By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Well, hello 2014 – Tyler McGill has put together quite a 2011-2013, getting married, winning Olympic gold, becoming a father, and getting hired as an Assistant Coach at his alma mater, Auburn. He is also looking forward to the BCS title game. He shares his thoughts on all that has transpired, and what life is like now as a retired professional swimmer, in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. Baby Amelia – were you ready for this beautiful soul to enter your life?
Tyler: I mean, I think any first-time parent would tell you it’s 100-percent different than anything they expected. So I am not different in that regard, than any other parent.
2. So being a Dad is more than you even hoped for?
Tyler: It’s unbelievable. There have certainly been moments where you can’t imagine you are where you are, and that you have such an amazing thing in your life. There have been those moments where things are surreal.
3. There’s no kit for being a parent is there?
Tyler: It’s funny: At the hospital, they said, “Here’s your folder and everything you need to know about your baby. Here’s some tips for if the baby is crying, some for nursing, and some for Dad to establish contact with new infants.” I didn’t think they actually had a manual. Apparently, (laughs) they do now.
4. Am I interrupting you or is the baby nearby sleeping?
Tyler: No, actually I just got up from a short nap. I’ve certainly had moments where I have no idea how my eyes were open or how they would stay open. It’s been an interesting struggle, to say the least.
5. How much has being a swimmer and needing to go out like a light on a moment’s notice for nap helped now?
Tyler: Well, I established an unbelievable skill for falling asleep right when I needed to as an athlete. That has set me up well for falling asleep in a second. Now that I have stopped training, I no longer twitch excessively when I sleep, so I feel much more comfortable falling asleep when I am holding Amelia and she goes to sleep.
6. Is that in the manual – Dad sleeping while baby sleeps?
Tyler: I kept my finger on the pacifier in her mouth the whole time (both were asleep). I don’t know how long she was asleep – I hope all of it – but I don’t know. There’s 1½ hours were (laughs) accounted for. But the pacifier was intact and in her mouth the whole time!
7. How awesome is your wife, Julianne McLane (also a standout swimmer) as a Mom?
Tyler: Yes, well, I always told her she was the most attractive woman I have seen or met in my life prior to the pregnancy. The pregnancy itself – I never saw her more attractive than those nine months and even now. This has changed the way I look at Julianne and brought an even newfound respect for bringing a baby into our life.
8. Amelia, great name – how, why?
Tyler: The short story is Julianne wanted to name our first daughter Millie. I was not (laughs) a big fan, but if she found a good name where that could be a nickname, I’d be onboard to consider it. She said, “How about Amelia?” and we both fell in love with it right away. It fits our lifestyle and personality. Hopefully, it will fit her.
9. You become an assistant coach where your wife is a doctoral student – timing, right?
Tyler: Falling into that position helps when the person you love is going to be a doctor in Human Development and Family Studies! Certainly, this whole process has just reinforced our belief in each other.
10. How smart was it, especially looking back now, to actually have a honeymoon after your wedding even though from the outside it didn’t look like there was time?
Tyler: Honeymoon. Oh man, it seems so long ago that we were in Cancun! I think a honeymoon is a great way to finish off a celebration like that. We spent a lot of time with family leading up to the wedding, and it’s a blessing to get out on your own. Not that you don’t like having your family around, but we wanted to enjoy being married alone for a while. That left us refreshed.
11. And to end up back at Auburn?
Tyler: Many different blessings from different aspects of life have found their way into our life, and we feel very blessed. Those items and events are things God has blessed us with.
12. To make the Olympic team in 2012 after not making it in 2008 (fourth in 100 fly), how much belief did you have in yourself to make such a bold decision after 2008?
Tyler: Certainly, the decision wasn’t taken lightly. I have told this story before, but it rings even more true to this day: Back in 2008 summer, when I sat down with Richard Quick, and he said, “Hey, I think you can make this 2008 Olympic team.” I said, “That would be amazing, but it would not define me and my swimming.” I know that’s how some define their success in the sport, and everyone is different. But for me, it was the journey, and what I learned during that time. The Olympics were icing on the cake.
13. But your feeling post-2012 to post-2008 has to be a bit different, right?
Tyler: To go through that experience in 2012, yes, you would take that attitude and almost chance it. I am so glad I put all of my time and energy into doing that. It’s more than icing on the cake. But then, this year, my thought process went back to that moment in 2008, where I was just very blessed and fortunate to have experienced that, and again, we come back to how it won’t define me as a person or athlete. But I do feel so fortunate for that experience, those people, that opportunity and of course being an Olympian and having the gold medal.
14. You seemed even back then like a coach in a lot of ways – has that been a pleasant transition?
Tyler: Now I have the opportunity to give back and share that knowledge from those experiences to help other swimmers achieve their goals, whatever they may be, to make Olympics, NCAA Championships, to develop as a student-athlete and as a person. So when I thought about it that way, about what I wanted to do and where I would go in the future, coming back to Auburn was the right time to take that step. I feel comfortable being near the pool, and to still have an impact on my life through swimming.
15. Back at home, Auburn – though you came from Illinois, Auburn is a big part of who you are, isn’t it?
Tyler: I’m not a southern boy by birth, really – but actually, I am one now. Julianne and I have talked many times about how difficult it would be to leave Auburn. And that might be the case down the road, with her job or mine. To know we are here now and have been here since 2006 for me and 2005 for her, it’s always nice to find a home and stay where you are happy and it feels right, especially when it is a beautiful place like Auburn.
16. Did the clinics have a part in becoming a coach – how did that transpire?
Tyler: Without going into too much detail, the opportunity was presented to me that I could apply for this, and to me, it made sense to do this and to become a coach. A lot of what I found out about myself is that I have an unbelievable amount of passion for teaching swimming. Coaching wasn’t necessarily on the radar when I was doing the clinics, but like I said, the opportunity came onto the radar. Weighing all the options, knowing who I was and what I was becoming as a teacher, it was a very smooth transition and awesome fit. It has been an unbelievable experience so far.
17. And it’s not like you don’t know the team – or is that an interesting challenge to go from teammate in some cases to coach?
Tyler: From my perspective, a lot of the kids I coach now I had the opportunity to train with, though I was a post-grad (after 2010) so there is a difference there in what you experience, especially out of the pool, though also in it as part of the collegiate team.
18. How does having been an athlete in the program help?
Tyler: As an athlete I was able to learn the ways to push and motivate them as a teammate, and I can use that now to motivate them that much more. From having that athletes’ perspective, and my mentality as an athlete, I care that you are tired and I understand that you are tired with all that is going on and other responsibilities. But I also need them to understand what I have given them with our workout is an opportunity to get better. It is a challenge, but this is the work we are going to do today and we are going to get it done. It is good to be back on the team on a daily basis. I never left Auburn so I never left the team, but now my interactions and involvement with the team are more consistent in this position. It’s awesome to be back with the team. It’s something where my friends and teammates look at their days as an Auburn athlete as the best days they ever had. All we are really trying to do is make the day that more enjoyable and that much better to look back on down the road.
19. Surprised to have the Auburn football team back in the BCS title game?
Tyler: Yes! It was a surprise to see them make it this year. It was awesome in 2010 when we made it and went all the way. We have come through it this time on a different path and it has been an unbelievable ride. Some people are saying it’s “luck” and so on, but you know, good things come to people who prepare for good things. Maybe Auburn has taken a moment of luck, but it is combined with hard work, talent, and coming together for a team – they were ready for this moment.
20. What a holiday season for you – you have these second and third anniversaries of being a medalist, a husband, and 2014 is your daughter’s first birthday – and Auburn, through a set of unique happenings, is playing for the BCS title again – you’ue ready for all this?
Tyler: Yes! It was a surprise to see them make it this year. It was awesome in 2010 when we made it and went all the way. We have come through it this time on a different path and it has been an unbelievable ride. Some people are saying it’s “luck” and so on, but you know, good things come to people who prepare for good things. Maybe Auburn has taken a moment of luck, but it is combined with hard work, talent, and coming together as a team – they were ready for this moment.
This Christmas and New Year’s – and this whole holiday season – is a little different with the addition of Amelia. It just gives me time to reflect, to look at the blessing that we have been given. So yes, certainly Christmas, New Year’s – and Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays and the rest of the week – will never be the same, and that is awesome, and pretty unbelievable; in 2014, I get to watch my daughter turn 1, watch her take her first steps, and get to watch Julianne become a doctoral candidate. A lot has happened, but there are still so many events that will happen in the next year – so many different events. From a coaching perspective, I will have one more year of experience, and see another group of athletes grow, develop individually and together, and improve their talents. So there will be new excitements and disappointments, and a lot of new challenges. It’s funny because someone wrote (on Facebook) about the years getting better, but I wasn’t looking to top 2011 (when he was married) in 2012 (with the Olympic gold medal), and then 2012 with becoming a father in 2013. I will just keep on being a husband, father, son, brother, coach, friend – and all those other things – and enjoy it. I hope I can inspire people around me, continue to grow and develop as I move forward, and make a positive impact on all the incredible people in my life.