Superheroes in disguise: Athletes’ moving tributes to their fathers

Superheroes in disguise: Athletes’ moving tributes to their fathers

Dads never count the many hours they spend at arenas, gymnasiums, dance studios, or baseball, soccer, and football fields. Fathers play an essential role in the development of growing athletes and make possible unique experiences and lasting memories. They symbolize strength, determination, and adventure. Like Clark Kent, they are superheroes in disguise.

When I was a kid, my father was always cheering me on in sports. Since girls were not as interested in baseball as they are today, I played on boys’ teams. My father taught me self-confidence, drive, and to not be afraid of competing against boys. He equipped me to overcome the trials and tribulations of sports and helped me develop physical literacy. My partner and I try to do the same for our son.

To celebrate Father’s Day, we asked five former athletes, who are now active parents themselves, to pay tribute to the commitment of their fathers.

Patrick Leduc, soccer analyst, RDS

  • Father of two: one boy and one girl
  • 11 seasons and 222 matches with the Montreal Impact

My father came late to sports. Having young kids motivated him to start running marathons, cycling, and cross-country skiing. He was a great role model for perseverance. When I was young, I wasn’t always picked first or a star player, but over the years, I improved. Even though my dad had never played soccer, he was one of my first coaches, and we went to Impact matches together. He created an environment that allowed me to advance as an athlete. He gave me the tools to develop the determination and competitive spirit I needed to move up to the pros. He’s still there for me — these days, we love golfing together.

Now that I have two children, it’s my turn to impart good values. I coach my 12-year-old son’s soccer team, and he is enrolled in a sports concentration program [link in French]. My daughter, who loves ballet, is starting an intensive program with three practices a week. We encourage our children to get outdoors. In our house, the rule is no video games before playing outside.

Kim St-Pierre, retired women’s hockey player

  • Mother of two boys
  • Three-time gold medalist with Team Canada
  • In 2008, she became the first woman to practice with the Montreal Canadiens, filling in as netminder for an ailing Carey Price

My dad had a huge influence on my development as an athlete. He set the example for me and my two brothers by competing in triathlons, cycling, and playing hockey. He is a great role model, and he gave me the desire to follow in his footsteps. We had a big yard and spent a lot of time outside playing different sports. That helped develop lots of skills. When I started playing hockey at the age of 8, he was my biggest fan, following me from arena to arena. Even if I was the only girl on a boys’ team, he always encouraged me. He never stopped believing. That gave me the tools to push myself to become a better athlete.

I hope my kids will share my love of sports. My 4-year-old son is about to start soccer. We’re lucky — we live across from a park and are there all the time. We take balls and play as a family to help our boys develop their motor skills. We also try to encourage them to play outside [link in French] and we enjoy joining them. As parents, getting involved by volunteering and being a part of our children’s activities is a winning formula.

Marc Griffin, baseball analyst, RDS

  • Father of three boys
  • Member of the Quebec provincial baseball team that won the Canadian championship in 1986 and 1987
  • Competed at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers that same year

Growing up, I was the youngest of four boys. Although my father wasn’t the person who encouraged me to get involved in sport, he taught me discipline and is very proud of my accomplishments. He had a big impact on how I am raising my three boys. I try to teach my children positive values and the importance of a good attitude. What they learn will carry over into sports.

When the Expos left Montreal in 2004, I lost interest in baseball for a time. But the spark returned when my eldest son, who was born the year before, started playing baseball with me in 2006. That’s when this exciting sport regained its rightful place in my heart. There’s nothing better than playing catch with my three boys! We try to give back to our children by helping them to live life to the fullest, stay confident, and take full advantage of the opportunities available to them. Our children have a huge influence on our lives!

Denis Gauthier, hockey analyst, RDS

  • Father of three: two boys and one girl
  • 10 seasons in the NHL

My father is a great example of discipline and perseverance. As a former bodybuilder and professional wrestler, he has always been very health conscious. Although he faced many challenges, he was a self-made man. Dad owned two gyms and was a strength and conditioning trainer for many athletes, including NHL players. He’s an expert in the machine we call the human body. My father was a trailblazer. Thirty years ago, his training methods were considered strange, but today they’re commonplace. He’s 73 now and still gives boxing lessons. To him, retiring is not an option!

When I was a kid, he taught me the importance of physical preparation and initiated me to training at a young age. We learned the importance of healthy eating and taking care of our bodies. My father worked six days a week and didn’t always have time to watch my games. But he made sure that I had everything I needed and accompanied me to the arena. I spent many hours with him in the gym. We would cycle together and toss balls around. My father was always dedicated to his family. He let me progress at my own pace, and that taught me to follow my own path.

Today, I do the same with my kids. We spend a lot of time in arenas and on sports fields. My youngest plays hockey and my oldest chose baseball. My daughter just discovered soccer. Our weekends are busy with practices, but my wife and I don’t see it as a chore because we support our kids in their passion for sports. Like my parents did for me, I try to give as much of my time as I can to my kids and I hope that they will follow their own paths. Family time is precious time.

Matthieu Proulx, football analyst, RDS

  • Father of two girls
  • Winner of two Vanier Cups with Université Laval’s Rouge et Or
  • Six seasons with the Montreal Alouettes and two Grey Cups

My father had a very positive influence on me. He’s my number one fan! Even if he lived far away, he was always at my college and university games. He was a source of comfort and support throughout my career. Starting from a young age, my father helped me develop my physical abilities. I started playing baseball when I was 5, and my dad was my coach.

My parents got us involved in lots of different sports, including golf and speed skating. But we didn’t only participate — we watched lots of sports, too. My father passed on his love of sports and the drive to be physically active. He was involved in every step of my sports career and that helped me to be a successful athlete.

Now that I have two daughters, I try to pass on my love for sports and help them develop good habits. We do simple things as a family, like walking or riding a scooter or bicycle to daycare. We spend our days playing outside. The girls love going to the park to slide and swing and climb the playground equipment, or to play with a ball. These little daily activities set the example for our kids and make all the difference.

To celebrate the dads in your life, please share your stories with us in the comment section below or on our Facebook page. Happy Father’s Day!

Image: Kim St-Pierre with her father

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