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Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With ... William Fontleroy

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Tell us about your company.
I worked my business part-time during the summers when I came back from (playing in) Europe. But the last year, when I got hurt – I ended up breaking my ankle twice – they told me I couldn’t play any more. That’s when I started doing this full time, in about 2007. I do individual coaching, and I coach a middle school girls’ team. Every week is a little bit different – some kids don’t come every week, and some might come twice a week or more, but there are about 40 kids on the books. It’s just working around their schedules and my schedules. I charge $35 a session. For the team, I have a sponsor. He doesn’t like his name mentioned, but a lot of things are taken care of for the girls.

Every one of the kids plays on a school team, and I have kids from Springfield, Marshfield, Republic, Blue Eye, Crane, Stoutland and Lebanon. I have a gym on the south side of town that I use, a small, private gym. I also rent gyms – Fox Hollow or The Courts – I have a gym in Stoutland and a gym in Lebanon that I use, just wherever I can find time to get the kids in.

What challenges do you face as a business owner, and what are your goals?
Staying abreast of new ideas, new ways to train, new techniques. Sometimes, I have to travel to a coaches’ clinic or do whatever I need to do to stay on top of the game to keep an edge on someone else who’s trying to do the same thing. It’s really no different than Wal-Mart competing against Kmart. You still have to stay on top of your game.
I’d like to see this business grow into a not-for-profit (and) have scholarship kids as well, although there are some kids I work with now just because, and I don’t charge them at all or don’t charge them a lot. I’d like to get to the point where I have a full facility and can also offer tutoring, life-skills workshops and after-school activities, and it’s not just about basketball.

Your Web site, www.williamfontleroy.com, has a lot of material that isn’t about the game itself, from nutrition to motivation. Why do you look beyond the court for your students?
I don’t want to overwhelm them with basketball or make them think basketball is the only thing they can ever do. … When you’re playing all day, every day, it gets to you, and at some point, your body’s going to break down somehow. That’s why I tell all my kids. “You’ve got to get your education.” … I like to give them a different point of view on things and let them know that even though basketball is fun, there are other things that you can do in life and still be successful.

During your time at MSU, you hit a few milestones, including becoming the second player in the school’s history to hit 1,000 points and 400 assists and No. 2 at MSU in career steals, assists and games played. Do you share those accomplishments to motivate students?
Sometimes. For the kids, it’s kind of funny for me to tell them things, and they look at me and think, “You’ve got to do this perfectly or do that perfectly.” One record that I’m not so proud of is the turnover record – I had more turnovers in 110 years of Missouri State than any other player who ever passed through. What I try to get across to my kids ... (is that) you’re going to make mistakes. It’s a game. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s what you do after that – are you going to wallow in self-pity or pick yourself up and keep going?

You are a native of Gary, Ind. Why did you return to the Ozarks after seven years of playing professional basketball in Europe?
2000 was my last year playing at MSU, but I still had a semester I needed to finish. Every summer, when I came back from Europe, I’d take a couple of classes. … My son was in school already, and had been playing basketball and had developed his group of friends. I felt it was unfair to make him wait here for seven years while I was playing and then rip him out of his comfort zone and make him do something different. We [Fontleroy’s wife is former MSU Lady Bear Carolyn Weirick] ended up buying a house here and staying.

These days, the only court time you have is working with the students. Do you miss playing basketball?
Yes, but this gives me an outlet where I can teach a kid, and I can see part of myself in the kids, I have the satisfaction of seeing them do something I taught (them). Them having success is just as good as me doing it, and I hurt a little bit less. I tell my kids, “Do the best you can do, so when it’s all said and done, you won’t second-guess yourself.” Even though I ended up getting my career cut short, I can look back and say that I had a blast.[[In-content Ad]]

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