‘Coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.’ Real Salt Lake players, coaches share joys, challenges and everything in between of fatherhood

(Photo courtesy of Nick Rimando) Real Salt Lake player Nick Rimando with his two kids, Benny, 9, left, and Jett, 11, right.

Herriman • While his wife was on a trip to Los Angeles about two years ago, Tony Beltran had a lot of time on his hands. Being that one of his passions is film, the Real Salt Lake veteran defender decided to treat himself to an “Indiana Jones” marathon.

When his wife, Teale, came home, Beltran received the biggest news of his life: He was about to become a father. The first thought that popped into his mind? The actor who played Jones’ father in “The Last Crusade.”

“Indiana Jones’ dad is Sean Connery. Who the heck am I?” Beltran recalled thinking. “For some reason I associated my son with being this renowned archeologist just in this flash thought, just neurons firing, that he was going to be that cool and there’s no way I could be cool enough to be his dad.”

Beltran, whose son, Kaito, is now 2, is one of many dads on RSL’s roster of players and coaches for whom Father’s Day is not just about their own dads, but about themselves. Some, like defender Donny Toia and captain Kyle Beckerman, recently became fathers and will have their first experience with the holiday. For others, like goalkeeper Nick Rimando and goalkeeper coach Todd Hoffard, this stuff is old hat, but still meaningful.

(Photo courtesy of Tony Beltran) Real Salt Lake veteran Tony Beltran with his son, Kaito, who is almost 2 years old.

Hoffard is father to Jansen, 14, and Bella, 10. The coach recalled one of the first moments he felt like a father as the day he and his wife, Cory, took Jansen home for the first time. After days in the hospital with doctors and nurses helping and advising, the couple found themselves left to their own devices. Hoffard remembered turning to his wife and asking, “What do we do now?”

“It's a little culture shock,” Hoffard said. “It's like, well, where's the instruction booklet for this this baby?”

Eventually, the shock wears off and the parenting begins. Beckerman’s son, Constantine, is 7 months old and named after the captain’s grandfather. Month by month, his personality has started to show, Beckerman said. But the instinct to protect Constantine came instantaneously.

“It changes your life,” Beckerman said of becoming a dad. “Just immediate, when you see him, something changes where you’d immediately throw yourself in front of a bus just to save this guy.”

Those with older children — or even more than one — are no strangers to the feelings Beckerman and Beltran have felt and have learned from them. Rimando, father to 11-year-old Jett and 9-year-old Benny, had his fair share of restless nights when Jett was a baby. He and his wife, Jacqui, coddled him a little bit more.


When • Saturday, June 22, 6 p.m.


But when Benny arrived, the Rimandos slightly relaxed their grip on what was once a brand new experience.

“I think with your first child you always tend to be a little bit more cautious with things and read every single book and try to nurture him and be sweet with him as much as you can be,” Rimando said. “The second comes around, you know what you can get away with. You know that the crying is just crying. You know that they’ll be OK at night when they’re not sleeping.”

Hoffard said when his wife was pregnant with their second child, he could better understand what Cory was going through. The cravings, the physical changes, the mood swings. But there were surprises the second time around, he said.

“I don't think any pregnancy is cookie-cutter,” Hoffard said. "They're not always the same every single time. So there was little subtleties that were different the second that she didn't have the first and vice versa.”

(Photo courtesy of Donny Toia) Real Salt Lake player Donny Toia, left, poses with his wife, Courtney, and his 7-month-old daughter, Payton.

When discussing the most difficult aspects of parenting, the consensus that emerged was time away from the children. Professional athletes have training sessions, games, travel and various media responsibilities. Rimando said he misses rehearsals, sports games and recitals regularly. But now that his children are older, they are starting to understand the realities of his job, he said.

“When I come home, my arms are open for them and they know that and they know that I won’t miss a game or anything if I’m in town,” Rimando said. “It comes with the territory of what I do as a profession and I’m lucky enough that they understand that and they’re proud of what I do.”

Becoming fathers changed each player and coach, and quickly. Toia began planning further into the future. Beckerman realized he had to focus on sleeping and eating well. And Beltran looked inward.

“The biggest thing being a dad is it makes you take a hard look at yourself in the mirror,” Beltran said. “You have to realize what’s working for you, what’s not working. Because you have to be the best version of yourself for your wife — the mother of your child — and for your son or daughter.”

Midfielder Damir Kreilach, who has a young daughter, said his experience becoming a father has brought nothing bout positivity and gives him extra motivation in various facets of life.

“To have the child is one advantage because in every situation, off the field and on the field, you will put much more [of] yourself in the situation and to try to give the best,” Kreilach said.

The others share that sentiment wholeheartedly.

Said Beckerman: “It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.”