I had the privilege to speak to the Florida Atlantic basketball team a couple of years ago. They were gracious and attentive, and I enjoyed sharing with them on building teams and culture, simply trying to reinforce what they were already hearing from their coaches. (And I’m always up for a trip to Boca Raton!)

Nathan Whitaker, motivational speaker, and Dusty May, head coach of the Florida Atlantic basketball team
Nathan Whitaker and Dusty May

Whether speaking to an educational conference in Thailand, learning about sod farming in Kansas or encouraging highway patrol officers at the Iowa Speedway, being a motivational speaker and corporate leadership trainer has led to some interesting experiences and this was no different. 

Speaking with young people is always a joy, and every time I do I learn something from them.

Here are two things I’ve seen from watching the Owls for the last several seasons:

The importance of Alignment

Good teams are headed in the same direction, toward the same goal (or purpose, or mission).  Their head coach, Dusty May, used this exact phrase in the video below just moments after their Elite Eight win over Kansas State, “When you see a group…pulling in the same direction, every single day, even when it’s hard, special things happen.”

(And note that Dusty insisted the whole team be present on camera for the interview as they celebrated their most recent accomplishment!)

Dusty May on Alignment following the Owls’ Elite Eight win over Kansas State

The importance of being Selfless

They are a team devoid of star players that stand out. Don’t get me wrong, they have a bunch of stars. But that’s just it: they all share the spotlight. In four tournament wins (so far), they’ve had three different players lead the team in scoring. Three different players have led the team in rebounding. And three different players have led the team in assists. 

Different players step up on different nights based on the flow of the game, the opponent’s defense, and other factors. And everyone is okay with that.

During my talk to them I asked “How many of them would like to win a championship?” (I’ve got to admit, I was thinking a conference championship—which they did—not national championship…I was thinking too small!) 

They raised their hands. 

Nathan Whitaker, motivational speaker, speaking to the Florida Atlantic Owls basketball team in their locker room in Boca Raton, Florida
Nathan Whitaker speaking to the Florida Atlantic Basketball Team

“Okay, how many of you are okay with winning a championship even if you personally don’t get credit?”

They still raised their hands, and they are living that out.

As Dusty said in a recent interview, “In this era where everyone wants the whole pie, these guys continued sharing the pie every single day, and this was the result.”

Sharing the pie. Being selfless. Pulling the same direction.

The Florida Atlantic Owls are a testament to the power of Team – and they aren’t done yet!

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