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Pioneer Stories: Bob Willett

The world needs people who are willing to dedicate themselves to helping others, people who are willing to try something new, break new ground and set out on new paths. 

In our latest article, we caught up with Bob Willett, a Canadian basketball coach who’s dedicated his life to teaching and guiding the next generation through sport. It was a chance to hear about his incredible non-profit foundation and learn how it all came about... 

What’s Your Definition of the Word Pioneer? 

I first want to say how appreciative and honoured I am that &SONS sees me as a Pioneer. A Pioneer to me is when someone finds something that they truly believe in. Then they take that passion and go out every day to pursue excellence in their work, craft, project, etc... A Pioneer is willing to take risks for what they believe in and be unwavering when it comes to meeting the goals they set out for themselves no matter what roadblocks pop up along the way. A Pioneer often puts others' needs ahead of themselves and the solution to those needs often becomes the driving force behind what the Pioneer’s purpose in life is.  

“Like most kids in the 70s & 80s in Canada, I played all sports growing up. I would watch the Lakers games on tv and then run outside to practice the moves I just saw!”

Tell us your story. How did you begin your career and what led you here? 

I’ve had a basketball in my hand ever since I remember. Growing up in north end Edmonton, we didn’t have much money, but my dad was very handy and so he built me a basketball hoop that was attached to our garage. It didn’t matter what time of year it was or how cold it would get; I would shovel the snow off that driveway and be out there for hours!  

I was 6 ‘4” by the time I hit my senior year and became one of the top players in the city for my class. I went on to play college ball and won a National Championship in 1988/89. In 1990 I married my high school sweetheart and had two amazing sons, Sean and Nolan.   

After college, I had a career in sales but would coach and train in the evenings. I was always excited when my work day was done so I could get to what I loved to do. I knew that I had to make a change and follow my passion full time, so we moved to California, the Mecca of Basketball!   

Financially it was tough in the beginning, but I always remembered what a mentor of mine used to say… “successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do”. At that point in my life, I had learned that success was not how much money I made, it was measuring my success on how many young players that I could help (from start to finish). The more players I helped, the more fulfilled I would get.

We moved back to Canada to take everything I learned about player development and began teaching in Canada and around the world!! To date, we have trained thousands of players throughout Canada, the US, Japan, Seoul Korea, Europe, etc… I’m even more excited about the next 10 years as I now work side by side with my son Nolan who is already being recognized as one of the top skills training and player development people out there.   

We have also recently launched our own sports management company to help our players get opportunities to play basketball professionally around the world. Like we always ask our players… WHY do you play this game? WHAT do you want to accomplish short and long-term? HOW are you going to accomplish those goals? I do what I do each day because I’m on a mission to give back to the game that gave me so much and it’s a legacy I can be proud of.  

What Is Your Wardrobe Essential? The piece you couldn't live without...   

I’ve been wearing the New Frontier 14oz Selvedge Denim Jeans from &SONS literally every chance I get. I’ve just never had a pair of jeans that fit and look this good. It’s the perfect pair of jeans in my book.  

Tell us more about your foundation. How did it begin?

We have been able to bring on two other incredible skills trainers, Matthew Guinto and David Kapinga, who I trained when they were young. With the extra help, we have been able to start The Willett Basketball Foundation to help “level the playing field for players that cannot afford elite training”.   

It’s a non-profit that gives back to the community by teaching, developing, and inspiring leadership in our youth by creating a level playing field for all. The aim is to help them build skills and confidence in sport and life. The foundation holds student-athletes to a high standard on and off the court, to help create leaders out of young men and women in our city. This foundation has allowed my family to continue to give back to their community at an even higher level and change so many young players' lives.  

What Three Words Best Describes You? 

"It's not what you say you are, it's what everyone else says you are"  

Who inspires you?   

Definitely the players we train each day!  

In Your Work, What Values Do You Cherish the Most?   

Hard work, being humble, willingness to sacrifice something today to reach a goal in the future.  

What Do You Do for Inspiration?   

Listen, watch & learn from others that came before me, as well as the younger generation that has so much energy and new ideas to share.  

What Brands Inspire You?   

A Brand has to make you feel something to be inspiring. There are two brands that stand out from all others to me and that’s &SONS for when I’m heading out from dinner with my wife or a weekend getaway to the nearby mountains, it's my go-to!  

The other is Deuce Brand, which is a wristband and on-court & lifestyle apparel company out of San Diego California that many professional and amateur athletes around the world are wearing.  

What is your favourite piece from the &SONS Collection?   

I would have to say it’s the New Frontier Denim Jeans and the Sunday Shirt!  


What is your favourite album, artist or Spotify playlist?

My favourite album would be Sometimes by City and Colour   

Any Recommendations on the Best Podcast to Listen To?   

All the Smoke Podcast 


Shop Bob's Style:

Catch-up with Bob on Instagram at @bballwillett 

To learn more about The Willet Foundation click here 

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