An Olympian on Tricking Your Kids to Love the Thing You Love
Three-time Olympian Tommy Moe has a plan.
Tommy Moe is living the good life. The three-time Olympian and two-time medalist (gold and silver, both in 1994) divides his time between the ski and fishing lodge he co-owns in Alaska, and the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, where he’s currently a ski instructor. It’s a lifestyle he hopes to pass along to his daughters Taylor, nine, and Karen, seven. But, to them, he’s just dad. And he’s worked extremely hard to lay the foundation for their love of the outdoors.
“I have friends who are avid skiers whose kids really don’t like hitting the slopes, and I always was a bit worried that I might have that happen to me too,” Moe says. So, he and his wife, former Olympic skier Megan Gerety, made a conscious decision to involve their daughters in the thing that mattered the most to them — skiing — from a very young age. Now, both of his kids are now avid skiers and members of the Jackson Hole race team.
So how did he succeed in getting both of his children to share his passion? “I think we got a bit lucky,” he admits. But he also took on a lot of purposeful parenting. Here’s how he did it.
Start ‘Em Early
Moe’s introduced his children to the wilderness surrounding their home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming before they could walk. The key, he says, was to always keep re-introducing them to the places that mattered to him and his wife. They would plan hikes, nature outings, and camping trips — anything that acclimated them to being comfortable outdoors. “Both of us agreed that instead of sitting indoors with the girls we would head outside, even if we both were worn out,” Moe says. “Just getting them used to getting their hands dirty was a victory for us.”
Give Them Some Space
Being the children of two Olympians would be daunting to most kids, but even more so living near Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a ski area renowned for its junior ski team. As it would have been easy for Moe to overwhelm his daughters, he decided to remove himself from the equation.
“Trying to teach your sport to children is a lot like trying to teach it to your wife,” Moe says. “It’s something best done by others not so emotionally attached to the situation.”
So, from a young age, Moe and his wife enrolled both of their kids into ski school where they could spend the days learning the finer parts of skiing from trained instructors and surrounded by boys and girls their own age. As his daughters improved on the slopes, Moe says he stayed out of the way and let them make up their own mind about pursuing the sport further. They both decided to join the race team. “If they decide later that they are done racing or even skiing, then that’s fine with us,” Moe says. “By not burning them out, we hope they will always love joining us on the hills.”
Remember That Enjoyment Is Paramount
“When we are out with the girls, we work to make it a fun experience,” Moe says. “They should be smiling with us so that being in the ski hill is hardwired into them as a time of laughter with the family, not one of mom or dad barking at them.”
Before his daughters head out to ski, Moe tucks candies in their pockets for them to enjoy later. If a large amount of snow falls overnight, the family will call a powder day and head to the slopes. The main point, according to Moe, is to listen to your children and react. If they are worn out, hungry, or just plain sick of what you are doing, then stop. If they generally equate something with happy time with the parent then hopefully they will want to do it again.
“I saw people I grew up with who got to where they hated heading to the ski area because it was not fun anymore, they dreaded it,” Moe says. “I never wanted my daughters to feel that way so I make a conscious decision every day to make being in the outdoors and skiing enjoyable. So far it seems to be working.”