Prokit Dads in Sport
We asked some of the most respected dads in the outdoor and endurance sports world what they’ve learned about being a father.
Some are former pros, hall of famers and Olympians. Others are at the prime of their pro careers with newborns in tow, or are busy as activists, entrepreneurs and change makers. All are dads. Happy Father’s Day!
Reggie Miller: Hall of Fame basketball star turned bike racer
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? The only thing fatherhood has changed for me in terms of mountain biking and races, is no matter win, lose or draw, I still have some smiling kids to come home to.
Best advice for new dads? My best advice for new dads is go above and beyond in helping out your significant other. When you can share the duties around the house and with the kids, it will make life easier for you to get out on your bike and enjoy it.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience? I hope my kids learn that sports in general are fun until adults screw it up. Enjoy being a kid and messing up, who cares.
Scott Jurek: Ultrarunning legend and best-selling author who has won nearly all of ultrarunning’s elite trail and road events
How has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Taking care of two toddlers has forced me to be more efficient. My training runs and workouts are targeted to maximize benefits and time. I have to be adaptable based on family responsibilities and lack of sleep, so sometimes my workout involves running with both kids in the jogger on bike paths or hauling them in a backpack on the trails. On the plus side, it’s great resistance training!
Best advice for new dads? The races and mountains will always be there, but your kids are only babies for a fleeting moment. Allow yourself time to slow down and be present with your little ones. This is the time to lay down the foundations of spending time in the outdoors and showing them that exercise can be fun and something you do as a family.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience? I want my kids to learn that there is joy in the struggle, that the process of being out of your comfort zone and pushing your boundaries leads to growth and transformation. I hope they have a continued passion for the outdoors and appreciate the value of the natural world.
Follow Scott @scottjurek or check out Scott’s books.
Jesse Thomas: CEO Picky Bars, retired pro triathlete
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Yes, I remember the shift vividly. I was actually injured when Jude, my first, was born. It changed my mentality. I remember feeling, for the first time, a sense of responsibility and obligation (in a good way) to my sport as a means to “provide” for my family. It shifted from pure competition and pushing my body to more business-oriented. I treated my recovery from that injury and my career in general more professionally, from the sponsor relationships I did or did not take on (saying no to things that didn’t add significant value) to the amount of time I was gone for races (leaving later, flying home immediately after races, etc). I also became more cautious on the bike – basically, a bit of extra speed isn’t worth the risk of an accident. I remember specifically thinking that at a crazy descent at Wildflower my first race back after my son was born.
Best advice for new dads? Be flexible. Your world has, or is going to, change a bunch, in ways that can and can not be anticipated. I think a lot of endurance athletes are pretty type A – organized, diligent, controlled with their time, etc. A lot of that control goes out the window with a kid. You just can’t plan “I’ll do X at time A” like you could before. Your kid doesn’t give a crap about what you want to do. And as soon as you think you’ve got him or her figured out, it changes. I had to become much more flexible in my workouts, work, and races. I became more go with flow. I took time and space when I got it, but tried not to force it when it didn’t make sense.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience? I hope my kids become passionate about something and work hard at it as a result. I don’t care what that is. It could be sports, art, science, or Pokemon. Honestly, I don’t care. I just hope they find something that brings them joy, and they want to pursue it with passion. I’ve been so lucky to have sports and business pursuits that I cared about deeply, which enhanced the fulfillment of my life. I’m hoping they can find the same thing.
Rasaan Bahati: Former pro road cyclist, Social Impact Manager at Zwift
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? When I first became a father I was pretty young; 23 years young, to be exact. At that point in my life, I was at a crossroads. Should I continue the grind of trying to become a pro cyclist or focus on school and provide for my family the traditional way? I went to school and soon found out I would rather much be racing my bike. After leaving school, I made a commitment to give it my all which turned out to be alright, I guess. I won tons of races, made a little money and was able to provide. It wasn’t easy because giving yourself to cycling and family requires a tremendous balance, and often I got it wrong. The demands of cycling are very high, just as high as cultivating your family. My children and wife are the real champions in the family because they never gave up on me, and that pushed me to be the best cyclist and father/husband I could be.
Best advice for new dads? Focus on the balance. The reality is your children will soon grow up, and before you know it, they’re off to college and eventually starting their own families (God willing). Take a step back and take it all in. When you’re annoyed and tired of your kids – trust me, it will happen – think back to when they were born and the love and excitement you had in your heart and eyes. Keep that fire going, and I promise it will transfer over to them. Writing goals down, not only in sport but also as a father, was important. It made me more accountable than ever. Give it a try.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience? I hope my children learn to be understanding, loving to all people, know how to make sacrifices, and never give up. Even today, I teach my children to be happy, smile, say hi to others and ask how their day is going. Most important, I teach them to have a relationship with a higher being because the universe gives you what you put in.
Jens Voigt: Former World Tour pro cyclist, cycling commentator, father of six
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Oh absolutely. I gained a lot of extra motivation because I wanted my kids to be proud of me for who I am as a person and for my achievements. Kids also put things in perspective. I lost a race once, and one of my kids presented me a Grade A on their math test. My day was totally saved, and I was more than happy and proud. Also, I did start braking earlier in the fast downhills once I was a father.
Best advice for new dads? First advice: your time being number one in your own life are over, and you will love to make your kids the new number one. Kids make you think further ahead than the next race or the next season; they make you grow up. Enjoy every moment. You cannot get a second back if you miss out on quality family time. And DON’T forget, you and your partner are in this together. Show love, support, strength, passion, and commitment to your partner.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience?That life is giving and taking, and it should be balanced in between those two things. First comes the work, and only after that comes success, money and fame. I hope my kids learn that they should never forget WHERE they come from, WHAT made them successful and WHO are their real friends.
Jeremy Jones: Snowboarding icon, founder of Protect Our Winters and Jones Snowboards
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Not really. It did add weight to my decision-making, but my most serious snowboarding has been done since having kids. The big change is that I have had to take advantage of shorter windows of time to do my sport. There is no hanging around before or after. Getting out the door really early also helps.
Best advice for new dads? It gets easier. Ideally, your kids fall in love with the sports you like to do. For me, that is snowboarding/skiing, mountain biking, surfing, and rock climbing. It’s really hard not to over-push your sports on kids. You have to slow play the sports you want to do with them your whole life. My kids were slow to gravitate toward some sports, but I am so grateful that they now love the same sports I do. Our relationship is transitioning away from me guiding them to them becoming riding partners. Our time enjoying these sports is 90% awesome and 10% frustrating. When kids are younger, I would say those numbers are flipped.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience in sport and the outdoors? It was not until I had kids that I fully appreciated how awesome these sports are and how much they shape our lives. The outdoors teaches so many things – how to overcome fear, how to keep going when all you want to do is curl up in a ball, how to get up after a hard fall, how to break big goals into small steps.
Follow Jeremy @jeremyjones
Dean Karnazes: Ultramarathon pioneer and best-selling author
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Fatherhood has fundamentally changed my approach to everything in life. Suddenly, the world is viewed in a broader context; it’s no longer just about you. Personally, I have found the experience expansive and humanizing. My love of my sport has deepened, my performance has become more refined, and the goals I’ve set have become more meaningful.
Best advice for new dads? It’s been said that in school you get the lesson and then you take the test. In parenting, you take the test and then you get the lesson. Remember, every action you take has consequences on your child. Try to always be your best. Your child’s development and happiness will benefit immensely.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience? I’ve learned that kids are quick to spot hypocrisy. You can’t tell them to do one thing if you’re doing another. I’ve always tried to lead by example, and I hope my kids have seen my genuine love and fulfillment in what I do. My course through life has not been a traditional one, and I hope they are able to find what they love and pursue it to the fullest.
Follow Dean on Prokit @deankarnazes. Or check out Dean’s books.
Jorge Maravilla: Co-Founder of San Francisco Running Company, Pro Runner
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? When I analyze myself as a father/athlete, my goals and desires remain the same in pursuing being the best athlete I can become. My approach hasn’t changed much, as I don’t take myself too seriously, and rather do it with a greater passion and interest as I want to cultivate and nourish an example on the value and importance of moving actively and with great respect, protection, and passionate movement in the outdoor space onto my son.
Best advice for new dads? Love joyfully, create a passionate global citizen who respects planet Earth and plays hard in all of its beautiful corners. Stay personally fit and focused on being the best version of yourself so you can truly and authentically love your loved ones — in particular, those precious littles eyes that look onto you for guidance and lead to navigate through life’s challenges. Sport and a healthy active lifestyle embark us onto an endless cyclical experience of growth and positive evolution to produce a quality of life that is limitless.
What do you hope your child learns from your experience? I hope my son learns the importance of fitness, wellness, and a passionate healthy lifestyle in the outdoor space while protecting and advocating for planet Earth’s conservation. Bring that joy onto others and endlessly play like a kid with a joyful smile that is undeniably contagious to spread love, care, and respect onto all.
Laurens Ten Dam: Former World Tour cyclist turned adventure cyclist
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Yes, it did. After the birth of my second kid, it made me realize that I wanted to spend much more time with them. We moved to Santa Cruz for a year to escape the hassle of the world tour cycling. Since then, my main focus is my family. I must admit my best results were before that decision.
Best advice for new dads? Live in the moment. When I saw my little brother enjoying his first kid so much, I realized I missed a lot of quality time with my first kid because I was too busy with other things in my head when I was with him. A dramatic change in lifestyle solved that problem. When I am with the kids, I am with the kids.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience? I hope they learn that being outside is cool. Camping in your own back yard, riding bikes on the pump track, swimming and surfing is cool. Just being outside and active is cool.
Mike Wardian: 3x Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, USATF Ultra Runner of the Year with too many multi-day records to count
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? I think fatherhood focused my approach to sport as I didn’t have time to mess around and meet all my obligations. Fatherhood caused me to set big audacious goals and attack them with relentless vigor. I always asked myself what was my “why” and then pursued it. I wanted to include our children in endurance sports from the beginning, therefore when they were babies they were always training with me, either on the treadmill, in a stroller, hiking or riding bikes besides me. I even ran a marathon with each of our boys to set a Guinness World Record and we did. I pushed our son Pierce in jog stroller and we ran 2:42. It is still something that he still talks about as a 13-year-old and that makes me so happy.
Best advice for new dads? My best advice for new dads is do your best, continue to live your life, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be willing to make mistakes. We all make mistakes, but I try not to make the same error twice and always bring snacks and wipes. Those two items can handle most situations. Also, a quick hack for eating out: ask for the check as soon as you sit down so you don’t have to try and get the check when the kids are fuzzy or freaking out. That one tip has saved us so many times.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience? I hope that our children learn that if you’re consistently working relentlessly toward a goal, anything is possible.
Ted King: Former World Tour Pro Cyclist, Current King of Gravel
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Maybe it’s because stepping into fatherhood is still fresh as Hazel just hit three months old, but I suspect that how proud I am to be her father is something that will motivate me my entire life and every single day. I’m in a different place in my career than plenty of dads in the pro cycling world. I had my Pro Tour career while single, and it wasn’t until I was a brand ambassador and gravel rider that we welcomed Hazel into the world. So my goals these days are more about finding personal fulfillment in all that I do and being sure that I can always provide for her. I’m pretty well diversified in how I make a living — I’d guess I’m somewhere near the top in the cycling world’s many gigs in the gig-economy!
Best advice for new dads? I feel like new parent advice is almost inherent. I wasn’t a baby-loving kind of guy previously. Sure they’re cute, but, ogle and fawn over them? Whatever. Then I became a dad, and I’m just the happiest person on Earth with Hazel. I’ll hold her, lock eyes with her, and when I get just a snippet of a grin, it just melts my heart. I’d do anything in the world for her. Snippet of advice? Get as much sleep as possible. Early to bed, early to rise.
What do you hope your child learns from your experience? I hope that I can share with Hazel the value hard work, having goals and striving towards them, and being able to balance a healthy mix of pleasure, work, and family. I’ve learned through mentors of mine and through experience that a fulfilling, diversified life is one of relationships. It’s needless to say, but I just hope she finds success in whatever it is that lights a spark under her.
Follow Ted @iamtedking and his wife Laura @laura
Scotty Hawker: Plant-based professional ultrarunner who started traveling full time for training and racing when his daughter was born
How has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? It’s definitely made me think about how much I’m racing and also about my training volume from week to week. I want to ensure that when my daughter is old enough to run on the trails and in the mountains that I have a body that can chase her around and show her some of my favorite places to run around the world. If I race too much and too hard now, I risk injuries later in life that might prevent me from doing some adventures with Sienna. She has definitely given me a lot of motivation to continue to chase my goals and dreams. I want to be the best Papa I can be for her, and I want to make her proud and set a good example.
Best advice for new dads? Accept that things will change for you no matter what. You really need to stay relaxed and go with the flow a little in the early months/years as there’s so much going on. Running and races will come and go, but you only get one chance to be a part of your child’s life as a baby, so make the most of every opportunity you can with them in the early years. Remember that sleep will be lost and it’s totally ok and awesome to skip a run now and then to catch up on some sleep when you can. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, something will have to give, and most likely it’ll be a niggle/injury.
What do you hope your child learns from your experience? I hope I set a good example of what you can achieve with focus and hard work. I want Sienna to see me lace up my shoes, put on a rain jacket and head out into the storm to train, showing her that you sometimes need to test and challenge yourself in order to do all you can to succeed.
Mark Allen: 6x Ironman World Champion turned coach; longest winning streak in history of triathlon
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? The majority of my professional triathlon career was without a child. That changed a year before my final Ironman in 1995. My two years leading up to that race with a newborn son changed everything from how I raced to what I placed as a priority in my life. Prior to that there was very little that took precedent over getting in my ideal training program on a day to day. Being a father shifted that dramatically. I wanted to spend time with my son, to nurture him and to give him love.
I looked at my training and realized that there was a lot of nonessential training. I cut at least 30% out of my overall training to free up time and didn’t worry if I was tired for sessions because of spending time with my son rather than taking a nap or getting to be early. Being a father to my son became a priority alongside my racing.
Best advice for new dads? There is always a give and take. If you are training there are other things you are not doing at that exact moment. If you are doing other things you are not training during those other moments. Being a father is a precious gift. Yes, being an athlete is fulfilling and important to maintain health and sanity. But being a father — even if it takes some of the edge off of your ability to race at your peak — is even more fulfilling and has a lasting satisfaction and impact that no race result will ever have.
Being a good father is in so many ways like training for a race. Just like one long run won’t get you ready for an Ironman, spending one evening with your child won’t last a lifetime. Guiding and nurturing your child is a journey that takes place every single day from the time your child is born until they leave the house to go off on their own. Even then it doesn’t end!
My advice to the athletic performance driven dad? Keep up your training, but cut out the junk. If you feel there is no junk in your training but you still don’t have enough time to be with your child, then you have classified too much of your training as “essential.” You only get one chance to raise your child and give them a foundation of guidance and support. That is only going to be about 20-years of your life. There’s going to be a lot more years where you will be able to be the fully dedicated non-compromising athlete!
Even while you are raising your child you can still be both an athlete and a father. I am a testament to that. I won my final Ironman in 1995 with my two-year old son waiting for me at the finish line!
What do you hope your child learns from your experience?Being an athletic father is a great example for a child to grow up with. They see through your training that significant results don’t grow on trees and are not handed to you. It takes a lot of dedicated work, time, patience and commitment to a goal.
Hopefully they also pick up on how good exercising is for your body and mind. They will follow in those footsteps as long as what you do as a father is not just for the results at the races, but because the journey day-to-day is fulfilling, exciting and joyous. If your child sees you living or dying by your finish time or place it can turn them off to ever wanting to adopt an athletic lifestyle. If they see how it is just part of what you do and something that is just a part of maintaining a good life, they too will likely become part of this great journey.
Follow Mark @markallengrip
Kiel Reijnen: World Tour pro cyclist for Trek-Segafredo
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Ha, ya. I get my training done in about half the time I used to. I don’t worry about the perfect night of sleep or getting in stretching after riding. I’ve just had to get tougher and make time with my daughter a priority. I miss her terribly when I’m away at the races, but she knows I always come home.
Best advice for new dads? Your kids will bring out the best and worst in you. Embrace it, and remind yourself to be present even in the difficult moments because you only get to do this dance once with them.
What do you hope your child learns from your experience? I hope she learns to follow her heart. It’s not always easy to be a professional athlete, but for the most part I get to do what makes me happy. There is always someone faster, stronger and more talented. It’s not about being the best, it’s about getting the most out of yourself.
Nicholas Thompson: Editor in chief of Wired Magazine, 2:29 marathoner at age 44
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Fatherhood changes everything about everything, including in ways I surely won’t understand until later in life. As for my approach to my sport, it’s made me want to be able to model a healthy, balanced approach to intense athletic competition.
Best advice for new dads? Be incredibly kind and generous to your wife. Learn how to change a diaper, heat a bottle, properly wrap a swaddle cloth, break down the bassinet, and give the baby a bath.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience?We never know how we’ll influence our kids. My grandfather’s intense approach to sports drove my father away; my father’s late-life love of running brought me in. I just hope they remember running as something I loved but that didn’t take away from the time I spent with them.
Read Nick’s story, To Run My Best Marathon at Age 44, I Had to Outrun My Past.
Amir Muhammad Figueroa: Leader of Harlem Run, scientist, outdoor guide and activist
How has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Fatherhood has slowed down my approach to running. I’ve even reflected on experiences that I’ve gone through without my father, since he couldn’t be in my life having passed when I was four years old due to complications with HIV. I’ve always been intentional about which races and/or events I participate in, but now as a father I will be even more intentional. When it comes to performance and goals, my son is a new motivating factor that drives me, and he gets to witness what I can accomplish.
Best advice for new dads? Your child is the boss, but your partner signs the checks. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communication is key. This is coming from a dad who is still working on being the best communicator that I can be. I don’t always get it right, but I am always looking to improve.
What do you hope your child learns from your experience in running? I hope my son learns tenacity, discipline, mindfulness, and activism from my experience in running. A tenacious person doesn’t worry about getting knocked down, but stays focused on always getting back up, moving forward and staying the course. A disciplined person has a myriad of experiences to remind themselves of the work they put in and a respect for the journey rather than only being focused on the destination. A mindful person is connected to the space they take up and every moment that they are in; a reminder that it’s bigger than you. Lastly, whatever my son chooses to do, he can have the courage to create whatever change he wants to bring into the world.
Mark Gainey: Co-Founder and Chairman of Strava, outdoor adventure chaser
How has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Fatherhood reminds me to keep it fun. Kids get it – sport is all about play and having a good time. The reason we participate in sport is for the joy! Remember that, and performances will follow.
Best advice for new dads? Early morning workouts, before the kids get up, is a cure-all for many of life’s challenges.
What do you hope your children learn from your experience in sport and entrepreneurship? It’s not the winning that matters, it’s the effort. Teddy Roosevelt said it best:“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” President Theodore Roosevelt, Excerpt from the speech, “Citizenship in a Republic”Delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris — April 23, 1910
Follow Mark @kanamg
Brent Bookwalter: World Tour pro cyclist for Mitchelton–Scott
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Fatherhood has somewhat changed my approach to performance and goals, but it hasn’t really changed my approach to sport in general. It has definitely been challenging to find the balance of continuing to be a professional, performing athlete with fatherhood. My focus has moved from purely focusing on performance and professional goals to a place where that drive and responsibility is being balanced with giving our little guy love, attention and focus. I’m sweating the small details less and probably overthinking performance less. Since I’ve only done one race since becoming a father, the jury is still out on how this will affect performance!
Best advice for new dads? Best advice?! I feel like I’m still in the “need to receive advice” realm and not able to dish it out to others yet. That said, I’ve been increasingly aware of how fast things change and have been buoyed by the realization that although all the stages bring their own challenges, none of them are permanent or last very long. If I feel underwater by the challenges of fatherhood one day, I go to sleep, wake up, and there’s a good chance that the following day will bring a fresh set of challenges, as well as some moments of joy. Challenge, joy…repeat.
What do you hope your child learns from your experience? I hope that Waylon will learn and be inspired by the experiences that I’ve had. I hope my experiences encourage him to dream big, pursue his passion and soak up the fun along the way.
Miguel Chapulin: Grasshopper Adventure Series Event Director, teacher, father of NorCal Gravel
Has fatherhood changed your approach to your sport, performance and goals? Things definitely change, in the best ways possible. My kids are now 16, 15 and 4. The biggest change is that family always comes first over my own personal sport and performance goals. Every day on the bike is a “bonus” day. When I get to ride with my kids, it’s a “double bonus” day. It’s important to be creative and flexible about getting the training in when having a family – a run during soccer practice, getting up at dawn, planning ahead for a weekend adventure. It’s still important to get my time to shred in order to fill my cup. This way I’m the best dad I can be.
Best advice for new dads? Be there for Mom; she is doing a hero’s job. Less is more sometimes. With a couple short hard efforts during the week and a big one with friends on the weekend, you’ll be able to keep “near” top-end fitness and have plenty of time for the family. Fatherhood IS standing on the top step of the podium every day!
What do you hope your children learn from your experience? I hope that my kids learn from me to find something they love to do and get good at it. My son rides and plays soccer. My daughter dances and is an artist. My youngest daughter is 4 so…she has fun doing everything. I want my kids to live passionate and inspired lives with meaningful careers and hobbies. Goals are important, but it’s the journey of pursuing them that gives our lives meaning. Sport is a lifelong process and hard work pays off.
Follow Miguel @migchapulin
More like this
Check out our Moms in Sport, or read our features with some of these dads.
- Feature and Common Threads podcast with gravel cyclist Ted King
- Feature and Common Threads podcast with Strava co-founder Mark Gainey
- Feature and Common Threads podcast with Jeremy Jones
Many of these dads are also part of our Prokit Community Club on Strava. Join to cheer them on!