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Making waves in watercross: Q&A with McClairin Garmon and Valentina Lezcano
In a sport dominated by males, McClairin Garmon (age 14) and Valentina Lezcano (age 23) are making waves when it comes to claiming the checkered flag in the adrenaline-driven, male-dominated sport of watercross. Watercross is similar to motocross, yet unlike motocross where riders race motor bikes on traditional tracks, watercross riders race personal watercrafts (PWCs or jet skis) and compete on unpredictable liquid tracks, including lakes, rivers, and oceans. These PWCs are capable of speeds of over 85 mph, require highly skilled driving techniques, along with unwavering nerves of steel.
Just off the Pro Watercross National Championship on Lake Charles in Louisiana, Garmon and Lezcano slowed down just long enough to share their thoughts on the sport, girl power, and what it takes to win on and off the water.
McClairin Garmon | Age 14 | Gainesville, GA
How long have you been racing and what piqued your interest in watercross?
I have grown up on Lake Sidney Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia and have been riding jet skis most of my life. When I was much younger, I was somewhat afraid of the water, but at some point, decided to dive headfirst into that fear, and now I crave being on the water as much as possible. In fact, when I’m not on a jet ski and weather permits, you can find me surfing behind a boat or wakeboarding.
I became interested in watercross after attending a Pro Watercross event as a spectator. It was such a well-put-together event, exciting to watch, and the people were very friendly. After that, I became a huge fan of Pro Watercross, the riders, and the sport itself.
What have you enjoyed most about the Pro Watercross National Tour?
This one is easy. Pro Watercross is truly a community of some amazing people who share the same passion. I’m fairly new to the sport and have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement I have received from other riders. Everyone pulls for one another in Pro Watercross and talks others up to potential sponsors, and even though we like to say, “When the band pops, the friendship stops,” the reality is we celebrate one another’s victories and are there for support when things don’t go well. As an example, we lost one of the sport’s finest very suddenly last year: Shaun Compton. In response, Pro Watercross held the Shaun Compton Memorial Race in Orange, Texas in August of this year to raise funds to support Mr. Compton’s family. I feel like we are all a family, and I’m very grateful to be a part of it.
Who are your role models in the sport?
This is another easy one for me. Valentina Lezcano is one of the top female riders out there. She is beautiful, funny, and fearless, but what I appreciate most about her is that she is a role model for other girls. From the beginning, she has encouraged me and cheered me on, and she even had a “girl power” jacket made for me. I aspire to be more like her, and I hope to continue to improve and ultimately return all the favors she has shown me by encouraging girls starting out in watercross. I would also say that early on Brian O’Rourke, who rides with Team Faith, provided me with invaluable technical advice, and riders Kenny Compton and Hailey Compton of Texas have become some of my best friends and make these races twice the fun.
How do you balance being on the Pro Watercross National Tour with school and other responsibilities?
I don’t always have perfect balance. I have missed a race or two because of school since my grades are really important to me. Otherwise, I have been fortunate that my school, Lakeview Academy, gives me enough flexibility to run the vast majority of the tour. There are sacrifices that we all have to make to do the things we are passionate about. For example, I want to try out for my school’s play but will miss critical practices because I will be participating in the World Championship in Naples, Florida. I’ve already learned that I can’t do it all, so I have to prioritize and get good advice from others.
What are the best and most difficult parts of being part of the Pro Watercross Tour?
The best part is the people who put on and participate in the tour and the opportunity to ride and improve and overcome challenges. The tour also takes place at some of the most beautiful lakes, rivers, and oceans in the country. The most difficult part is that I didn’t get to see my local friends much this summer and also, after racing in Louisiana and then Texas back to back, I’m a little beaten up; I started my first day of high school with massive bandages on my hands to cover blisters—not exactly a fashion statement.
What’s next for you?
I will be at the Pro Watercross World Championship in Naples, Florida, in late October. Other than that, I plan to practice a lot, tune my ski up, and keep improving.
Valentina Lezcano | Age 23 | Miami, FL
How long have you been racing, and how did you first become interested in the sport?
I’ve been racing for about two years now; I would have started earlier but school came first! I just graduated as a paramedic about a year ago, which has opened time up for me to travel the world and race almost every weekend. I became interested probably before I could even spell jet ski. My parents put me on my first jet ski when I was about five years old, and I haven’t been able to get off of one since!
What’s been your greatest challenge as a young female in the sport?
My greatest challenge as a young female has been trying to prove to everyone that this sport isn’t just for men. I love racing amongst male riders because it’s a dose of motivation to push harder every lap—especially when you’re in the lead and the boys are chasing you!
What are you most proud of in your career as one of the top female watercross racers?
I’d have to say my proudest moment was being invited to race in South Korea with Jettribe Racing this past year! It was my first time racing in a Pro Runabout Open class against some of the best riders in Korea, China, and Russia. I finished in the top five out of 11 riders, and it was pretty cool to be on the podium, especially when I was the only female racer in the entire competition!
What advice would you give to others when it comes to pursuing his or her passion?
Life is too short. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, the moment is now!
What do you love most about racing?
Most people will say they love winning, but for me I love making new friends who become race family! McClairin, for example, is someone who has impacted me so much. Her father came up to me during a race telling me that his daughter is my biggest fan and she was dying to meet me. Little did I know that once we became friends, the roles would reverse. Now I’m her biggest fan, and I couldn’t be more proud to call her my friend. In only one year, McClairin has become such an inspiring and amazing racer, and I cannot wait to see what else she will bring to the racing world!
What’s next for you?
Next race is next weekend! Haha, just kidding! What’s next for me is waiting to get hired as a firefighter/paramedic. But in the meantime, I’ll be giving my parents a hand working at their jet ski business, Miami Jetski Shop, and traveling the world to get as much racing as I can get under my belt!
Heading home for the holidays: travel tips to to make the season brighter
For many, this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, well, they’d rather fast-forward to 2020. Whether you’re thinking about the holidays with anxiety or anticipation, we have some tips that can, hopefully, make your holiday season a little happier.
If you’re packing for an extended stay, a little planning now can keep you from hauling a mountain of luggage through the middle of a crowded airport. Instead of folding your clothes, roll them up. Also, stuff your socks inside your shoes. You’ll be surprised how much more you can fit inside your suitcase just by taking these two steps. If you’re carrying a backpack, place the heavier items lower in the pack for better balance and less strain on your back. Most important, before packing anything, make sure you’re really going to need it. Overpacking is the most common mistake. Plus, the airlines will hit you with a fee or make you repack your bag if it’s over a set weight limit.
Don’t break the bank
If you’re a college student or young professional, your budget may already be tight. The closer you get to the holidays, the higher airfares climb. Before you assume the amount you see on the airline’s website is final, explore some of the online search engines that are designed specifically to find lower fares. Some airlines even offer student discounts. Another idea is to bring your own snacks and an empty water bottle to the airport. The cost of food and drinks at airports is crazy expensive because they know they have a captive audience. Although traveling by train or bus will take longer, they can be much more affordable. Both Amtrak and Greyhound offer student discounts. Think of it this way: a leisurely train or bus ride may be just what you need to get in the holiday spirit.
The holiday season doesn’t have to be all napping and eating. If avoiding the holiday bulge is important to you, use part of your downtime to get some exercise. Ask a family member or old friend to take a walk with you—this a great way to burn calories and catch up with what’s been going on in your lives. You’ll both have more energy and won’t feel quite as guilty about enjoying a glass of eggnog or a delicious slice of pecan pie. After all, that’s part of the holiday experience—enjoy it! Also, we know that the holidays can be stressful at times. Just 20 minutes a day of physical activity can bring those stress levels down, which is good for your physical and mental health. In fact, according to Forbes Magazine, three or four half-hour sessions per week can lessen stress significantly.
What if you can’t get away for the holidays? Despite these helpful tips for holiday travels, we realize that it’s just not realistic for some people. But don’t fret—we have a few suggestions for you as well.
Host a “Friendsmas” party
You’d be surprised how many college students will be spending the holidays around campus. Why not get together and celebrate? You can even enjoy many of the same traditional holiday activities together, such as cooking meals and exchanging gifts. Look at it as an opportunity to begin your own holiday traditions. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to get closer to your friends or even make some new ones. And, if you start missing your family members, technology has made it easy to connect via video chat (Skype, FaceTime, etc.).
Nothing will take your mind off of being away from home during the holidays like a nice paycheck. Many employers are in desperate need of seasonal, part-time help. You’ll earn money, make new friends, and possibly gain valuable experience, depending on what career path you’ve chosen. And when everyone comes back from the holiday break complaining about how broke they are, you can smile and enjoy your stack of cash.
So whether you’re heading home or staying put, we hope these tips will help you enjoy the season. Happy Holidays from your friends at Georgia’s Own Credit Union!
Five steps to living more simply (and saving in the process)
Living the simple life sounds so peaceful, doesn’t it? It’s calm and free of drama. You’re never ruled by a schedule, so you wake up without an alarm, prepare healthy organic foods, and eat only when you’re hungry. Missed appointments? Never. Rush hour? No such thing. It’s peace and harmony all day long.
Ok, that’s not entirely true, but living simply is a step in that direction. It takes some of the chaos out of your day, reduces your stress, and leaves you more time to spend with the people you love, doing the things you like to do.
In today’s world, that might seem almost impossible. What’s important to understand, though, is that simplifying isn’t always a simple process. Life can be complicated, but there are things you can do to bring order and peace to your days.
Check out these five things you can do to start living more simply:
1. Deal with the clutter
Purge all that extra stuff– the things that you don’t use, need, or even remember that you have. An entire house can be overwhelming, so start in one room and work for 30 minutes at a time.
Take a closet, for example. Remove everything and then sort through it one item at a time. Make quick decisions to toss, donate, or keep–and be merciless. You probably won’t fix it, list it on eBay, or send it to your sister any time soon. If you were, you would have done it already.
If you absolutely have to, create a “maybe” box and fill it with a few really hard-to-decide items so they don’t derail your other quick decisions. Pack it up and store it out of sight. If you haven’t reached for it in a year…you know where it goes!
2. Stop buying all the stuff
We know Amazon makes it so easy, but they don’t have to live in your house. If you limit your buying habits to what you actually need, you’ll have less stuff—see tip #1 above—and you’ll have more money. Win-Win.
For some people, it’s difficult to escape the materialism trap, but there are so many better ways to find happiness, deal with stress, or be entertained. Try spending time with friends, taking a kickboxing class, or watching a movie. It’s much more fun and costs a lot less money.
For the things you do need, make a list and stick to it, whether that’s at the grocery store or online. For some things, you can buy used or even borrow if you’ll use it only once or twice. Make shopping decisions that will leave your wallet a little heavier and your home—and your life— a little lighter.
3. Re-evaluate your obligations
When you say yes to something, you say no to something—or someONE—else. An overscheduled day raises your stress level and certainly doesn’t allow you to live simply.
Find ways to free up your time for what’s most important to you. That means eliminating the things you don’t like and making room for what you enjoy, whether that’s a 20-minute catnap or a day-long Netflix binge. No judgment here.
Everyone has busy days, but when they’re filled with things that don’t lift you up, they’ll inevitably drag you down. Learn to say no and protect your time. Some of our favorite responses are, “I’d love to, but I just don’t have the time.” or “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I really have too much on my plate right now.” Voila! You’re off the hook.
4. Dial down your list of things to do
If you’re like most people, you have a never-ending list of things to do. There are two ways to manage that monster: delegate and divide your to-dos into days.
Your spouse, your kids, your friends, and anyone else you can find, they can all run errands, too. Choose a dry-cleaner that’s on your husband’s way home from work or have you kids return that cup of sugar to your neighbor. Order your groceries online and choose curbside pickup. You don’t have to do it all.
For the things you insist on doing yourself, limit your list to 2 or 3 tasks per day. When you work from an endless list, crossing off just a few items makes it seem like you haven’t done enough when you’ve actually accomplished quite a bit. Turn that feeling around and make a daily list that’s much more realistic, and more rewarding, too.
5. Limit your communication
Communication is the key to success. That might be true, but over-communication can be overwhelming, especially when much of it isn’t of any great importance. Between your work email and your personal email, your Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, you’re overstimulated and exhausted by noon.
Not only are you expected to respond to each of your 500 friends’ last social media posts, but that response needs to include the perfect non-edited looking picture with the funniest caption. Ahhh, social media.
Try taking a 30-day hiatus from social media and see how much extra time you have in your day. You’ll never want to go back.
As for email, that’s another story. While you’re working, commit to checking your email once every two hours. That’s it–no peeking, no checking it during your lunch break, or sending a quick response to just this one. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you are when you’re not continually interrupted. You can do the same thing with your personal email. Check it once a day, or twice if you have to, but that’s it. Being at your email’s beck and call is no way to live. Be the boss and dial it back to simplicity.
Creative ways for college students to make money
Juggling school and work can become frustrating for many students, but there are many creative ways to earn extra cash on your own timeline. After hitting the books all night and attending class, it can be discouraging to flip burgers in a hot kitchen. Here are 10 unique ways to get the cash you need without all the burgers and fries.
Watch Movie Previews: Sign up at InboxDollars. As soon as you sign up, you get $5. That’s pretty easy work. But, if you want to earn even more, just take a look at the site to see the variety of ways you can earn cash.
Share Your Opinion: Everyone’s got one…an opinion that is, so you might as well share. Complete online surveys at MyPoints for cash and get $5 just for signing up. The site rewards you in gift cards for completing polls, surveys, and so much more. Swagbucks is another site that rewards you for completing surveys and other small online tasks. Again, you get $5 just for signing up…that’s practically free money.
Exercise: Yes, exercise. Something you probably already do each day will get you paid. HealthyWage pays you to lose weight if you’re willing to bet on yourself. Complete a few short questions about your weight, age, etc., then bid and let the games begin. Become healthier and earn money doing it. You could win up to $10,000 depending on how much money you put on the table. Sounds like a win-win situation if you’re willing to do the work.
Pet Sit: Like pets? Enjoy some fun time with furry friends. It’s flexible and you choose your own schedule. Sign up to help pet owners with their cats or dogs at Rover, and earn up to $1,000 per month.
Offer Rideshare Services: Use your car to make money with Uber or Lyft…or both. Turn the app on or off whenever you like. You work when you want, and you get to meet new people and share stories (only with the passengers who are in a chatty mood).
uber.com | lyft.com
Work for hire: Got skills? Many companies outsource jobs to freelancers on sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and other freelancing websites. Choose the gigs you want to complete on a timeline decided by you and the client. Work when you want and gain the experience you need to pad your resume.
upwork.com | fiverr.com
Complete Tasks: Create an account at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and choose a job. Make up to $500 by performing “human intelligence tasks” from home on your own schedule.
Deliver Packages: Become an Amazon Flex delivery driver. You’ll be delivering goods to consumers via Amazon.com, Prime Now, Amazon Fresh, and Amazon Restaurants. Amazon Flex pays between $18 and $25 per hour. The app allows you to set your own work schedule and work when you want.
Take pics: Have a great eye? You can take photos and sell them on an app called Foap. Get paid for snapping pictures!
Nanny: Babysitting has always been a great way to earn extra income. Find a great babysitting gig at Care.com and offer your time at a rate you choose.
Q&A with Nicki Collen
Coach Nicki Collen of the Atlanta Dream basketball team has made an incredible impression on the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). She started her career playing basketball at Purdue University. After college, she played professional basketball in Greece for a short period of time.
Her coaching career began as an assistant basketball coach at Colorado State. She eventually moved on to coach under Curt Miller with the Connecticut Sun. Collen helped the Sun turn around from a 14-20 finish in 2016 to a 21-13 record in 2017.
In 2017, Collen was announced as the head coach of the Atlanta Dream, taking over for Michael Cooper. Just a year later, in August of 2018, Collen was selected as the WNBA Coach of the Year. Read more about Coach Collen and her journey below!
What does your daily routine look like?
My daily routine starts at about 6:30 a.m. I shower then have breakfast, which typically consists of a protein pancake or smoothie and some athletic greens. I attend an 8:30 a.m. pre-practice staff meeting, followed by practice at 10:00 a.m. After practice, I handle office work and get in an afternoon workout, have dinner, and watch film work on my team and our opponents to plan the next day’s practice. I close out my day with some family time by watching Netflix or talking
with my family.
What is your fondest memory as a coach?
One of my fondest memories as a coach was beating Tennessee at Thompson Boling Arena when Pat Summit was still the coach and I was the assistant at Arkansas. It was Arkansas’s first-ever win at Tennessee.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
For my pre-game ritual, I like to get a hard workout in before choosing my dress and shoes for the game. I also enjoy a very long shower. During the National Anthem, I pray for the health of my players and my ability to lead them in a positive way.
How do you channel your frustration during a game?
I focus on the next play. If I lose my cool, my team can feel it. I have to provide the calm to keep the team focused as the game goes along, though I’m not as cool as I appear on the sideline.
What was the most important game you’ve coached? Why?
The most important game I ever coached was my son’s soccer games when he was age four and just beginning to love playing sports. I was often dragging along his twin sister and a baby, but this was the start of his love for sports, competition, and having fun while doing so.
What are some ways you celebrate winning a game?
I don’t do much to celebrate after winning a game. Usually, I just grab food with my staff and/or family, but we are always preparing for our next opponent.
As a leader in women’s sports, does that push you to be more outspoken for women’s rights like equal pay?
Yes, I care deeply about women having a voice in today’s landscape of athletics and business. This is a unique time in history when women are standing up and they are being heard. I am extremely passionate about understanding the business of basketball, and more specifically, the WNBA.
What helps you recover after losing a game?
I am not a friendly human being when we lose. I channel our losses into watching game footage and finding ways to improve or prepare better for our next opponent. Typically, I am back to my normal self by the start of practice the following day after losing. Preparing for upcoming games gives me a great deal of peace.
What advice has any coach/mentor given you that you’ll always remember?
My husband, who coached for 35 years, shared with me that while coaching women’s sports, you have to understand the difference between allowing a molehill to become a mountain and turning a molehill into a mountain. Basically, there is a time to address things, and it’s not always immediately. Sometimes letting things blow over is better than addressing them and creating an even bigger issue. Knowing the difference is so important in coaching.
You started out wanting to be a tennis player. Do you still play tennis at all?
I do not play tennis, but I love to work out with weights, doing interval training, or walking. I will play some lax (lacrosse) with my kids.
Are your daughters interested in playing basketball?
My oldest daughter does not play basketball and has very little interest in the game. My youngest daughter plays tennis and lacrosse and is interested in giving basketball a try. She is very invested in my team and the WNBA in general.
Georgia’s Own and Ne[x]t Magazine are all about helping our members make smart financial decisions. Any tips or tricks you’d like to share with our readers?
Save, save, save! I have been lucky to never live on a hard budget, but having said that, I have saved money from every single paycheck I have ever made. Pay yourself. Utilize your 401k and company-match plans.
Just for fun—what’s something many people might not know about you?
I love peanut butter, coffee, roller coasters, shoes, fashion, and I am terrible at bowling. I say, I am 44 going on 14.
10 interesting facts about the 4th of July
Each year families and friends get together to celebrate one of the most festive holidays in America: the 4th of July. Beautiful, bright fireworks will light up the night sky, and parades will be held. Americans will consume more than 150 million hot dogs, enough to stretch from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times! There are many things about July 4th that people don’t know. Want to look like the smart one at the barbecue? Check out these 10 interesting facts:
- Anyone ever asked for your “John Hancock?” Well, John Hancock was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
- Speaking of John Hancock, did you know that only he and Charles Thomson actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776? The Declaration of Independence was not signed by most of the Second Continental Congress until August 2nd, not even in the month of July.
- The U.S. is not the only country to celebrate this day; the Philippines and Rwanda both celebrate their independence on July 4th, though not related to American history.
- One of the first states to celebrate Independence Day was Massachusetts, recognizing the 4th of July in 1781.
- Strangely, on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826, within hours of each other. President James Monroe died July 4, 1831. President Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872.
- The melody of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was originally used in an English song called “To Anacreon in Heaven,” used by the Anacreontic Society, a gentlemen’s club of amateur musicians in London.
- The American flag has changed over the years. The stars on the original American flag were in a circle so all the colonies would appear equal.
- George Washington, John Lay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison are typically considered Founding Fathers, but none of them signed the Declaration of Independence.
- It’s not Denmark’s day of independence, but this U.S. holiday is celebrated in Denmark. Traditionally, thousands of expatriates living in Denmark would gather at military bases and tourist bars to celebrate as early as 1911.
- The first week of July is the busiest travel week of the year in the United States. Most would think the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday week might be the busiest. Nope.
Have an interesting 4th of July fact? Drop it in the comments below!
Resources: mentalfloss.com, nydailynews.com