Matt Grevers just laughs trying to figure out what is harder: Olympic trials or parenting. The four-time Olympic gold medalist and father of two young daughters competed in his final Olympic Trials this past June, receiving a standing ovation after his final swim in the 100m backstroke. In his emotional interview, Grevers was full of gratitude as he reflected on his career and the “changing of the guard”.
In the final years of his professional swimming career, Grevers became a father, adding a whole new dimension to his preparation for the Olympic Trials. “I like being in control at Olympic trials,” Grevers says, “and parenting and you’re not in control,” he laughs. “As an athlete you always try to conserve your energy to put into training and racing and you can’t do that with kids,” he smiles. Grevers recounts the long nights spent bouncing and patting his baby girls (a great quad work out he adds), how he can’t usually get his standard afternoon nap in while watching two kids, and that some days macaroni and cheese is just part of his nutrition.
Before having children, Grevers, like any athlete, was solely focused on performance. He was “all in'' on swimming and experienced the high highs and low lows that come with having a sole focus. After making and medalling during both the Beijing and London Olympics, Grevers failed to make the 2016 Rio team when he placed third at Olympic Trials in the 100 meter backstroke. As defending Olympic champion, it was a really tough result for Grevers to face. Ultimately, he says he was motivated by that defeat and the dark emotions he felt, but that experience pushed him to diversify his perspective. “I like that I was all in and I like that I had ‘all in’ experiences,” Grevers says, “but I didn’t want to feel like that again.”
It was after that challenging period that Grevers started to invest a bit more in other aspects of his life, including a real estate business and starting a family with his wife Annie Chandler (a former well-decorated national team swimmer). Grevers explains that parenting and swimming aren’t the most symbiotic but, he says, being dedicated to both gave him a sense of balance:
If I don’t have a great practice, it’s awesome to have an opportunity to come home and be a great dad and succeed that way. And the same that swimming helps parenting. If I’m not doing great at home, like my patience is a little thin…I get to go swim and have a great practice and then I can have a reward there. So the balance of the two in trying to find a win is definitely helpful.
That perspective of balance is something that Grevers says has just naturally “evolved throughout [his] career”. While most might see parenting as taking away from swimming, Grevers sees it a different way. There are challenges on a day-to-day basis, he admits, but it’s clear that cultivating his life outside the pool has given him multiple pathways to reach success- a feeling he’s carried into his final Olympic Trials, and into his transition into the business world.
His final piece of wisdom for other high performance parents: get a good set of noise cancelling headphones.