The mantra that our children heard growing up was, “our priorities are God, family, basketball.” They spent their childhoods in church, at family gatherings, and, yes, on the basketball court. In addition to the colleges they ended up attending, they were and still are dedicated Gonzaga fans. Over the last 20 years they have watched the ‘Zags’ go from an unknown Cinderella-story team to now being in the Final Four!
Mark Few has been the Zags coach through this journey. With the increase of the team’s success, there naturally came an increased interest in other teams trying to lure Coach Few away to ‘bigger and better’ schools. Coach Few has been consistently clear – the Zags are family. He is not the only person who has expressed this conviction. Players from years past continue to praise both the coach and their teammates as family. And it’s generational. Players of yesteryear are not only still in relationship with the coach, but also with current players. This strong sense of family is, in fact, the secret sauce to the Zags’ success. Players come from literally around the world and transfer from big name schools to be a part of this family.
Coach Few was recently interviewed about the ‘monkey on his back for’ of making it to the Final Four. Without hesitation he responded, “There is no monkey on my back. That is not what this is about for us.”
Even though Coach Few is one of the all-time winningest coaches, that – at the end of the day – is not what it is about for him. Mark Few’s objective is to create a space where young, highly competitive men learn the value of sharing their gifts and passions for the betterment not just of themselves, but for the larger community. As such, the greatest compliment you can give Coach Few is that Gonzaga players are very unselfish in their play. It’s always about the team – the family, not the individual.
Sound familiar? Let’s go back to the mantra: God, family, basketball (and yes, you can just as easily insert hockey here). The healthiest faith communities I know are the ones that have a strong sense of family or community. The healthiest families I know are the ones that have a strong sense of corporate family identity. The healthiest teams I know, sport or otherwise, are the ones that work collaboratively for the greater mission. All of them – community, family, team – are where individual gifts are affirmed and encouraged to further develop, not for the individual but for the greater good of the whole. Sounds like Gospel values to me.