By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Walter Garfield, a point guard for the Alabama Elite Warriors, had always considered fried chicken finger food. That changed when he and his teammates received some tips on table manners during the recent season-ending banquet for the Amateur Athletic Union basketball squad at the Bessemer Civic Center.
Elite Warriors Director Elmore Bend and his wife Lakenya chose to go beyond looking back at a successful season — highlighted by its second straight state AAU championship and bid to the national tournament — with a look forward to prepare the players for the future.
Bend said he wanted to give team members something that he had not received when he came out of Hueytown High School in 1986. His playing career was cut short by a knee injury.
Bend recalled having a job interview at a 5-star restaurant and hotel.
“I got the job but eating a meal there was difficult for me to handle, using the (proper) utensils,” he recalled. “I wanted to give the kids something extra to benefit them in life.”
Bridget Warren of Bri’Gete’s Good Manners and Etiquette taught the team of 16-year-old 10th-graders what they needed to know if they attend a formal dinner. She explained the elements of a formal dining setting and gave the teens some do’s and don’ts of proper table manners.
Players chuckled as Warren told them to not be greedy at buffets or request doggy bags from formal dinners.
Cutting fried chicken with a fork and a knife was the most peculiar tip he heard, Garfield said.
“I basically just eat that with my hands,” he said, adding that he had not previously seen multiple forks at a single place setting.
Nathan Orebeaux knew that salt and pepper are often associated with one another. The Pratt City resident and Ramsay High student didn’t realize that he needed to pass both when either is requested at a dining table.
“And you have to wait for everyone to sit down and get their food before you start eating,” he said. “I heard that before but you don’t usually do that.”
Warren, who formerly lived McCalla, came to the event from Millbrook, Al. She has been teaching etiquette to young men, women and older adults the past 10 years. She admitted that manners have become a dying art for some.
“There are a number of us that are trying to bring etiquette back to the forefront,” she said. “It is so necessary in our society today.”
Alabama Elite Warriors was the first basketball team Warren taught etiquette. She gave them high marks for being attentive and engaging.
“They asked a lot of questions,” she said. “I was really pleased with their receptiveness.”
Team members seemed to appreciate the experience.
“She gave us some good tips,” said Darius Andrews, a Hueytown resident and Brighton High student. “I know it will help me later on in life.”
Orebeaux echoed that sentiment.
“If I get in a formal setting with other professionals that know things like these, they’ll expect me to do the same,” he said.