It was a summer practice in June when I walked through the doors of the FAU arena to observe their basketball practice. I immediately noticed the coaching staff’s shirts. Not so much the front which read FAU Basketball but the words written on the back is what really caught my eye. I was intrigued or do I even use the word inspired as I read the words “Serve & Compete”.

The word “Serve” is very special to me. It was my 2019 one word. This was actually the first year that I incorporated Jon Gordon’s “one word” concept. As a former high school coach and athletic director, I started really learning that year what leading was all about. It was actually all about serving.

Serving is about others. Serving is about relationships. Serving is about humility. Serving is being unselfish. Serving is putting the needs of others before yourself. Serving is not a natural process. We tend to focus on me, my needs, my wants. Pat Riley describes the disease of me being real. I watched this ugly disease kill many teams, many good teams, many talented teams. I’ve seen it ruin relationships, marriages, families, businesses, and churches.

Several ingredients make a great team.  Talent, effort, connectedness amongst many other qualities.  Serving initially may not be considered part of that list. However, the truly greats are the ones who serve.   Everyone strives to be great. Players want to be great. Coaches want to be great. Teams want to be great. In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be great. John Maxwell reminds us though, “You don’t have to be great to serve, but you have to serve to be great.”

Culture is the “hot topic” today especially among businesses and teams. Culture is actually the Latin word for care. Strategies and systems are important but culture trumps them both.  FAU’s head coach, Dusty May has created a culture of “SERVING”. He leads by example. He serves and empowers his staff and his players. He mentions numerous times that his guys are “givers” not “takers”. That’s what makes this team special, this season special. Coaches serving coaches, coaches serving players, players serving players, and players serving coaches. Putting the needs of the team over and above the needs of the individual. We over me!

Leaders will post signs, hang posters or banners, and share quotes in the hallways, throughout the offices, and in the locker rooms stressing their beliefs and culture. Possibly even have t-shirts made with motivational and inspirational phrases and quotes on the back. Coaches and leaders will try different ways to emphasize their culture. The way they want to share their beliefs, pillars, vision, and values. However, what makes a culture so unique and special is not only when the head coach defines it, but when the assistant coaches defend it, and then the players display it.

This is what FAU Basketball does: “Serve & Compete”. It’s their Culture, their belief. It’s who they are. It’s FAU Basketball. Way more than just a quote on a t-shirt, way more. It is what embodies the FAU Men’s Basketball program. It’s not just the core and foundation of what they do but more importantly who they are. It’s what the coaches believe, model, and live.  It’s what the players bought into. It’s what they’ve been all about since June. No actually, who they have been all about since June; and quite honestly, I’m confident even way before June.

As I sat in the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas watching the coaches and players celebrate with their families and friends, hug their loved ones, and cut down the net; I said well done FAU, well done Dusty May.  Way to serve and compete.

Now the world gets a chance to see what I saw in that June summer practice: serving and competing. What a season, what a ride, what a journey.

FAU is currently 31-3 and was just awarded the Conference USA championship trophy earning the right to play in the National Championship bracket as the #9 seed. Their matchup will be against a talented Memphis Tigers team this Thursday. Continue to “Serve & Compete” FAU Owls, “Serve & Compete”!

FAU Basketball