Mendoza hits being a mom out of the ball park. (Photo courtesy of USSSA Pride)
Although softball was dropped from the participating sports in this year's summer Olympics, Jessica Mendoza knows her way around the Olympic podium. The 31-year-old softball pro is a four-time First Team All-American and two-time Olympic medalist: capturing the gold and silver in Athens and Beijing, respectively.
Despite her many accomplishments on the field, her proudest moment has nothing to do with being an outfield pro, and everything to do with being a mom. Mother to Caleb, 2, Mendoza shared her secrets for balancing hectic schedules and how it feels to look in the stands and see her family cheering.
Between your athletic career, working for ESPN as an analyst and participating in multiple charities, you are one busy woman! What’s it like to juggle so many things with being a full-time mom?
It is crazy, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It's about giving your all to the moment you are in and not worrying about what you’re missing or how much time you have until the next thing you have to do. Being present is a very important skill to have.
How do you fit it all in and still keep your sanity?
Honestly, most days you don’t fit it all in, and I have to be okay with that. This week I am in Rwanda with The Girl Effect, trying to make a difference in girls' lives, but I am missing my family and training. When I get home, I’ll be with my family but away from my ESPN career for a bit. It’s more about giving everything you have for the time you are doing it. I know that every day I wake up is a chance to do something special, whether that be with my family, career or the world.
What do you think your status as an athlete and your experience as an Olympian means to your son?
I think he is learning more about it all the time. I love that he will grow up respecting how strong and amazing women are, and what his mom does. My favorite moments as an athlete now are looking over at him in the stands with his two-year-old Mendoza jersey on his back, smiling up at me.
Being a mom is such an inspirational role and so uplifting. How does your mother inspire you?
My mother is my best friend. She knows me better than anyone and honestly was the example of a smart, successful woman that set the standard for what women can do in our house. Her balance of being the most loving (many times spoiling) mom, while also working for a law firm was something I knew I wanted to have for my family as well.
Mendoza's husband, Adam, and son, Caleb, are two of her biggest fans. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Mendoza)
How do you define “mother”?
Mother encompasses warmth, love, nurturing, friendship and what we all aspire to be. I always felt that if the world were run by mothers, we would always have peace.
Switching gears, how long did it take for you to get back to training after you gave birth?
It was about six weeks before I could do sport-specific training. I started yoga about two weeks after the birth, then eased my body back into things until it felt right. Around two or three months later, I felt like I had control of my body again and could really get after it.
What about moving back into elite-levels of fitness?
I didn't have a lot of time. I had Caleb in August and had to try out for the USA team that January. That means I needed to be doing more serious training by November at the latest. It felt like an impossible mountain in September and even into October, but then all of a sudden during a workout, I felt like my body was finally responding the way I knew it could. I know a huge part of that was that I continued to work out (spin, prenatal yoga, small weights) until the day I gave birth.
How do you feel coming back from post-pregnancy to standing on the podium with your team?
[Editor's note: After Caleb's birth, Mendoza went on to compete with TEAM USA in the World Championships in 2010, where they recaptured the gold medal and their #1 world ranking!]
It is much more emotional. I always thought playing for your country was filled with emotion and pride, but then I look at my son's smiling face and my husband's proud smile (both wearing their Mendoza jerseys) and I realized I never knew this kind of emotion before. It’s extremely gratifying.
What about this year's Olympics? How do you feel about softball not being included?
It's absolutely heartbreaking. There are so many girls who play the sport worldwide, and they won't have the opportunity to play at the highest level and represent their country. It is going to be very hard for me to be there and not want to put U-S-A across my chest and compete.
What will you be doing there, then? Is there a sport that you're looking forward to watching?
I'll be interviewing athletes for espnW. I love watching water polo. It's crazy all that goes on under the water!
If softball returns to the Olympics (voting takes place in 2013), do you hope to be on Team USA again?
The soonest it can be brought back is 2020, and as much as I would love to be on that team, I'm pretty sure retirement will come between now and then. But hey, you never know!
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