That’s a whole other level of determination and dedication.
Soccer moms have long led the charge for elite female athletes returning to competitive sports while juggling motherhood. The U.S. Women’s National Team has consistently featured mothers on its roster since 1994, when Joy Fawcett became the first “Soccer Mom” to give birth and continue playing at the highest levels of international soccer. Carla Overbeck and Danielle Fotopoulos also had kids while on the U.S. team, and Christie Rampone (mother of Riley and Reece) continues to play on the defensive line.
Though retired from competitive play, Mia Hamm joined the Soccer Moms Club when she and husband Nomar Garciaparra welcomed twin daughters in 2007. Five years ago, Brandi Chastain (of "It's Not About the Bra" fame) became mom to son Connor and four years ago Julie Foudy, former captain of the US Women’s soccer team, had a baby girl named Isabel. Long-time player Kristine Lilly returned to play after daughter Sidney was born and only retired from professional soccer at the beginning of 2011 before giving birth to her second daughter.
Clearly, competitive women aren’t waiting until their athletic careers are over to start families. WNBA player Lisa Leslie sat out a season with the Los Angeles Sparks to give birth to a daughter but she returned to the pro team for a year and had a great season before giving birth to baby #2 and retiring. Leslie’s teammate, MVP and Rookie of the Year Candace Parker, is also a mom enjoying daughter Laila, a constant sideline companion, while playing in both the Euroleague and the WNBA. Check out the video above to see what it's like being a pro baller and a single mom in Russia (husband Sheldon Williams spends the season playing basketball in France). But Parker and Leslie are far from the first WNBA stars to have their basketball careers impacted by pregnancy and motherhood. In previous seasons, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and others have missed time, and occasionally entire seasons, to focus on their families.
Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh-Jennings incredibly won a gold medal last summer at the London Olympics while pregnant and she, along with her husband, pro-volleyball star Casey Jennings, welcomed baby girl Scout Margery into the world on April 6, 2013. Scout joins older brothers Joey and Sundance and Kerri has stated that she intends to compete at the Rio Games in 2016 .(sans long-time partner MIsty May Treanor).
Pitcher Jennie Finch and husband Casey Daigle have two sons, Ace and Diesel, and a baby girl, Paisley Faye, joined the family in early 2013. Finch competed with the Women’s National Softball Team after Ace was born, ran the New York Marathon shortly after Diesel was born and until recently played for the Chicago Bandits.
USSF Pride player Jessica Mendoza is also a mom. Her son Caleb was born in 2009 and the gold medal Olympian announced in February that she is pregnant and will be adding to her family later this summer. Stacey Nuveman also played for the United States National Team and now balances coaching softball with motherhood.
When the U.S. women’s hockey team won the bronze medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, forward Jenny Potter skated around the rink in celebration with her then 5-year-old daughter Madison in her arms. Potter’s daughter was a fixture at the rink at an early age. A week after Madison was born, Jenny was skating again. Three months later, she was back playing for the U.S. women’s hockey team in the world championships. What’s even more impressive is that Jenny did it all again. Just 83 days after delivering son Cullen, Potter helped the 2007 U.S. Women’s National Team to a 9-0 victory over Kazakhstan in the opening game of the 2007 IIIHF Women’s World Championship. As the only mom on the U.S. hockey team, she pulled off back-to-back hat tricks in the first two games of the 2010 Winter Olympics
Tennis player Lindsay Davenport had an amazing comeback after giving birth to her son Jagger. Just three months after the birth of her first child, Davenport became an instant and almost shocking success winning a number of high profile tournaments. She recently gave birth to her second child. Kim Clisjters came out of retirement after her daughter Jada was born and surprisingy won the U.S. Open as an unseeded player. Apparently, she adjusted Jada’s daytime nap so her daughter would be able to stay up at night and witness mom’s straight set victory.
On the long list of athlete moms is Gold medal-winning swimmer Dara Torres, who made an amazing comeback after her daughter Tessa was born. At the ripe age of 39, just three weeks after giving birth, Torres was back in the pool at the Masters Nationals where she broke a world record. She then went on to qualify for her fifth Olympics. Fellow swimmer Summer Sanders who is married to skier Erik Schlopy, has a daughter and a son and Amanda Beard has son named Blaise, and is currently pregnant with her second child – a daughter.
Other images from the world of women’s sports clearly show the tide has turned. Legendary Czech cross county skier Katerina Neumannova collapsed on her knees at the finish line after winning gold in the 30-kilometre race at the 2006 Turin Olympics hugging her two-year-old daughter, Lucie. Former Ironman world champion Lori Bowden placed second at Ironman Austria, just 10 months after giving birth to her son Tyson. And pro cyclist Sue Palmar-Komar, a 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, at age 41, gave birth to a sibling for her seven-year-old daughter Trinity.
And who can forget Paula Radcliffe, arguably the greatest woman’s distance runner of all time, who won the New York Marathon months after giving birth to daugher Isla. Kara Goucher is the newest marathon mom – having completed the Boston race last year six months after having her son.
Most of these working moms admit they can’t do it alone. And while their spouses and families pitch in, they are also assisted by their leagues and teams. Potter said USA Hockey provides helpful financial assistance during Olympic years. And before the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) folded, the league mandated that home teams must provide child care for the mothers on visiting teams. The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) takes things to a whole new level. Since 1993, the LPGA has operated the LPGA Child Development Center, which travels to more than 25 tournaments per year. Bardine May, the Center’s director, said the LPGA was motivated to provide child care so that its athletes didn’t have to choose between playing the game and having a family.
There are many different kinds of mothers - working moms, homemakers, politicians, fashionistas, artists, etc. Although it may not have been true a generation ago, many moms are competitive athletes as well. While all moms should be recognized on Mother’s Day, we’d like to single out the very special moms who manage to balance their families and their careers as athletes. Happy Mother’s Day to you all!
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