Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Homefront Admires: Tony Bennett

“You have to fight for your feet.”

This was the response Tony Bennett gave when asked what the key to his jump shot was. Tony became a basketball legend in Wisconsin in the late 1980s and early 90s at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UWGB). His comment about shooting a basketball has remained with me since I heard it at basketball camp during the summer of 1997. Although my jump shot hasn’t received much work recently this quote has taken on a new meaning for me since becoming a parent. I agree with Tony and admire him with my first “Homefront Admires” post because, like a jump shooter, we as parents need to work to build a foundation within our children from which they elevate.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tony Bennett the basketball player I have included pictures below.

This is a current shot of the Tony Bennett I am talking about. He is currently the head basketball coach at the University of Virginia.

This is not the Tony Bennett I am talking about, although this one “Left his Heart in San Francisco”.

In a slightly related story, as a Paul Johnson I can completely understand what someone with a common name like Tony Bennett has to go through. I once had a prescription filled in San Francisco by a 6’3”ish, 250lbs+, balding, African American named Paul Johnson. We briefly compared notes on how challenging it can be at airports, with Paul Johnson being on the do not fly list. I guess if there are enough of us there is bound to be one of us doing something wrong!?!?! More recently I was told by my dental hygienist that the receptionist was really relieved when I walked in the office. Apparently, the receptionist had dated a Paul Johnson and she got nervous when she saw a Paul Johnson scheduled for a cleaning. She was relieved I wasn’t that Paul Johnson.

Back to Tony Bennett…He and his father, Dick Bennett, put the UWGB basketball program on the national map during their time there. Dick Bennett went on to coach the Wisconsin Badgers and take them to the Final Four in March of 2000. Tony went on to briefly play in the NBA, for the Charlotte Hornets, before starting a coaching career of his own.

While I could continue with the memories and stories of these two, I am not posting a blog about admiring Tony Bennett to discuss his stats. I would really be choosing the wrong player if I was focusing on admiring someone’s stats. Tony averaged 3.5 points and 2 assists per game over his 152 game career. His career highlight was simply being on the court during the greatest shot in Charlotte Hornet history. I had to include the clip because your friend and mine, Larry Johnson/Grand-mama, is also on the court. I can’t get enough of him/her!?!?!

Ok, this time I mean it…enough about the Tony’s basketball career.

The “fight for your feet” comment is something that I would consider a top goal of mine as a parent. In addition to teaching the girls that they are loved unconditionally, I want to help them learn how to “fight for their feet” in this world. Although I don’t know Tony personally, I believe that he knows the importance of also fighting for your feet off the court. It would be easy to believe that if a young man from Green Bay, Wisconsin made it to the NBA that he might change as a person. Tony remained true to the humble and genuinely gracious person he was before the NBA. He also remained true to his fountain after the NBA, buy moving to New Zealand not only to be a basketball coach but to help build a church.

The analogy rings true beyond just being a cool saying from a player I liked. When you go to shoot if you don’t have a stable base, regardless of your vision, height or follow through, it will be very difficult to consistently make your shoots. If kids don’t have a strong base*, regardless of their other talents and attributes, it will be difficult for them to discover who they are or who they want to be.

*Accurately articulating what I mean by strong base has proven to be a challenge. It must be either because of my small vocabulary or because all the ingredients that go into being a grounded, self confident, resilient person are challenging to capture with written words.

As parents if we can instill in our kids that foundation for which they grow and discover who they want to be, I believe that will be a great accomplishment. Unfortunately, a helpful acronym like B.E.E.F. (Balance, Elbow, Eyes, Follow through) for shooting a basketball does not exist for how to build and maintain a strong foundation in your child. Not having an acronym speaks to the complexity of parenting and that the implications of our efforts result in more than a made or missed basket.

We admire your concept Tony Bennett, even if I have taken it completely out of context!?!?!

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