Many children dream of their future. Many, depending upon how quickly they grow a worldly sense, dream of becoming a professional athlete so good, they sink the winning shot in the big game. Then, there are most of us, who just submerge ourselves in the sport at hand, to live through our involvement. We notice the world around us, but our daily sports fix, on and off the field, makes us whole and lets us keep on ticking.
Today’s tale is about a young man who grew up in this area and has basically kept on ticking in the sports world ever since.
Mark Swasey grew up in Charlestown and was hooked on the Red Sox since the age of seven, when some bizarre things happened and he hasn’t been the same since.
One unusually warm fall night he was sound asleep, when out in the living room there arose such a clatter, that he sprang from his bed to see what was the matter. He witnessed his dad jumping up and down. He was told to go back to bed and he did what he was told, only to be woken again, a little while later, by the towns church bells ringing and he says now, “after all that, I was pretty much done for.” Carlton Fisk had obviously hit his historic blast in game six of the 1975 World Series that evening. The shot heard round the baseball universe, played a small integral part in Swasey searching for and finding a sporting life to live. His dad’s reaction and the bell-ringing escapade of one Dave Conant, grabbed this young man’s attention firmly.
This Fall Mountain graduate never had any genuine plan, but his life experiences paved his way for a variety of athletic endeavors, which have shaped his path and brought happiness and success to his life. He took step by step in his journey with a little nudge from a mentor here or a mentor there.
He has plenty of people to thank and influences to recall, which helped stir him in the sporting direction. Swasey played basketball and baseball as a Wildcat. He tells us he thinks, “there is a difference in commitment to sports between when I went to Fall Mountain and what happens today. Back then we wouldn’t dream of missing a practice or a game. Today, for a multitude of reasons, it is commonplace, making it that much tougher on our coaches to try and build competitive teams.”
The former Wildcat should know about those types of things, because in 2017, he is a high school athletic director at ConVal High School in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Although he mentioned only the Red Sox in our interview, Swasey was clearly a basketball guy first. He played hoops for Kevin Haverty, one of the best hoop coaches and leaders this area ever saw and Swasey says, “I valued his presence in my life.”
In fact, Swasey handed out credit to a cast of hundreds in singing praises for a blessed athletic life, but it was three basketball influences, Brian Pickering, who was a Wildcat prior to Swasey, Keith Boucher, Keene State’s Womens Basketball Coach and Haverty, who appeared to pile up the most numbers of praise. Pickering kind of became a natural for Swasey to follow after he watched Pickering’s playing days as a Wildcat and then stayed in the local spotlight athletically following graduation.
“I wish I could say I had a plan,” Swasey looks back, “but it all just kind of happened.” That is actually true, he knew basketball was a strong influence in his life and although he may not have known the exact direction, he always put himself in position to take the next step up the rung of the ladder.
Swasey may have been “pretty much done for,” following Fisk’s homer, but that really was just the beginning. His parents split up in his youthful days and that was not what Swasey wanted to focus on as a teenager, despite his love for the two people who brought him into the world.
He lived with his mom and the time he spent with his dad “was the driving force behind my focus on athletics. All I thought about was playing. I loved sports. I loved our rivalries back in the CVL days. High School sports had such an important place in the communities. Sports kept me in the classroom and out of trouble and still does this today for many kids. This is where I learned the importance of teamwork. Success is a mindset and I was lucky to be a part of some very successful teams at Fall Mountain.”
Swasey’s athletic days continued after high school. He went on to Lyndon State and played basketball under another important influence in his life, Tim Kelley, who gave him sage advice at several turns in the road. The most important recommendation Kelley gave the youngster was to hook on with coaching camps to excel his way up the ladder of the game. The first main connection was with Dartmouth’s Paul Cormier and Dave Faucher and it was at that camp where Swasey met Boucher, who has made several calls to the former Wildcat along the way, to help point him to his next professional change.
“Things were moving fast for me at the time, but I knew I wanted to be in education and I wanted to be in the game. I started to work camps all summer long,” Swasey reflects and boy did his time prove to be well spent.
Boucher was front and center for Swasey’s first coaching gig. He served as a Boucher assistant from 1992-1995, while gaining his Masters Degree as a Graduate Assistant. Boucher was the son-in-law of legendary Lebanon Head Coach Lang Metcalf and helped mold Swasey both on and off the coaching seat.
While visiting his brother Mike (another Fall Mountain athletic graduate 1990, who was a student at the University of Iowa majoring in communication and has now established himself in the restaurant and catering business, having owned restaurants in Costa Rica and Alaska and was once a radio show host in the Boston market) that Swasey found and nabbed his next opportunities in the state of South Dakota. Over the next four years, he would spend three years as a high school Head Coach, as well as a Director of Guidance and then a season as an Assistant Mens’ Basketball Coach at Black Hills University, a team which finished ranked second in the country in the NAIA Division II ranks. Certainly, this was a big step and it came thousands of miles from home. Swasey added more than coaching experience to his existence in South Dakota. He met the love of his life and she has enjoyed all the remaining steps along the way of his journey beside him as Mrs. Swasey.
Boucher was one of the influences, who helped stir Swasey back east at this time in his journey, where he spent three seasons as the Head Womens Basketball Coach at Norwich University and brought the Lady Cadets to winning heights they had never seen before. Over a that time, the team won 56 games while losing 26 and they were 7-3 during that span in post season contests. During Swasey’s stint, he also designed the Norwich Academic Monitoring Program and served as a liaison between the schools faculty and coaches.
In the fall of 2002, Swasey moved on to become the Head Coach at Division II Franklin Pierce University, in Rindge, New Hampshire. During his tenure at the school, he built the Ravens into a national power, culminating in his final two seasons of 2008 and 2009, when the team was ranked number six in the country the first of those two years and then advance to the National Division II title game his next and final campaign there, before bowing. The Franklin Pierce team is the only collegiate Womens Basketball team at any level to play in a national title game.
It was in the Final Four, where Swasey and his team proved how adaptable and competitive they could be, where they eliminated Delta State 51-39 in the National Semi-Finals before proving they could play an up tempo game as well, taking Minnesota-Mankato to the final minute before bowing in the title game 103-94.
By that time, Swasey had become a national buzzword in the NCAA Womens Basketball ranks. Gino didn’t come running, backing up his truck, but many others did and Swasey ended up moving on for his final two coaching seasons at California University of Pennsylvania. The final steps in his 18 year coaching resume found Swasey being the leader of a program which compiled a 50-19 record and earned back to back advancements to the second round of the NCAA Regional Tournament. By then, it was time to step away and serve his sporting life in a way that allowed him to at least sniff the roses, if he still didn’t have time to smell them.
Boucher was there again, to make Swasey aware there was an High School Athletic Directors position available back near the Promised Land and that the person leading the school was none other than Swasey’s one time influence, Pickering. The fit was a natural and Swasey made the shift east.
Thus, Swasey is currently in his fifth year as the AD at ConVal, where he presides over a large and varied sports program. He continues to be focused on his sporting tasks ahead, just like he has done since his days as a student/athlete at Fall Mountain Regional High School and maybe a few years before.
Swasey told us, I have always loved organizing sporting events, I remember organizing wiffle ball tournaments in our neighborhood and other things like that. Those were just passions of mine and it’s why 14 hour days in this job are just fine, not one of those hours seem like work things. It’s something I truly love to do and have my whole life.”
Mark Swasey has lived a charmed life and has enjoyed the fruits of his labor. Here’s wondering, which area school, has the next Mark Swasey presently in their ranks? There has to be at least one. Best of luck to him or her.