Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Rudy Demands Your Satisfaction
You can tell Rudy expects a lot of himself on the court. In the few days Ive been here I've seen him push himself to the brink of exhaustion during workouts, refusing to quit until he's made a satisfactory number of shots. He gets upset when he misses a few in a row, cursing his hands for not guiding the ball through the net, while he's emotionless after rattling off upwards of ten straight makes from three-point range.
His dedication to improving his game, as far as I'm concerned, is unquestioned, but I'm beginning to wonder if that dedication is matched or exceeded by his desire to provide a memorable experience for the kids at his summer camp. Throughout the course of my stay I've come to realize that, when it comes to showing these kids a good time, Rudy will accept nothing less than perfection.
To be honest, Rudy's dogged pursuit of the ultimate camp experience is starting to worry me. I can see the frustration and disappointment in his face when things don't go exactly as planned, which is admirable, but as far as I can tell, everyone is having the time of their lives. No child who approaches Rudy is turned away without a smile. He engages everyone in conversation and somehow knows all of their names. He's constantly moving, riding a bike or walking from group to group in an effort to spread his time as equally as possible. Everything that someone in his position would be expected to do, he's done, and yet he still worries that it's not enough.
Part of it has to do with Rudy seeing himself in the faces of the kids he's trying to entertain. Having been identified as somewhat of a prodigy at a young age, Rudy remembers attending camps that focused solely on improving skills, sometimes at the expense of a good time, which is why he's tried to gear his camp more toward providing a fun experience for children of all ages and skill levels.
"I remember when I go to the camps in a similar situation a lot of years ago," said Rudy. "I think it's the opportunity of a lifetime to be with one player, an NBA player. For the kids, this is incredible. It think it’s very important that the kids are happy. Only then am I happy."
Making sure the kids are enjoying themselves is part of it, but there's something else driving his efforts, something more personal. Rudy has noted on more than one occasion that interacting with the kids at his camp is preparing him for the day when he will becomes a father, so I think maybe he considers the camp a kind of pre-parenting workout, a practice in fatherhood. To Rudy, failure to provide anything less than a perfect experience for his campers would be akin failing his test as a prospective father, and that simply isn't going to cut it.
"I love kids," says Rudy. "For me, their happiness, it's an obligation. It’s satisfaction that the people go home with a smile, you know?"
Yes Rudy, I know. I know something else as well: If Rudy the father puts in as much work as Rudy the basketball player or Rudy the camp organizer, everyone is going to go home happy.