Even for superstars, fatherhood’s a game changer

Chris Bosh. David Beckham. Roger Federer.

All three are more than just world champion athletes.

They are dads.

Very fit dads. Very rich dads.

But nonetheless, like all dads who are being celebrated this Sunday on Father’s Day, they go through the same emotions, concerns and struggles that come with fatherhood.

Am I doing enough to support my children?

Am I leading by example?

Am I changing this diaper correctly?

All three sports figures said the shift in responsibility was the biggest change they encountered the moment they became a father.

“It’s just that special feeling of responsibility that helps me know that I am providing for a family and that my wife and kids’ future is on my shoulders,” said Bosh, 30, a father of three, including two toddlers with his wife Adrienne, and one-third of the “Big Three” for the Miami Heat, the two-time, defending NBA champs.

“For me, it really put things into perspective. You really begin to filter out what is important and what’s not. You trim the fat, so to speak, because your time is that much more valuable. It’s made me become a more efficient worker, better worker.”

And when these athlete dads are working — whether it’s practicing or actually competing — their children never stray too far from their thoughts.

“We probably know exactly what’s going on at home, no matter where we are,” said Federer, 32, the iconic men’s tennis champion who is a father of four — twin 4-year-old girls and twin boys born in May — with wife Mirka. “It’s 6 o’clock, so the girls are probably going to eat something, take their bath and start to slow down. It’s good weather, so maybe they are outside. You are always aware, and that whole awareness part is amazing how it just takes you in and you know what is going on, and you want to know what is going on.”

As their children get older, these fathers want to be involved in their kids’ lives just as much, if not more. That means juggling their personal commitments around the children’s schedules.

“Before you have children it’s all about yourself or your partner and your parents,” said Beckham, 39, arguably the most popular soccer player in the world and father of three boys and a girl with wife Victoria. “And when you have children, it’s all about the kids. Mine and Victoria’s schedule is all about the kids. Nothing gets put into our schedule without knowing their schedule and if they have a soccer game or an event or whatever they have got.”

That includes juggling recent visits to Miami to lobby local leaders for a soccer stadium for a new professional soccer franchise.

“We are very hands-on parents, and we try to attend every single event or game that they have,” Beckham said. “They are the most important things to our world. It’s difficult, but we make it work. We know how important it is to the kids.”

Now no one said being a father was going to be easy, and for these three superstars in their sport, they stare down challenges with their children that can seem as daunting as their opponent’s top effort during a match or game.

“It’s tough when you are leaving the house and going to a game,” said Bosh, whose Heat team has averaged more than 100 games played in a nine-month span the past four seasons. “Every time, my son, he doesn’t understand and he’s bummed out and starts crying and doesn’t want me to go.”

For Federer, traveling is all he does, going from city to city competing in professional tennis tournaments around the world before spending the off-season in his native Switzerland. Considering his children are not of school age, his family travels with him, including his March visit to Miami for the Sony Open. So already knowing where they will be staying at each tournament city, Federer can visualize how to set up a kid-friendly environment in the hotel room.

“Traveling in the beginning, I don’t want to say it was impossible, but with the strollers and the nappys [diapers] and just putting extra bags …” Federer said. “What we try and re-create is what we have at home, a home-away-from-home feeling for the kids. They truly travel to 90 percent of the places I go to, so in our hotel room we would create a corner that always looks similar [to home] so they would have their routine and they know what to expect.

“It’s a great challenge, but I love every moment of it.”

Another challenge for these dads — and any sports-fanatic dad: letting your children develop their own sports allegiances despite your own. It may be easy at the beginning, with a young child wanting to imitate his or her dad down to the jersey or ball cap, but eventually they will make their own choices, and those may not mirror Dad’s.

“The boys love every team I have played for,” Beckham said. “So Manchester United is a team my eldest son supports, and my middle son supports Arsenal, which is controversial but I don’t mind that. When I was a player it was a huge rivalry, but I don’t mind it. The boys can support whoever they want to support. I don’t turn around to them and say ‘I didn’t play for that team, so you can’t support them.’ They support Real Madrid when Ronaldo is playing, they support Barcelona when Messi is playing. They just like great football.”

The Beckham boys also know that with their dad no longer on the pitch, they get a chance to enjoy the sport that has provided for them sitting next to their dad, and not watching him from the stands or on the television.

“I promised my boys that I would take them to a World Cup game when I am actually not playing in a World Cup game,” Beckham said. “They are actually excited about doing that for the first time. So I will get [to Brazil] at some point.”

Keeping promises are the essence of being a good parent, and especially for a father whose time can be consumed by the demands of a high-pressured profession. But when promises are kept, moments can be created in which your children surprise you or wow you, make you belly-laugh and smile wide. It is then when a father realizes he’s done something right in raising his children.

“As a parent you have that obligation and I love that, to be able to teach my kids and just spend time with them and educate them,” Federer said. “[My twin girls] are 4 1/2 now, so it goes beyond them saying ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ It is a challenge, but really cool to see the impact you have on a person.”