Parenting

Why Michael Phelps Isn't Pushing His Sons Into Swimming

The Olympic champion opened up about parenting, water conservation and more.
Michael Phelps and his wife, Nicole, attend Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards with their son Boomer on July 19, 2018, in Santa Monica, California.
Michael Phelps and his wife, Nicole, attend Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards with their son Boomer on July 19, 2018, in Santa Monica, California.

In the age of family sports dynasties, it’s not surprising that people often ask Michael Phelps if he wants his sons to pursue swimming careers.

The Olympic champion has three boys: 3-year-old Boomer, 1-year-old Beckett, and nearly 3-month-old Maverick. Phelps spoke about parenthood and pursuing passions while chatting with HuffPost about his partnership with Colgate’s Save Water campaign. When it came to the subject of his sons’ potential future in sports, he had a simple answer: “I don’t know.”

“It’s a touchy subject because I want the boys to be able to figure out who they are and find out what they love themselves,” said Phelps. “Maybe they’ll happen to go into swimming. I just don’t think it’s fair to them to have to live in my footsteps or what I’ve done. I just don’t think it’s right.”

The former competitive swimmer added that he and his wife Nicole are focused on helping their children explore a variety of interests.

“I think both of us as parents will just be extremely supportive in helping them find what their passion is, whatever it might be,” Phelps said. “It potentially won’t be sports. We have no idea. We’ll just have to see and give them all the options we can ― basically show them absolutely anything and everything and see what they gravitate towards.”

Phelps is teaching his sons about the importance of conserving water.
Phelps is teaching his sons about the importance of conserving water.

One thing he’s exposing his children to is the importance of water conservation. As a global ambassador for Colgate’s initiative, Phelps aims to educate the public about the ways everyone can make a difference.

“It’s a scary thought being a family of five now and having three kids, just knowing what could happen over the next 10 or 15 years if we don’t take this seriously,” said Phelps. “We all could end up not having clean water, and that’s something we’re so fortunate to live with every day.”

He’s encouraging people to turn the faucet off while brushing their teeth and pay attention to the length of their showers.

“People are always really enjoying a 10-, 15- or 20-minute shower, but those are too long,” Phelps noted. “You’re wasting a ton of water. There are so many things in our daily routines that we can all pay attention to. It adds up and can make a difference in our environment over the next 10 to 20 years. As Americans, we always want to be the best, but we’re one of the worst when it comes to conserving water. It’s something we can all be a little better about.”

For Phelps’ part, he’s trying to integrate water conservation into his parenting efforts.

“Booms is the only one that’s at the age where he can semi-understand what’s going on. He’s got a little stopper on the bottom of his sink, so when he brushes his teeth, he gets to see when it changes colors and then knows when it’s time to turn the water off,” the dad explained. “When he’s washing his hands, he makes sure he’s not playing in the water. It’s little things like that that can plant the seed in them, and hopefully, they can take it and try to save this precious resource with us.”

Boomer has also taken well to his big brother role as the Phelps family has been navigating the shift from two kids to three. Middle brother Beckett is similarly very involved in baby Maverick’s life.

“The hardest change is going from one to two, and at this point, Boomer is very helpful. Beckett is trying to be around Maverick as much as he can,” said Phelps. “We’re very fortunate with how excited they are to be part of Mav’s life. As parents, we definitely don’t get any sleep. There’s always so much going on and so many moving parts ― we all just want to help each other out. It’s been fun to go through, especially with your best friend. Being able to have three healthy boys to chase around the house all day is definitely an experience.”

Phelps said he and his wife have prioritized communication as parents. They take turns with different parenting tasks and fortunately live near her father, who helps out as well.

“I’m usually the first one up in the morning and get them going, get breakfast, get one out the door for school three days a week, then whatever we have to do, if one wants to go to the aquarium or the zoo or something. We’re constantly taking them on little field trips or just trying to show them different things,” he explained. “It’s been fun for me as a dad to see the interaction between Boomer and Beckett and how much they love each other. They really do. It’s a treat as a parent to watch them interact.”

Though Phelps says it’s fun to watch his “three little mini-mes,” parenthood has come with its difficult moments as well.

“Obviously it’s very challenging and I’ve had to learn what patience is because I had zero of it up to this point,” he said. “It’s been definitely an eye-opening experience, and it gets better and better. I think the first six months are really challenging, but then the personality comes out and they start to move and start to talk and the next thing you know, they’re asking you a million questions. The process of it all really is cool, but at times, it can be very difficult.”

He offered some advice for new parents learning the ropes.

“Have fun and honestly don’t stress about too much,” Phelps suggested. “I remember after [the 2016 Olympics in] Rio not really knowing what to do, and it was pretty incredible for me to have my wife at the time say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing either!’ Just go with the flow and whatever happens happens. You’re going to learn along the way and through the process. Try not to beat yourself up too much.”