Robert Fiondella – Retired Phoenix Mutual Chairman

The following article appeared in the Bristol Press on April 8, 2004 and was written by Bob Montgomery. The Hall of Fame was granted permission by the Bristol Press to reproduce it. – Photo by Brian Totin

Robert Fiondella – Retired Phoenix Mutual Chairman

Bristol – Since its inception in 1997 with its first annual Induction Program, the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame has added a number of successful programs aimed towards Bristol’s youth.The latest is the Leadership Council which was inaugurated at Nuchie’s Restaurant on Wednesday morning. It featured a gathering of underclassmen from Bristol’s three high schools, education officials and Bristol Sports Hall of Fame directors who listened and discussed the topic of leadership.

Guest speaker for the program, the brainchild of BSHOF President Dave Mills, was Bristol native Robert “Bob” Fiondella, retired chairman of the Phoenix Companies who was introduced by Jack Hines of First Bristol Federal Credit Union, the executive director of the BSHOF.

Fiondella, who graduated from the former St. Anthony’s High in 1960 before going on to graduate Providence College in 1964 and UConn Law School in 1968, told the high school sophomores and juniors it wasn’t just winning that made one a success. One example given was that of the teams playing in the recent college basketball championships where 65 teams start out and only on remained unbeaten throughout the tournament.

“Of the 65 teams, 64 lost,” said Fiondella. “Does that mean they are losers?”

He added, “To me, an education without sports is not an education. You compete alone in the classroom but in sports you learn your lessons of working towards a common goal and learn the lessons of defeat.”

Another example he gave related to one of his own mistakes.

“Make them, learn by them and move along,” said Fiondella.

He told of how he and his late high school basketball coach Frank Longo didn’t see eye-to-eye so Fiondella opted not to play his senior year, a move he would later regret because the Saints went to the state finals his senior year before bowing to Suffield 64-62, a game still talked about today by former St. Anthony’s players and fans.

“It wasn’t a mistake, said Fiondella. “But I was the only one hurt.”

“Whether you make a mistake or not (in making a decision) draw from it in life.”

He talked about UConn’s two national championship teams and their leaders, Diana Taurasi and Emeka Okafor and added, most of you (here today) will be more like Maria Conlon or Taliek Brown (of the UConn women’s and men’s teams, respectively).

Conlon wasn’t tall, didn’t jump high and wasn’t as gifted as some other athletes, but she worked hard and it paid off in being a contributing member of a national championship team.

“She was prepared to work and didn’t sulk (when) sitting on the bench.” said Fiondella.

In Closing, he told the students in the audience of 10 two-letter words to live by.
“If it is to be, it is up to me!”

Following his presentation, each table of future leaders, with the assistance of the one of the Hall of Fame directors, discussed four questions pertaining to leadership.

Table No. 6 included Bernie O’Keefe, a Hall of Fame director along with Bristol Eastern junior Dan Strong, Eastern sophomore Jessica Divinere, Bristol Central juniors, Michael Fiorini and Allison D’Amato, and St. Paul junior Liz Dumont. One of the questions they discussed and answered was: What are the main qualities of being a leader?

Their answers – (1) You can’t be afraid (to make a decision); (2) always speak what’s on your mind; (3) be a role model both on and off the field; (4) keep a positive attitude; and (5) represent your team well.

The Sports Hall of Fame plans to organize a Leadership Council three times each school year beginning this fall.

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