The New York Knicks Allan Houston Talks Fathers Knowing Best
THE FEATURE COLUMN: It is our first introduction to a man. Despite, whether it has been good or bad. As we mature from child to adult, it grows to be one of the most significant relationships of our lives. The bond between a father and child is unmatched. Not to understate the role of a mother in a child’s life. It is extremely important. Still, there’s something about the influence of a male figure that molds a child into the person they ultimately become.
For this upcoming Father’s Day, “THE FEATURE COLUMN” salutes all dads. As well, as looks at one father, Allan Houston. Houston, a former NBA player and current assistant general manager of the New York Knicks, is implementing a program he hopes will strengthen the bonds between children and their fathers.
His tool is the game he knows by heart. “There are a lot of basketball camps, skill sessions that you learn the fundamentals of the game. We try to bring them together in the forms of fatherhood. In how a father is a life coach. The voice in which a child gets an identity,” says Houston.
Houston, who says his father is one of the greatest influences of his life, joined us for this edition of “THE FEATURE COLUMN” to talk about his “Father Knows Best” program. It’s currently in the middle of a five-borough tour in New York City.
Nicole: Thank you for your time. Now, let’s talk about your program. How did you come up with the idea?
Allan: It stems from the relationship I have with my father. I always had a good relationship with him. He’s always been a good father. Growing up I looked to him as my hero. He was someone who had a good demeanor. Very loving. Very stern. Good sense of humor. We were always very close.
As a young man and a basketball player, I ended up playing for him at the University of Tennessee. We were blessed to be at a high level and learn a lot about each other. During that time, I couldn’t have imagined being in another situation. Being without my family. Being without my dad.
When I got to the NBA, it gave me a whole new appreciation in having him as a mentor, as a coach, as a teacher and as a father. It seemed like it was rare especially among my peers for them to have that. So, we just felt like we needed to share. We had a platform to share the things that we learned as a father and a son coaching, playing, and being a professional. Things he taught me as far as it’s your character, your work ethic. Your humility. Knowing that God is first and should be first. A lot of life lessons that young men are taught by coaches and teachers. I learned from my father, and those things were reinforced by other coaches and teachers. I just felt like we had to share that. That was our platform to give back to other families.
Nicole: Give me an example on how you implement these kinds of lessons in your camp.
Allan: The foundation is basketball. We basically draw a parallel between the relationship we have and teaching basketball fundamentals. So, we’ve mirrored the fundamentals of basketball with the fundamentals of life. It’s coming through the eyes and through the teaching by a father who is also a coach. Who is also a mentor. Who can also be a father figure.
There are a lot of basketball camps, skill sessions that you learn the fundamentals of the game. We try to bring them together in the forms of fatherhood. In how a father is a life coach. The voice in which a child gets an identity. The way a coach gives a player an identity as a player. He gives them instruction on the court, shooting the basketball. He helps them set goals. He gives them their role. The father is the one that gives a child the fundamentals for discipline, communication and habits. So, we’re using basketball to teach those life lessons, but we’re also teaching at a very high level.
I was given the gift of shooting. We’re very detailed on how we teach a coach, a mentor or a father how to implement fundamentals of shooting into their children. So, you’re not only teaching the child; you’re guiding the father as well. What happens is everybody is vulnerable. You’re empowering the father, the coach and the mentor, but you’re also saying we’re all learning together.
Nicole: What are the camp’s dates for families that want to attend?
Allan: We haven’t set the specific dates. The reason being is we started a five-borough tour. We started off with the program being a retreat format where people come for one or two days. They stay overnight and they get to bond and connect.
We found that we could also serve a greater number of participants and extend the program. So, we have a curriculum now that’s seven weeks. We’ve done this. The goal is to launch this particular program, which is called “FISLL”. “Father Knows Best” is the name of the overall program. This is the extension. It’s an acronym that stands for faith, integrity, sacrifice, leadership and legacy. We have the same motto. We meet once a week for seven weeks. So, we have more time together. More time to participate. More time to take in the curriculum. As well as more time to grow and connect. It also gives us more time to measure on how much this has helped.
That particular program is going to be launched in all of the five boroughs at different points. We’re right in the middle of that tour. We’ve been to Manhattan, Staten Island, next we go to Brooklyn and so on. The goal is for these programs to actually be sustained in that particular community. So once that seven-week program is over, a whole new set of families and fathers can come in and participate and the cycle continues. If you can imagine three years from now, if you had a hundred families in one borough and multiply that. We feel it can make a significant impact.
Nicole: What is the general age of your participants?
Allan: The average is 9-12, but we’ve had six year olds come in. We’ve had 15 year olds come in. It varies. We don’t turn anyone away. The beautiful thing about it is the skill level and the levels of drills we do are versatile. We can always modify the basketball portion so everyone can benefit and get the most out of it.
Nicole: Is it open to both boys and girls?
Allan: Yes. At first, it was seen as a father and son camp. As we continue to grow, we want people to know the camp is open to boys and girls. I have five daughters and I’m very sensitive to the fact that girls need that critical relationship.
Nicole: What’s the feedback been?
Allan: It’s been amazing. The biggest feedback we’ve gotten in the eight years that we’ve been doing this program is that it’s so unique to have a child and their father. Or, a mentee and their mentor sitting together and learning and participating with each other in something they both enjoy. It allows them to form a connection with each other as well as other camp participants, and it’s all through basketball. We just bring a lot of unique characteristics together. It’s all found its way to flow and work.
Another, one of the biggest feedbacks we get is about the connection of men that is formed. They feel like they’ve formed a unique leadership role to go out into the community and be pillars of good, strong men for their families and their communities. They feel a part of something much bigger than them, and want to continue to fellowship after the program is over. I think that speaks to the program. It’s much bigger than all of us. I’ve also heard how “unique” the program is. That makes me feel good to know I’m being used in the right way.
Nicole: What are your future plans with the program?
Allan: We’ve done the program in different cities. We’ve done it around the All-Star game, Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky, etc. We’ve been asked to come to places all over the country. Our goal is to submit this in the five-borough tour once it’s planted we want to continue to welcome the opportunity to go to other cities all over the country where it becomes a national model. I think that there’s a strong current of growth. Our President, the mayor of New York are launching programs centered around fatherhood and male figures. There’s a high level of sensitivity to the need for our society’s issues to come back to the home. I believe that that starts with us as fathers and men who are leading our homes. You can’t just say that. There has to be an action plan of execution to say ‘what does that mean’? ‘What do we do about that’?
I feel blessed that we’ve been giving a real significant tool. It’s not the only tool, but it’s solid. We can use it to stir up the hearts of men in communities who are really saying ‘let’s not blame politicians, the economy. Let’s start with our home and take care of that first. Then, our children will be more educated. They’ll be better prepared. They’ll make better decisions. Then society will be in a better place’. For me, I feel like ours is a tool that can be expanded to do a lot of this.
Nicole: Now before we wrap, you are a father yourself. Congratulations to you and your wife on welcoming your seventh child. How special will this upcoming Father’s Day be for you?
Allan: Wow! Every Father’s Day is so special. I think this Father’s Day is different because it’s our last child and second son. My son is here with me [for the interview]. He was so excited to have a little brother. He’s very sensitive in knowing how important he is to our family. It will be special because my wife and I have prayed continuously for guidance and wisdom on balance, our relationship and prioritizing. And for us to have our seventh to be our last son is pretty powerful. It’s a real blessing.
For more information on the “Father Knows Best” program visit allanhouston.com.