Q&A with Rebecca Soni: A Mentor for Victors

Photo Courtesy: Jerry Lai

By Xonzy Gaddis, Swimming World College Intern.

Rebecca Soni, retired Olympic champion and former world record holder in the 100 and 200-meter breast, continues to impact the swimming world in significant ways, particularly through creating strong connections between athletes. Currently, Soni mentors athletes through the RISE-Athletes program along with a myriad of other big names in swimming, including Elizabeth Beisel, Kim Vandenberg, Ian Crocker, and several others.

As a mentor, Soni guides athletes in seeing that life is not always just about the sport. Keeping a balance between sport and life outside of sport can lead to a more productive outlook on performance and relationships with others.

SW: When you first entered retirement, what was your initial plan?

Rebecca Soni White Hot

Photo Courtesy: Arena

Soni: I didn’t have one. At times, I was uncertain about what I wanted to pursue. I did tell myself not to immediately jump into something, so I took a bit of time to explore. During this period, I stuck to my training, took a couple of extra classes, and did quite a bit of traveling.

SW: What motivated you to become a mentor to athletes?

Soni: A mix of things which I learned from my post-retirement phase. I got educated on and practiced several philosophies of yoga, breath work and nutrition. Also, I wanted to share the message that life is more than sports for an athlete, and performance should not define who we are as a person. Additionally, I wanted to make more tools towards this type of success more accessible to different generations of athletes. This included learning about the psychology on how to perform well in sports and and building positive psychology to live a good life, construct a good foundation and become a better human being overall.

SW: Who would you classify as your mentor, and what significance do they hold in helping you succeed as a person?

caroline-burckle

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Soni: Thankfully, there are a lot of people who have entered my life that I can classify as one of my mentors. I have had the pleasure of working with several people. Reaching out to them and receiving solid advice to follow through with my goals has had a positive impact on my performance as well as my efficiency as a mentor. Most of all, I would like to give a tremendous thanks to Caroline Burckle, one of my partners in the mentorship program. Essentially, we both mentor each other, and it not only makes us understand each other better but also others as well.

SW: What is a similar feeling swimmers share? How do you connect with them?

Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Soni

Soni: Athletes are going through so many emotions all at once, especially when it comes to athletes transitioning out of the sport. Foundations are basically the same when it comes to trying to improve management of these emotions. Moreover, these feelings include anxiety, pressure, confidence and frustration – feelings that I myself have experienced throughout my swimming career.

SW: As a mentor, what qualities should other swimmers look for in a mentor, and what advice should they take from you?

Soni: When seeking a mentor, search for someone who has accomplished what you are trying to accomplish in a manner that you want to accomplish your goal. In addition to that, a mentor should be successful in areas outside of the life of sports, such as friendships and other relationships with people. On the other hand, an athlete should take each moment as a new moment, as there is so much to be learned from what you are experiencing. Take each of these moments to ask “Why?” and “What can I do better?”. Do not fall into these moments where you end up in a negative environment in your mind. Ultimately, nothing is permanent. Nothing has been, and you have the power to succeed in what you put your mind to.

-All interviews are conducted by the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.