Who is Swen Nater? My guess is you’ve never heard of him but he serves as model of a key attribute of an ideal team player.
The key attribute is making those around you better.
Swen Nater was a backup center on the UCLA basketball team. He really wanted to play basketball at UCLA but started out at a small college, Cypress Junior College. He was a junior college all-american at Cypress and actually played the UCLA freshman team where Coach Wooden saw Swen play. Swen wanted to play basketball at UCLA but Coach Wooden wasn’t sure he was a good fit. Coach Wooden finally agreed to give Swen a scholarship but made it very clear to that he would never play in any games and had a clear job description.
Day after day, his job was to make Bill Walton better and push him to become one of the greatest college basketball players to ever play. He was committed to making those around him better and made a decision to daily to focus on himself vs. personal gain. He could have started at other schools but chose to play this role at UCLA.
That’s such an important lesson to learn about functioning on a healthy team. The ideal team player is someone who makes those around them better. They sacrifice self for the betterment of the overall team goal and are willing to do what it takes to accomplish the higher level “WIN”.
Swen actually went on to have a 12 year professional basketball career. He was the only player ever to never start a college basketball game but be drafted in the first round of the professional basketball draft. He was the ABA rookie of the year and went on to set several records during his career. Bill Walton says Swen Nater is the best center he ever played against. Think about that!
Are you making those around you better?
Are you willing to put self aside and focus on the bigger picture the team is running after?
Are you serving, challenging, being vulnerable, bringing your ideas, trusting others, being excellent in everything you do, living out your values, loving your teammates, etc. in effort to make those around you better?
Are you “Swen Nater” to a “Bill Walton” on your current team?
Great teams and great performers have this attribute. They are willing to put self aside to focus on the bigger mission. As the African Proverb says, “If you want to go faster, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”
Together is better.