5 Things I Learned from Missy Franklin’s ‘Relentless Spirit’

Photo Courtesy: Evan Pike - USA TODAY Sports Images

By Erin Himes, Swimming World College Intern

Missy Franklin’s new book Relentless Spirit details her upbringing and rise to Olympic fame from a deeply personal angle. Written along with her parents, it offers a new perspective on high caliber athletics. While my level of competition is extremely removed from someone like Franklin, I found myself relating more than I imagined to the World Record holder. Here are five things I took away from the new book.

1. Motivation comes from within.

Photo Courtesy: Cindi Dayton

Photo Courtesy: Cindi Dayton

The perspective of Missy and her parents makes it abundantly clear that parents cannot force their children to want to be great, that’s something that must come from within. The discussion of motivating versus enabling your child to be the best that they can be opened my eyes to what great swim parents do well. Note to swim parents: giving your children the resources to be the best that they can be is truly the best way to help, take it from a champion herself.

2. Taking the high road is your best option.

missy-franklin-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Missy is undoubtedly known for her happy-go-lucky attitude. As anyone knows, an attitude like this is much easier to maintain when things truly are going great. However, Missy’s story shows that this attitude can make the tough times a whole lot better, even at a high level of athletics.

3. Friendship is important in swimming.

california-american-record-800-free-relay-2015

Photo Courtesy: Pac 12 Conference

Sometimes, professional athletics can seem like a world full of intensity and self gain, where friendship isn’t all that crucial. However, Missy describes her time at home without her friends as hard, as it took some of the fun out of swimming. This proved to me what I have always believed to be true, that good teammates make all of us better athletes.

4. Being nice and being competitive are not mutually exclusive.

Brenton Tse Photography

Photo Courtesy: Brenton Tse

Missy, although a known nice girl and smiley teammate, is also a fierce competitor. In the book, she shows that the two are not separate- you truly can be both at once. These characteristics are the perfect example of why Missy is a role model to so many.

5. The joy of swimming is the same at any level.

summer-league-swimmers

As I turned the pages of Relentless Spirit (in less than 48 hours…), I was shocked by how much I could relate to Missy’s journey. From a love of summer league swimming to winning meets with high school teams and even to the love of NCAA swimming, I found myself agreeing and relating to much of what she described. The book showed me that the joy we have for swimming unites us all: from the six and unders at summer clubs to the Olympic champions every four years.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

16 Comments

16 comments

  1. avatar
    YY

    is she still enjoying swimming? Her rise to the very top being a high school teenager was spectacular. Her decline is even sharper. No words were said about that and no explanations were given. That is a real human drama and that is what I would be interested to read about in her book. Everything else is trivial blah-blah-blah. Sure important, but has been told by many in multiple variations.

  2. avatar
    Jen

    I wouldn’t at all use the word decline. She had a rough patch at Trials and in Rio, but she’ll bounce back.

    • avatar
      YY

      Let’s cross our fingers. Do you know, btw, when we will see her next time competing at high level. There were no meets after Rio. She won’t be in Austin this week. How is she doing? What your schedule and plans are? Where she is focusing at as swimmer? What were the problems that made her 2016 season so miserable? Does she believe they are fixable? So many questions. It is a big concern for swimming fans to lose such an outstanding swimmer so suddenly. So when in the midst of so many issues I don’t see Missy Franklin competing in the pool but see her busy with writing and promoting her book I’m starting to suspect the worst.

      • avatar
        David Rieder

        YY, I believe Missy plans on competing sometime within the next few months. When we talked at Golden Goggles, she seemed glad to have a period of just focusing on training. She did do a lot of travel in the fall, but she is taking classes at Berkeley this semester, so she figures to stay put more.

        Check out the video we did with her in NY — should answer a few questions about where she is mentally right now. https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/video-interview-missy-franklin-on-travel-and-training-transition/

      • avatar
        YY

        @David Rieder: thank you for the link. Despite of being the fan of Katie Ledecky and being frustrated by the media of keeping her for so long in the shade of Missy Franklin, I do want to see again the Barcelona fireworks of great races by Missy Franklin. Her 4×200 split was especially impressive and breathtaking.

  3. Ken Ireland

    The grace with which she conducted herself after her disappointing performance in Rio ought to be required watching for every athlete. I’ve been a fan of hers since watching her compete at Junior Nationals in 2009, but more so after her display of sportsmanship and class after the 2016 Olympics.

    • avatar
      YY

      who writes books and makes a movie of herself at age of 20, having high school level of education only and being just a few years off the school desk?
      There were five outstanding world record performances done by young and very young girls at Olympic Games in London: Ye Shiwen, Ruta Meilutyte, Allison Schmitt, Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin. Only one survived to the next Games. Missy Franklin is no special in this regard. What special about her is that she being a golden child of media capitalized on the history of public admiration of talented young ever smiling optimistic school girl making this public feelings a commodity. Now when it doesn’t work any more we have a “Grace in Defeat” for sale. If you wish to see what real grace is watch races of Adam Peaty, Sarah Sjostrom, Anthony Ervin or Katie Ledecky. Look how genuinely graceful was awkwardness of Sarah Sjostrom and Jeanette Ottesen who were trying with the great respect to give some comfort to defeated great swimmer Cate Campbell. The word defeat is too emotionally strong to describe Missy Franklin’s performance in Rio. It was a pathetic misery. She wasn’t welcome in any American relays, she couldn’t even make the final at her favorite discipline. The final where the fastest of eight swimmers was 2sec slower than she was in London. I felt very sorry for her until this “Grace in Defeat” became another commodity. I strongly dislike it. You like it – good for you. She is selling, you are buying. You two have found each other.

      • avatar
        SNH

        You are unnecessarily angry about a book. This book is inspiring and uplifting to many and the publishers clearly saw a market for it. If it doesn’t do that for you don’t buy it, don’t read it. There is no reason to say hateful and unkind things about someone Missy for anyone else who is in the media. She bad mouthed no one in her book and you could learn a lesson of kindness from that. She is no different than any other athlete making decisions for herself and her career.

      • avatar
        YY

        @SNH: I cannot be angry about the book because I haven’t read it. Let critics do it first. There is actually nothing to be angry about in Missy’s story. Maybe a little bit about media. After Pan Pac in 2014 we were told: “Things happen. She will come even stronger after curing her back issues”. In 2015 there was another story: “Don’t worry about WC, she just switched to another training environment, but her real goal is next year Olympic Games”. 2016 OT: “it’s not exactly what was expected but we know that she can deliver when it matters”. 2017 – we don’t see her in the pool competing but we are blessed with the book about 2014, 2015,2016 that inspires many.
        I can be angry only about myself for listening to all these stories for so long.
        Does she have a market? Definitely does. 6 people in this discussion are ready to pay and only two don’t care about her business and will prefer to watch some exciting real life competition than reading stories about swimming. Unless of course she is a world champion in writing as well.

  4. avatar
    Chet

    Gag. Missy should not be reluctant to express real disappointment and frustration. The “i just love my teammates and everyone” bit gets tired after every interview.

    • avatar
      SNH

      Did you read the book. She expressed disappointment and frustration.

      • avatar
        Chet

        Absolutely not. No desire. Wouldn’t waste my time or money on such nonsense

  5. avatar
    David Rieder

    Responding to YY and Chet: a lot of images stick out from my time in Rio, but it’s hard to forget seeing Missy in the mixed zone after her 200 back. It was clear how genuinely hurt she was that she could not do more for the team, and it was clear how much others (i.e., DiRado) felt for her.

    Few athletes were under more pressure than Franklin was, and it got to her, just like it did to Campbell. I did not get a chance to speak with Campbell other than day one, but as for Missy, I know I’m not the only media member who came away extremely impressed with how she handled herself in a very tough moment.

    • avatar
      YY

      Dear Mr. Rieder your reputation and the integrity of this site let me consider your opinion and point of view seriously and respectfully. But honestly speaking haven’t you got sick and tired of non-stop outdated nbc commercials during OT and OG featuring Missy Frankln as leading athletic and spiritual force of American team. I think that Missy Franklin knew what most likely awaits for her in Rio. There were no signs of surprise. But she won the right to be on Olympic Team and the hope for something miraculous to happen. It hadn’t as it hadn’t happened to many who left Olympic Games in disappointment. Such is a life in Sport. There is no reason to exaggerate the drama.
      Her professional business is her business and she can do whatever she thinks makes this business profitable. I’m taking my words that criticized her business activity back.

      • avatar
        David Rieder

        I would not call her the “spiritual force” of the team, but Missy is definitely well-liked among her teammates. This article by Annie Grevers (who was on a team with Missy back in 2010 and remains extremely well-connected) captures a lot of that. https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/missy-franklin-still-team-usas-miss-sunshine/

        I think everyone (Missy, coaches, teammates, fans) hoped there would be a little bit more in her tank when she got to Brazil. That said, even replicating her times from Trials would have put her in the finals of both events, plus on the relay.

        It should not be a surprise that she’s at the center of the marketing campaign and the center of attention for mainstream media as such a recognizable name from four years ago. That’s just how the Olympics work. As for the commercials themselves, I can’t comment. I was lucky enough to be in a position where I didn’t have to watch any. 🙂

Author: Erin Himes

avatar
Erin Himes is a rising senior at Pepperdine University. She swims distance freestyle and has been a top scorer for the Waves in the 1,650 free each year at the Pacific Collegiate Swim and Dive Conference Championship. She grew up swimming in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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