Tracy Austin: Tennis Superstar, Wife, & Mother of Three
If you were around during the 70's somne of the names that were mentioned with frequency in the sports world included: Pelé, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Bruce Jenner, John McEnroe, Billie Jean King, and Chris Evert. But for young girls there was a trio of girl greatness: Nadia Comaneci, Dorothy Hamill, and Tracy Austin.
Tracy Austin didn't have a signature haircut like Hamill, just pigtails with ribbons just like the rest of us. And since she was raised in California, she didn't have the exotic accent of Comaneci. What she did have a generous sprinkling of freckles and braces on her teeth sparkled in the sun just like an ordinary American girl, which made her very relatable.
However, on the tennis court, there was nothing ordinary about Tracy! In 1977, just twenty-eight days after her 14th birthday, Austin became the youngest player to ever win a professional tournament. Two years after that feat she went on to become the youngest U.S. Open champion and the player who broke Chris Evert's amazing 125 game winning streak on clay.
Tracy Austin(click thumbnails to view gallery)
After a series of injuries, Austin retired from the physical stress of professional tennis in 1983. In the next ten years she'd test her physical and mental endurance the way so many other women have, by getting married and becoming a mother. She and her husband Scott Holt are the parents of three sons: Dylan, 12, Brandon, 10, and Sean, 7. The tennis star famous for her habits and for fighting change had entered a whole new world where change is a daily occurance. In addition to the full workload of motherhood, Austin also serves as a commentator for NBC, the BBC, and the USA Network.
After a brief technical problem (which made me part of a select group who can say that tennis great Tracy Austin hung up on them!) Tracy shared a little the interests of her own children. While Brandon seems to have inherited the family love of tennis, Dylan adores baseball (and even made the travel team this year), and Sean likes.... pretty much everything.
I wondered if having led the life of a child superstar athlete, if Tracy would allow her own children to follow that path if they showed an aptitude or would she prefer them to experience a typical childhood before pursuing world titles? The youngest inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame said she'd do for her children what her mother did for her. "My mother would have been remiss to not have supported my tennis. I think it's part of the job of a parent to follow their child's passions. The key is to make sure you love what you are doing. For me that was tennis."
That does not mean Austin thinks that her kids (or any kids for that matter) should set their sights on going pro. She advises parents to just enjoy the activities and interests of their children but avoid setting them up for failure by assuming it will lead to a career. "Just enjoy the ride!" and also, be willing to let go when the kid decides it's not their passion.
There are many times when a kid's interests are not what the parent had in mind, and that's Austin stresses that is okay. There's nothing sadder than seeing a child with a musical gift that's being overlooked because Dad wants his son to play basketball like he did when he was a boy. And Tracy should know, she comes from a family of tremendous tennis athletes. All four of her siblings were professional tennis players and even sister-in-law Denise Austin is a famous work-out queen!
With all these co-ordination and fitness within the extended family, I wondered if the Austins ever just sat around and ate pie at family get-togethers and holidays. "On Thanksgiving at Denise and Jeff's, we'll have 30 people and have one deep fried turkey and another that's the 'healthy' one!" she said with a laugh. "Afterward, one group will go off for a walk and another to play tennis and another to swim in the pool." It's obvious that physical fitness and an active lifestyle is something that is being modeled and passed down to the next generation of Austins.
Of course, If you're lucky enough to have the ear of a tennis champion, you'd be crazy NOT ask for tips on how to beat your trash-talking six-year-old Wii tennis champion, so I did.
"Oh, I can't wait until my kids can beat me!" Austin said, pausing a moment before giving me words of wisdom gleaned from her years of experience spent on the court. My hands grew a bit sweaty as I held the earpiece tighter so as not to miss even a smidgen of advice from an honest-to-goodnes World Champion.
"I think you should practice more!"