Parents vital in Penn athletes’ successes


On parents weekend, Penn athletes reflect on how their parents helped them get to where they are now


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Senior Scott Lopano said he owes his collegiate football career to his father, who enabled him to visit football camps while he was in high school. Lopano’s parents come from Florida to watch every one of his games.

Photo by Katie Rubin


Blood, sweat, tears and plenty of parental support: these are the keys for an athlete to succeed and accomplish their goals on the field.

With parents weekend beginning Friday, it is clear each Penn athlete owes much of his or her success to the guidance and support offered by their parents.

Men’s tennis player Blaine Willenborg, a freshman from Miami Shores, Fla., always knew he could rely on his parents for advice. His father, Blaine Willenborg Sr., was a professional tennis player prior to his son’s birth.

“A lot of people expected there to be a lot of pressure, but my dad didn’t want me to have any of that,” Willenborg said. “My father said that as long as I tried my hardest, he couldn’t be upset.”

Willenborg acknowledged that his father played a significant role in his athletic development, especially as his coach. Still, he noted that he always tried to establish that he was a different player from his father.

“I kind of made my own path,” he said. “My game is almost a mix of my dad’s and my uncle’s, but it is still different.”

Erin Beck and Alex Dayneka, seniors on the women’s soccer team, also cited their parents’ actions during their younger years as critical to their success. Nevertheless, they look upon their parents’ assistance in a different way.

“I forget how much money it takes,” Beck, a midfielder, said. “We spent long hours in the car driving to tournaments. Both of my parents got really invested, literally, in watching me play.”

Like Willenborg, Dayneka was also born into an athletic family.

“I always wanted to be athletic like my parents,” Dayneka said. “My dad was a hockey player. My mom was a swimmer and played softball. They helped instill that love of sports.”

After suffering a devastating injury as a junior in high school, Beck said a conversation with her parents was critical in her ability to bounce back and continue playing the sport she loves.

“After tearing my ACL, my mom asked if I wanted to play again after recovering, something that hadn’t even crossed my mind. That’s when I realized I was making a decision to keep playing and I had their support,” Beck said.

Senior punter Scott Lopano was perhaps the most outspoken about the impact of his parents on his athletic career.

“I think it was pivotal for me,” Lopano said. “I owe pretty much everything to them, and I’m not just saying that.”

Thanks to his father, Lopano was able to visit camps during the summer of his junior year. Had Lopano not done so, he believes that he likely would never have received enough exposure to play football at the next level.

“My dad took every weekend out of his time to come with me, and it was obviously expensive,” Lopano said. “He put a lot of effort into helping me get recruited.”

Lopano, like Beck, Dayneka and Willenborg, is appreciative of everything his parents have done for him. He credits them as his “backbone” and says “they are always there to answer the phone and put things in perspective.”

It is clear that these Penn athletes, and likely many others, constantly felt the presence of their parents.

“Even when they were both working, there would always be someone at a game, which was really nice to see,” Dayneka noted.

As a senior, Lopano still feels the influence of his parents.

“They come up for every game, all the way from Florida,” he said. “Whenever I need them, they are always there.”

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