Home » Blog » May Sports Moms Month » Olympic Gold Medalist Barbara Ann Cochran: Love of Sport, Self-Belief, and Hard Work Can Help Make Dreams Come True

Olympic Gold Medalist Barbara Ann Cochran: Love of Sport, Self-Belief, and Hard Work Can Help Make Dreams Come True

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Being the mother of an athlete is a challenging yet rewarding role. At momsTEAM we think sports moms deserve to be honored, not just on the second Sunday in May, but for an entire month. So we have designated May as National Sports Moms Month and invited some veteran sports moms to share their wisdom by responding to a series of questions. We will post a new blog for every day of May, which we hope you will find interesting, empowering, and informative, and that you will share them with your family and friends.

Today we hear from Barbara Ann Cochran, Olympic gold medalist in slalom at the 1972 Olympic Games in SappoRyan Cochran-Siegel with mom Barbara Cochranro, Japan, skiing coach and instructor, and sports mom of two, including her son, Ryan, the current World Junior Downhill and Combined Champion.

momsTEAM: Were you an athlete and what sports did you play as a youth (under 19)?

Cochran: Yes, when I was about 3, I learned to ski. I started racing when I was about 5. I don't ever remember not skiing or racing. Although my family was always active and participated in a lot of sports when I was growing up (swimming, soccer, baseball, touch football, softball, tennis, water-skiing, hiking, etc.), the only organized sport, besides skiing, I competed in was high school softball----and I wasn't very good at that. Skiing was where I did my best.

momsTEAM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a sports mom? 

Cochran: I have loved watching my kids grow and mature and become involved in healthy activities. It has been extremely rewarding watching them practice a skill and get better and better and see them feel good about themselves.  I also loved sitting on the sidelines with other parents and making friendships that will last a lifetime.  

momsTEAM: What lesson has your sports active child taught you?

Cochran: A great lesson I learned from my daughter was that when things seemed impossible, they, in fact, might be achievable. When she was a sophomore in high school, she decided she wanted to go to a ski academy for her junior and senior years. I didn't even think it was a dream worth pursuing, because I did not have the financial means to send her. I was a single Mom with no savings, no investments, nothing to pay for two years of private school. But she applied, was accepted, and attended.  (It was a tutorial school which meant that she attended her public school from the beginning of the school year until about Thanksgiving, and from about April 1st to the end of the school year. In between she attended the ski academy and worked on her academics with tutors). What I didn't realize was that there were many people in the skiing community (including my family and friends, the academy, and the ski club) who were willing to help make it happen for her, and her younger brother. I will never know who some of the people were who stepped forward and helped pay those bills because some of them wished to remain anonymous.

momsTEAM: What is the most important lesson your child is learning from his/her sport?

Cochran: That you can achieve your dreams if you love what you're doing, believe in yourself, and work hard to improve. To believe that by working on the skills, the results will take care of themselves.

momsTEAM: If you could "flip a switch" and change one thing about the culture of youth sports what would it be?

Cochran: I wish that all kids who have a desire to play a sport are given that opportunity; that for young kids, being able to participate and do their best, is encouraged and recognized; that a coach always points out the things the young player is doing well and then gives him/her pointers on what to do to improve; that playing the most talented kids to win a game is outlawed (athletes learn that lesson later, for instance when they play a varsity sport); and that young athletes learn that attitude and effort count more than performance.

momsTEAM: What have you done to make sports better for kids? Ryan Cochran-Siegel with mom after winning World Juniors

Cochran: At Cochran's Ski Area in Richmond, Vermont, I run the Ski Tots program, where I teach parents how to help their three- to five-year-old learn how to ski. The program is part parenting, part ski instruction. I tell the parents that it will probably be one of the most frustrating things they've ever done in their lives and will require lots of patience, but that it will probably be one of the most rewarding things, as well.

I teach parents that:

  • giving their child appropriate choices and then allowing them to choose is empowering;
  • some expectations have to be lowered (for instance, they won't be able to learn how to "duck-walk" to the lift after they've been told once), while other expectations can be raised (if they say they want to ride the Mighty-Mite by themselves, it is okay to let them give it a try);
  • it's important to listen to what their child is saying - that if they say they're done, they are probably done;
  • if you make an agreement with them, keep it (for example, if you tell them that if they take one more run, you'll go in for hot chocolate, you need to do it); and
  • they the parents are ultimately the boss, so figure out what is safe and set those limits (for instance, going to the top of the lift and letting them come down by themselves is not acceptable until they know how to stop and turn on their own).

Barbara Ann Cochran gold medalist at 1972 OlympicsWinner of the gold medal in women's slalom at the 1972 Winter Olympics, and two time national champion, Barbara Ann Cochran competed on the World Cup circuit for seven seasons, notching 3 wins, 18 podiums, and 45 top ten finishes.  She is a member of the famous "Skiing Cochrans" family, which has operated a small ski area in Vermont for more than fifty years. Both her 2 sisters and brother are Olympians, and of the next generation (their children), six out of ten are or have been on the US Ski Team.   For more information on Barbara Ann and her coaching programs, click here.  You can follow her on Twitter @bacochran72.  For her Facebook page (under construction) click here

For more blogs in momsTEAM's May is Sports Moms Month series, click here.