(MoneyWatch) In the world of softball, Jennie Finch's name is every bit as recognizable as Michael Phelps or Gabby Douglas. After she won gold in Athens and silver in Beijing, she was touted by Time Magazine as the "most famous softball player of all time."
So what do you do after essentially "retiring" from your first career before the age of 30? (something that Phelps is undoubtedly asking himself, in between celebratory nightclub outings in London.) In Finch's case, she worked on building her brand, partnering with sporting goods company Mizuno and yogurt vendor Chobani, and creating softball camps for young players across the country. Along the way she got married -- husband Corey Daigle is a former Major League Baseball player and current minor league pitcher -- and had two sons, Ace, age 6, and one-year-old Diesel (The couple are also expecting a third child.)
Recently, I asked Finch about how she balances her life as a working mom; how she rerouted her career path from being in the game to creating commercial opportunities for herself on the sideline; and her hopes to get softball, which was dropped as an Olympic sport in 2005, back on the medal roster. Here are the highlights:
Like many women, you're balancing a working life with a family. What's your secret?
Like most moms, I'm still figuring it out. My mom worked, so she's a huge resource. Sometimes when I look at my calendar, I get overwhelmed, and she always tells me to just take it one day at a time. When I'm at home, I'm at home. I'm playing with the kids and spending time with my husband. I'm not constantly checking my phone and email.
What's the hardest thing about switching from being a player to being an advocate for your sport?
When I was playing, training was the focus, and I had a playing schedule. I was able to do a few camps, clinics, and appearances, but family time and training came first. The balance has shifted. Although family still comes first, I've been able to take the time to promote my sport, focus on trying to get it back into the 2020 Olympics, and reach other goals, like creating an instructional DVD and writing a book based on my experiences.
Was it hard for you to become a spokesperson for Chobani, appear on "The Apprentice," and become a professional public speaker?
I've been lucky to work with some great producers, broadcasting coaches, and media training gurus who are so good at teaching the big and little things -- everything from how to sit in a chair for a television interview (put your backside all the way to the back) to how to project in a room filled with people. It takes practice, like everything else, and I've learned what helps me and what doesn't. For example, I like to write out my whole speech and refer to it rather than do bullet points.
What's it like watching the Olympics, now that softball isn't on the lineup?
I love the Olympics. Watching athletes reach beyond the limits of what should be possible is inspiring, but it's so bittersweet knowing softball is out! Softball has given me so much in life. It's taught me the kind of person I want to be, and given me a sweet sisterhood. It even led me to my husband. I always wanted to share my love for softball and leave the sport in a better place than I found it, so to have it taken out of the Olympics and to not really know why hurts. Playing for my country, with "USA" across my chest, was such a tremendous honor. I never took it for granted, and I want that same experience for future generations of players around the world. We're fighting to get softball reinstated for 2020.