While the entire world deals with the challenges of the Coronovirus and the importance of staying informed with the latest news and information, we here at WeloveAnnArbor.com will present a series of feature stories highlighting the successes, accomplishments and dreams of our neighbors right here in Ann Arbor. We hope these stories are not only a pleasant diversion, but also entertaining, informative and even inspiring.
Maybe it’s about keeping the faith. Maybe it’s about having faith. Or maybe it’s the faith our parents hand down to us to believe in ourselves – part of those life lessons never forgotten and taken with us on our journey.
Maybe Faith has an answer.
“I learned from my mom to enjoy doing what I am good at but not to be afraid to ask for help with things I am not good at,” says Faith Baker, one of five pretty amazing children still being raised Margaret and David Baker – as parents we not stop raising our kids.
Pretty good answer – maybe that’s why they named her Faith.
One thing the Baker kids are good at is water sports. And while their parents didn’t come from a swimming background, they did introduce them to swimming at an early age and it’s just something that stuck with them.
“We are very proud of them, obviously,” says Margaret.
Let’s meet “them.”
We have already met Faith, an 18-year-old senior at Huron HS. Adela, a senior at U-M, is the oldest at 21 and graduated from Huron in 2016. Elaina, 19, is a sophomore at U-M and graduated from Huron in 2018. Zannah, 15, is a sophomore at Huron and Graham, 13, is an eighth-grader at Clague Middle School.
All five of the Baker kids learned to swim and compete locally in the family’s Chapel Hill condo pool and in their tiny neighborhood pools through Orchard Hills Athletic Club (OHAC).
“We are very, very thankful for the opportunities our children have had in this town to compete in athletics,” says Margaret, who adds, “parenting is not for the faint of heart.”
It’s also not easy, but Margaret and David, who played tennis, football and basketball for Pioneer back in the day, have clearly done something right. Well, quite a few things right.
“I learned from my mom that maintaining an attitude of inclusivity and making it a priority to make everyone around you feel welcome, comfortable, and that they belong is maybe the most important aspect of building a good team,” says Adela, who was captain of both swim/dive and polo while at Huron. “My dad taught me that it’s OK to recognize and even be upset about failure. To brush it off or pretend like not meeting a goal doesn’t matter to you is more cowardly and unproductive than embracing the fact that you care what you’re striving for and processing failure properly as a disappointment, and therefore, turning it into something you can grow from instead of pretending it didn’t happen or it didn’t matter.”
Adela, who now plays club polo at U-M and is a tri-captain this year, says she never felt like her parents pushed to succeed or put too much pressure on her.
“I think what’s allowed me to be successful is knowing that they are always on my team, which gives me enough constancy and support that I feel safe to put pressure on myself,” she says.
She also believes athletics has helped her grow and develop in other areas, including academics.
Something cool that I learned from sports growing up that I think actually helped with my intellectual development is a different mode of thinking,” she explains. “I always felt that the mentality sports asked of me in terms of planning strategy, learning technique, or even how to compete, stretched my brain in different ways than the rest of my life did. I think about this a lot when I’m playing water polo in particular; when I’m drawing out a new play or improvising an offense, I feel like I’m using different intellectual skills than I use in school, for example, and I think exercising these skills helps me think with more dimension even in everyday life.
Faith has done an excellent job following in her big sister’s big footsteps. She was a two-year captain of the Huron water polo team and this past season was a captain of the River Rats swimming and diving team.
“I love water polo because it is fun and exciting but you do not have to run or get sweaty,” she says, showing a little humor she says she learned from her dad. “Also, sometimes people do not get what you are doing (playing polo), and that is not your problem.
“The best aspect of polo is the friends I have made on the team. It’s impossible to put into words what these girls mean to me.”
Well, you just did!
Faith received Honorable Mention State All-Tournament Team from the Michigan Water Polo Association in 2018.
Zannah, just a sophomore at Huron, says she has learned that she is “not always the center of attention.” With five siblings, they all move in and out of the circle but they all help each other regardless of who happens to be in the center at the moment.
“I think this has actually helped me with water polo, as I am never tempted to play ‘Hero Ball,’” she says. “For me, polo was the perfect sport. I like swimming, but find it boring in large doses. I’ve played both soccer and basketball and I like how polo brings together aspects of these sports with swimming.”
She had an outstanding sophomore year in swimming, making two state cuts at Regionals in the 50 free (24.44) and 100 free (54.06). She reached the states last year as a freshman as part of the River Rats relay teams.
“Sports have taught me how to lose and how to be part of a team,” she says.
Another part of the Baker team is Graham, who will make the leap to Huron HS next year.
“My sisters introduced me to water polo, and I love it and can’t wait to play for Huron next fall,” says Graham. “I practice with Wolverine Water Polo now.
I also love basketball, soccer, tennis, and swimming (summers at OHAC).”
Graham says his mom taught him a love of music (he plays the French Horn).
“From my dad, I’ve learned how to communicate clearly and always ‘close the loop’ in communication,” he says. “From my sisters, I’ve learned how to work with roommates.”
Both Adela and Elaina attend Michigan – another thing passed down from their parents. David has a Michigan Ross MBA and Margaret, originally from Boston, has a Ph.D. from U-M (in Chinese Literature). Both of David’s parents also attended U-M.
And both Adela and Elaina are recipients of a Bob Ufer Scholarship at the U-M for high school scholar/athletes.
The Baker family is certainly “amaizing” blue.