To become a high-level, champion B-Boy takes years of hard work and experience. It takes even more hard work to stay at the top of the game. One of the life events that can really affect a champion breaker's ability to stay at the highest level is becoming a parent. Having a family can really change everything for any dedicated athlete, forcing them to re-evaluate their mindset and approach to both training and competing.
B-Boy Menno's daughter was born in 2017, just around the time he won the Red Bull BC One World Finals for the second time. It's been two years since then and Menno is still one of the best B-Boys on the planet, having recently won the 2019 WDSF World Breaking Championship solo battle in China. He's now set to compete again at the 2019 Red Bull BC One World Finals in India. We asked Menno what it takes to stay at the top of the competitive breaking game after becoming a parent.
How did the birth of your daughter affect your breaking life?
For me, her being born was a really big motivation to push even harder, knowing that if I win stuff like BC One, it'll push the longevity of my career as a B-Boy. When you don't have kids, you have all the time in the world, but having a daughter really taught me about planning, so when I have practise now I know that I'm going to really need to use the time that I have well. I'm sacrificing a lot of family time and my girl is doing a lot of hard work at home with our kid while I'm in the studio training, so I don't want to leave her there for no reason.
Having a kid can be a good excuse to take it easy, but it's an even better excuse to go harder. So that was one of the biggest pushes I had in breaking, as now it wasn't just for me it was also for my daughter.
Have you had to adapt your training schedule?
You have to adapt every schedule you have when you become a parent, as it teaches you definitely how to use the time that you actually have. Also, I take a very big part in the relationship with me and my girl because she works too and both our families live in different cities, so we don't have like any continuous support from one of our parents. We can't just drop my kid at my mum's really quick. We need to go to another city and plan it. So it's definitely hardcore and a lot of planning. Before I would train when I felt like training and used to practise a lot at night, but that's definitely not the case any more. I can't practise at night now as I need to wake up early, because that's when my daughter wakes up. Right now I really have a different type of rhythm to my routine.
What were the most unexpected things that you experienced in becoming a parent?
One thing that was a really big surprise is that I started to experience how hard it is to actually leave home. I was used to being away from home a lot, missing my friends, wife and family, but missing your daughter is something on a whole other level. So I'd be at the airport feeling really, really wack to be leaving home, thinking, "I'm living my dream, but I just want to be home right now."
Has becoming a father made you more selective about the competitions you pick?
Being a father definitely made me more selective about the competitions I pick, but being a B-Boy on the level I am right now made me way more selective about the events I pick. Constantly travelling and being ready for a battle is a very hard thing, so I pick my battles carefully to not become overexposed or in a position where I might stop enjoying this dance. I think it's important to find the balance in what you do, so it doesn't make sense to be on a different stage every week. You need time to reset, to be able to enjoy the whole experience and to let your creativity grow, instead of just constantly being battle ready.
Being selective about what competitions you do is important as a father because it, of course, gives you more time at home. At the same time, it's important for B-Boys and B-Girls in general, as I see a lot of breakers getting overexposed and draining themselves. There's so much going on right now, but that can take away a little bit of the power of what you do. I don't think it's necessarily a parent thing, but I think that it goes for every breaker that's living the breaking/travel lifestyle.
What's the hardest thing about competing while being a parent?
Sacrificing a lot of family time, when being at home with the mentality that, "I need to train," but leaving home with the thought of leaving your kid all the time, is definitely the hardest thing.
What about being a parent inspires you to keep competing at the highest level?
There's definitely a lot of positive things about being a parent, as this is not just for you any more, it's for your kid and having a kid is one of the best motivations I think to do anything in life, not just for breaking.
What advice would you give to other dancers/breakers who might be parents one day but still want to compete?
I was already signed by Red Bull when I became a parent, so I was already in a good place, but success in what you're doing is possible for everyone. You just have to work really hard and be ready for real life. It will also make you stronger as a person, so don't be afraid to become a parent. It's also really dope to be a dad that's living this culture as there are a lot of things you can share with your kids and it's really good to have them growing up in this beautiful culture. But don't push it too much on your kids of course, just expose it to them in a natural way, as I think that is one of the coolest things you can do.
And, another piece of advice I would give is to make sure that you have a baby with someone who has love for the culture and who understands the culture. If you have a kid with someone who doesn't 100-percent support what you do, I think that's when you're going to have a really hard time. It's important to support each other as partners, and I know it's definitely not easy to swallow the lifestyle of someone who lives the breaking life, so big up for all the girlfriends and wives holding it down and supporting B-Boys from a dad who's still able to live his B-Boy lifestyle. One love to the ladies!