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Finland's Kaunisto campaigning to become MP
KOUVOT (Finland) - Players wondering about life's possibilities after basketball should speak to Finland's Ville Kaunisto, a member of the Susijengi team that played at FIBA EuroBasket 2015.
The sweet-shooting, 2.04m (6ft 8in) Kaunisto, who turned 37 on Tuesday and plays for Kouvot Kouvola in Finland's top division, the Koriisliga, is running for Parliament in Finland as a member of the center-right National Coalition Party (Kansallinen Kokoomus).
Perjantain ainoassa ottelussa Seagulls haki voiton Kouvoista jatkoajan jälkeen koripistein 102-94. Ville Kaunisto tasoitti pelin hurjalla kolmosella lukemiin 83-83, kun varsinaista peliaikaa oli jäljellä 2,2 sekuntia #Korisliiga pic.twitter.com/jqpq1PL8oX— Korisliiga (@Korisliiga) March 15, 2019
Kaunisto is, every day, running up and down the hardwood, and also campaigning.
Already in politics for two years as an MP in the Municipality of Kouvot Parliament, Kaunisto also hopes to get his business degree this summer.
He's a busy man.
"I've been campaigning for two months but it’s getting tougher and tougher all the time," Kaunisto said to FIBA.basketball.
"I’m doing pretty much 12 to 14 hours a day if you combine basketball games, practices, travel, and of course the local politics takes a lot of hours each week and campaigning.
"I also have a baby boy of a year and five months. Well planned schedules help a lot."
“BASKETBALL HAS TAUGHT ME SO MANY VALUES ABOUT BEING HUMBLE, STRICT AND HARD WORKING, THIS IS THE OTHER PART WHERE BASKETBALL TAKES BUT WITH THAT TAKING, IT REALLY GROWS YOU A LOT”
Kaunisto thinks being a basketball player will prove to have been the perfect occupation to precede his political career.
"The main thing with sports and politics, it’s not only the game, but all the other things you do, how you affect the community, with children, with adults, with older people, with companies," Kaunisto said. "The change is not that big.
"The biggest things as athletes we do is we set examples, we meet people, in some cases we give hope to people with our stories and just by spending time with them. To me, that’s the social side of sports, the professional side off the court. That’s the part I’ve always really enjoyed and loved in my career."
So what does Kaunisto want to accomplish as an MP?
"One huge part is to develop a better life for children and young people and their families," he said. "In Finland, the fact that people are not moving, it costs more than 3billion euros for the society.
"One big part of my whole campaign is how to get people more active, not necessarily exercising but to have a more active life. The biggest issue in Finland is how do we get our working rates higher, get them to work.
"Entrepreneurship is something we have to make easier; reward people that want to work and build their own companies and create an easier life for families and children and for children to have at least one hobby when they are with other kids and stay in the society better."
When he introduces himself to voters, they see immediately that there's more about Kaunisto than just hitting 3-pointers and grabbing rebounds.
"Basketball has taught me so many values about being humble, strict and hard working, this is the other part where basketball takes but with that taking, it really grows you a lot.
"Basketball has taken me all over the world, opened my eyes, given me views that I wouldn’t have thought possible by traveling and living in different places. I was kind of in the fast lane in my political career because the fact that basketball has given me all the good things in life and shown me that taking care of society is important.
"Also in politics and overall in life, people really want to be in the public eye and in the newspapers but as a professional athlete, you know that publicity cannot change who you are. It doesn’t matter how many times my face is in a newspaper, it doesn’t change me. I want to help people, not by raising my own agenda or being a big celebrity but by working and helping them.
"That’s a big thing that basketball teaches to all the players. Publicity is not the thing, it’s about the other things that come with it that we have to take care of and never change who you are."
Kaunisto says that while he was playing basketball, it was hard also to study. That changed a couple of years ago thanks to the FIBA Timeout program.
Kaunisto says the FIBA Timeout program opened doors and made a big impact on his life
"It's amazing how FIBA took care of it, took care of us and made it happen," Kaunisto said. "It was something special and really gave me a chance to go for a university degree. I tried it in different universities here in Finland and I could never combine sports with it. So it was a lifesaver for me.
"The program opened the door for me to the university and gave me education on FIBA leadership and management program and different kind of things.
"I really understand how much work it takes to create that kind of system but I believe it would mean a lot to a lot of athletes that are struggling to find the ways to study right now."
“THE BIGGEST THINGS AS ATHLETES WE DO IS WE SET EXAMPLES, WE MEET PEOPLE, IN SOME CASES WE GIVE HOPE TO PEOPLE WITH OUR STORIES AND JUST BY SPENDING TIME WITH THEM. TO ME, THAT’S THE SOCIAL SIDE OF SPORTS, THE PROFESSIONAL SIDE OFF THE COURT. THAT’S THE PART I’VE ALWAYS REALLY ENJOYED AND LOVED IN MY CAREER.”
Kaunisto also says there shouldn't be doom and gloom about Finnish hoops after the Susijengi came up short of reaching this year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.
"You need downhills, too," he said. "It’s been only good things the past 10 years or so. This might be a good moment to regroup with Finnish basketball."
As for his hope of becoming an MP, election day is April 14.
"If I get elected," he said, "that of course means automatically that I’m retiring from basketball. That to me would be a perfect transformation from an athlete to a politician."