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Coach's success story inspiring, but still all too rare

In the fall of 2000, Peter McCormick approached his wife, Jill, and asked her a question that every husband should feel comfortable enough to ask of his wife.

"Where are you most happy doing a job?" was the simple question that wasn't so simple to answer.

At the time Jill had a full course load at UC Berkeley, carrying 15 units on her way to earning a master's degree in Athletes in Academic Achievement. At Santa Rosa JC, Jill was the women's head coach in water polo and the head coach for both the men and women in swimming and diving. She was the head coach for swimming and diving at Piner High School. She also was teaching a journalism course at Piner.

Oh, one other thing, Peter and Jill had two boys, Lucas, 2, and Jack, a couple of months old. Her plate wasn't full. It was overflowing. In the interest of sanity, something needed to change.

"I'm most happy when I am on the pool deck," answered Jill, who swam for Piner and then at SRJC, a record holder at the time in the backstroke.

Fine, Peter said. Chase your bliss. I'll take the kids.

Jill took the questions from other women.

"I was asked, 'So you're going to be gone for the next five days (at meets and recruiting)? How do you do that?'" McCormick said. The inference contained in those questions was clear to McCormick. What kind of mother was she to leave her children? She didn't love her kids and she was a bad parent and she was selfish and she didn't understand she was placing the family at risk.

Said McCormick, "I had one woman tell me if she were to leave her kids with her husband, the house would burn down."

McCormick said she was feeling the sting of a cultural bias. She thought long and hard about her decision. For if she believed the innuendoes and accusations, it would have driven her away from the sport she loved.


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