Gevvie Stone’s mom rowed, her dad rowed, and her siblings have banned the topic at the dinner table because they’re sick of hearing about it.
When the Olympic rower and six-time National Team member was in high school, her mom was her coach. And Stone was the kid who would talk back, which made their relationship less formal than the typical athlete-coach one.
Stone remembered complaining to her mom about a bloody blister during practice, and her mom asked her, “Well are you HIV positive? If not, I don’t care.”
“And I was like ‘Oh, she’s my coach now, not my mom — OK,’” Stone said. “But she wanted to get across that I couldn’t complain about a bleeding blister. No one else could do that, and she was there to be the coach — not the mom.”
But with her dad and current coach, Gregg Stone, it’s more of a partnership. They try to keep their father-daughter relationship out of it.
“As a dad, you’re empathetic, and you look at hard workouts and think, ‘Boy, do I want to put my daughter through that?’” Gregg said. “But, as a coach, you have to stand back and push through it [and] see what can be done.”
Gregg narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympic team in 1976, and he wasn’t able to attend in 1980 because of a U.S. boycott on the Moscow games. Gevvie’s mom, Lisa, rowed at the 1976 games in Montreal and finished seventh in the coxed quadruple sculls.
Gregg started coaching Gevvie after she didn’t make the Beijing Olympic team in 2008. She was crushed, and she took the summer off from rowing.
But when she went out rowing with Gregg, he said it was clear to both of them that she wasn’t done.
Gevvie asked a couple of people she knew if they could coach her, and they weren’t available.
So she turned to Gregg and said, “Well, Dad, I guess it’s you.”
In Gevvie’s first few races abroad, around late 2008 to early 2009, Gregg said he would look at the competition and tell her to have a great race and not worry about what happens — that no matter what, he still loved her.
“Afterwards, I was just like ‘Dad, that’s the worst pep talk anyone has ever given,”’ Gevvie said. “That is so not motivational.”
Gevvie didn’t want to hear that it was OK no matter what happened — all she wanted to do was win.
Now that the two are eight years into their partnership, Gevvie said she gets more say in what her training is like because Gregg trusts her more as an athlete.
“We’ll sit down with a training program and for some things, I might say ‘I don’t think we should do this workout on this day,’ and he’ll say, ‘Oh you’re right, that’s a good concern,’ or he’ll say, ‘No, you’re just being a wimp,’” Gevvie said. “We have a conversation about it, back and forth, which I don’t think a ton of athletes have.”
More than just being her coaches, though, her parents have always been in her corner and ready to support her no matter what, Gevvie said.
When she decided to enroll in medical school in 2008 after not making the Beijing Olympic team, they supported her decision.
Even when they argue — like many coaches and athletes and father and daughters will do — Gregg said he always tries to be supportive.
Last year, when Gevvie felt Gregg had given her bad advice before the race and she told him she didn’t want him to coach her anymore, he was okay with that.
“I’ve always said, if it’s not working, all I want is for you to go fast and enjoy the experience — with or without me as your coach,” Gregg said.
Having a parent as a coach is not common, but it’s not unheard of, even at the Olympic level. Divers Jessica Parratto and Michael Hixon and women’s volleyball player Alisha Glass were all coached by their mothers.
Now, eight years later, Gevvie said it looks like she is going to hang up her oars for real after Rio — at least for competitions.
“I won’t ever be able to stop completely,” Gevvie said. “It’s really bittersweet. I love rowing still, and I thought there’d be a time where I would be sick of rowing every day.”
But she’s never gotten sick of it.
When Gevvie started rowing in college, she said Gregg gave her some advice that she still remembers. He said she should stop rowing if there were ever two weeks in a row where she was unhappy doing what she was doing because there were so many other opportunities for her in college.
It never happened. Gevvie said there were never more than two days where she hadn’t wanted to row.
“There are always days where you don’t want to,” Gevvie said. “Whether it’s windy, the weather is bad, or you’re not feeling well, or a race goes badly — there were never more than two days in a row where I said I didn’t want to do it. And it’s still been like that…so it’ll be sad to leave it.”
Kara Berg is a Ball State University student and writer for BSU at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Indiana, to Rio for the Olympic Games. Follow them at bsuatthegames.com, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and BSU at the Games on Facebook.