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To Serve or Not to Serve

As much as the title may lead you to believe this is a post about serving in volleyball, it has nothing to do with serving a volleyball 😉 It has to do more with our players learning to serve each other, to be a leader through serving, and not feeling so “entitled”.  Entitlement seems to be a buzzword around sports and coaching these days, but honestly, I don’t think the entitlement conversation is much different than what our grandparents said about their children’s generation. Younger generations appear to have some type of entitlement to older generations, things that were considered a luxury to a past generation. In this generation, true entitlement is for few, the so called 1%; whereas older generations may have considered the middle class entitled.  The fewer entitled of today are more noticeable with the onslaught of media constantly peering in on them. So it appears that everyone is living this “glamorous” lifestyle. This misconception creates more jealousy (a dangerous characteristic) and more people believe they want to lead, what appears to be a “better” lifestyle. Unfortunately, this twisted cultural phenomena breeds people (college age kids included) that stretch their budget on a few frivolous things to appear they are living this “cool” lifestyle. The result is the lack of discipline in finances as well as personal character. We continue to stretch ourselves thin in order to impress.

At the YMCA I belong, there is a Bible passage painted in large letters on the wall, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” ~ Mark 10:45

I was sitting in the hotel lobby on our last trip. Lipscomb Men’s Basketball Team was playing a late game at Gardner-Webb University that night and stayed at the same hotel as us. They requested a late checkout time of 4:00, so the hotel did not have enough clean rooms for all our team, so I sat in the lobby for 4 hours. The joys of travel. I did catch the Beastie Boys, Brass Monkey, playing over the hotel speakers, which certainly brought back some high school memories. When did Brass Monkey become a hotel lobby song? Anyway. I watched people enter and leave the hotel, and watched the hotel staff serve all those people. The front desk clerk, the general manager (who gave me a few extra Hilton Hhonors points), the housekeepers, a service technician, etc. All were pleasant and super accommodating. I got free wi-fi, asked if I needed anything more, and one housekeeper, after vacuuming, whooped up a great batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies (my favorite). She brought me over two where I was seated. She then brought me over 2 more…I couldn’t resist (just don’t tell my team!). 4:00 came. The basketball team checked out, a number of travelers came in (typical check-in time), and chaos ensued. The housekeepers went 100 miles an hour to clean rooms.

Through the time, while I sat on my rear, I realized how many people served me that day. I thought about all the people that directly served me. From a clerk at a convenient store, our bus driver, our athletic trainer with our bottles of water, the restaurant hostess, waitstaff, cooks, the housekeepers, hotel clerks, etc. Indirectly, there were numerous people throughout the world that also serviced me that day from the farmers of my meals, the sweatshop workers of my iPad and iPhone, the automobile industry, the government of roads and servicemen, the administration at my school, etc.

I then thought about who I had served that day. I felt a bit guilty and insignificant. Granted my job is to serve the players and coaches of our team, it’s a little piece of a great puzzle. Heck, we’re just going to play volleyball 😉

Following this thought pattern, it brought me to our players. How much have they served throughout the day, as well as throughout their days in college. A collegiate athlete has to take action, but a lot is handled or assisted for them. Their class schedule, books, practice schedule, athletic training, equipment, gym, food, etc. At what point of the day do they serve? Their world consists of professors, coaches, administration, and staff serving them to help them grow intellectually and physically. It is an environment that colleges have created for our student-athletes that we then turn-around and call them entitled. Granted in return, sports provide a marketing arm to a university of which the athletes take part in through their play and community events. Often, many players are courteous, grateful, and take advantage of the opportunities presented to them, but is this the best environment to develop them for the next chapter in their lives? At what point do we need to break this environment, present challenges and obstacles for our players to take their own initiative, and serve others?

I sometimes argue that the international success of our USA Men’s Volleyball teams is a product of less entitlement. Playing on Arizona State’s Club Volleyball Team, the players were responsible for much more on our own. We had to fund raise, had to coordinate travel, had to schedule practice times, etc. We were fortunate to have a great leader in Jeff Nelson (now at the University of New Mexico), as he provided a lot of guidance, but we still had much work to do. Does the club mentality, filter up through the less popular collegiate men’s programs and then to the international teams. Does the struggle from what the men don’t have a contribution to the environment for success? Or am I sounding like an older generation person looking at what this generations opportunities?

Taking this one step further, I have often heard from international friends, that American athletes are entitled and spoiled. This was an underlying theme amongst these friends during the Olympics. I have coached numerous international players on my collegiate teams, and overall they seem to appreciate opportunities in the United States that we often overlook and take for granted.

So how do we break the entitlement cycle? I believe it goes back to serving others. The captains of our teams, need to learn to be better servants for their teammates. Our teammates need to reciprocate and be servants to our captains, each other, and the coaching staff. To be of service to their professors. To be of service to the people serving their food or to those janitors cleaning our halls. A simple question of what can I do to help you?

When I entered my hotel room after waiting many hours in the hotel lobby, the housekeeper left me a nice note, say that she appreciated my patience and thank you for staying. She served me and the least I could do was reciprocate and keep my room orderly and make for an easier clean-up for when I departed. I also left her a thank you note.

Yesterday, an older lady was about to pump gas at a local gas station. I was in the stall next to her and asked if I could pump her gas for her. She was so grateful. She told me her arthritis was really bad that day and it hurt to squeeze the pump. I never would have known if I didn’t reflect on my four hours sitting in a hotel lobby.


  1. WOW!!! Great post. Some people might think that your post has nothing to do with volleyball, but I believe that whoever you are in your community will have an effect in your team. If we understand that helping others will really beneficiate us in the long run more greater things will happend.
    Thank you!

  2. Thank you for the kind words!

  3. The world will be a better place if we have more people like you!

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