Friday, August 27, 2004

Gender bender: Farrell Swain takes the reins of the Wood River boys? soccer team

Express Staff Writer

Farrell Swain hopes to apply the same deft touch she has on the field to her new job as head coach of the Wood River boys? varsity soccer team

Never mind the all-American good looks and brain to match, what is really impressive about Wood River boys varsity soccer coach Farrell Swain is in 19 years of playing soccer she has never received a red card.

?Never,? she said. ?I got yellow carded once.?

That does not mean she is without passion, she just takes care of business with finesse, not fanfare.

A quiet force on the field, Swain set a record at the University of New Hampshire for starting every single varsity game in her collegiate career.

?It?s just what I did. I was the girl who got it done,? Swain said.

Her soccer resume is rich with achievement. An All-American at Simsbury High School in Connecticut as well as an Olympic Development Player, Swain won a national championship with her Connecticut Premier club team (2000) and as a college freshman at UNH was runner-up in the America League East. She went on to co-captain the UNH soccer team and be named All-Conference in her senior year.

The same focus and determination that made Swain a success on the field is sure to make her a standout on the sidelines as well as the new coach of the Wood River boys? varsity soccer team.

Swain is the first woman to coach boys varsity soccer in the five years soccer has been sanctioned by the Idaho High School Activities Association.

Swain took a break from two-a-day practices on Monday to chat with the Idaho Mountain Express.

JZ: How old were you when you started playing soccer?

FS: Five. But I played everything: gymnastics, swimming. I think my parents just put me in everything.

JZ: When did it click for you that soccer was your game?

FS: Third grade. That is when I started travel soccer. I played in the Simsbury Youth Soccer League and was one of the few good ones at that age.

JZ: Have you always been a forward?

FS: I played outside mid all my life. My senior year in high school is the only time I played forward and I ended up winning all those awards. My coach pushed me up because we needed a goal scorer.

JZ: What is the best play you ever made?

FS: I played on a world-class club soccer team. We were at regionals and to get out of our bracket we needed to beat a team from Maryland by four goals. We were up 4-1 with two minutes left. There was a cross, and I am the worst head ball person on the planet, but I jumped up and headed it into the back of the net. People couldn?t believe I actually scored on a header, and we advanced.

JZ: What was it like growing up the daughter of the child of a pro athlete? (Father Gary Swain played in the National Hockey League with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Hartford Whalers.)

FS: I never felt any pressure to succeed in athletics. My dad always wanted us to find our own niche. My dad always thought I was the best athlete in any sport, so he just said to have fun with it. He has always been so supportive. I couldn?t ask for a better father. He is not your stereotypical pro athlete jackass. He?s one of the most supportive, passionate, patient persons I have ever known.

JZ: What have you learned about sports from your dad?

FS: I guess we have the same philosophy, which is to give it 125 percent. You have to give that much to keep getting better and rise to the occasion. You play hard during the game and after that there are other things in life.

JZ: Have you always been good about training?

FS: I was always the kind of kid that didn?t need to do anything. I was always in shape. I was always the fastest one and the best one on the field. Both my parents are so athletic. It was always easy. In college it would take me about two days to get into shape. It?s not like that anymore, though.

JZ: What made you choose New Hampshire for college? Were you recruited?

FS: Yes, I was recruited for soccer, but I was one of those people that wanted to play soccer, but I didn?t want it to be my life. I wanted to take classes and have a social life, too. I was also looking at UConn who was #5 in the country at the time. But I had always been Farrell, that girl who played soccer. I wanted to have a different identity. None of my roommates (at college) played sports. It was kind of a release. I didn?t have to eat, sleep and breathe soccer. I didn?t have to talk about it when I came home.

JZ: What was your hardest game ever?

FS: I would say probably with the Premier team from Connecticut. We went to nationals for three years. The girls I played against there are the girls that are now on the U.S. team like Abby Wambach and Aly Wagner. We won nationals when I was a sophomore in college.

JZ: So why are Wambach and Wagner on the national team and you are here?

FS: They chose a different route. I wanted to do different things. I wanted to be here and ski and hike and hang out. It?s nice. I can still play soccer here with the women?s team and coed.

JZ: When you were younger you thought you would never coach. How did that change?

FS: I went to college saying I would never coach, but as a junior I had to declare a major and it was sports management. It always seemed to gravitate toward those classes with a coaching kids and psych focus. I moved here two weeks after I graduated college and started coaching the jayvee boys? team.

JZ: Were you nervous?

FS: Yeah. I thought I didn?t know how to coach boys. I was intimidated by the fact they were boys. I had never done it before. I had always played on girls? team with girls. You know?

JZ: How long did it take you to believe you could do it?

FS: On the first day (Brian) Daluiso introduced me to the team. He said, ?She played in college and I played coed against her this summer. She kicked my butt and she can kick yours?. It set the tone. I know what I am talking about and it is so much easier when you do. I know soccer and I am pretty confident in being able to share that with people.

JZ: Because you are a woman do you think people will be more likely or less likely to put up with a losing record? Will you be judged more harshly?

FS: I don?t think my sex will have any bearing if they will keep me around if we have a losing record. Wood River needs a winning record. If that doesn?t happen maybe I am not the person for the job. The added pressure for me is not my sex, but my age and experience. I don?t know if it is self-imposed. I try not to think about it. But I love to be out there and have this experience.

JZ: Before you got there the jayvee team had not won a game in awhile. How did you turn it around?

FS: I think maybe they needed someone different. A new person shakes things up. Me stepping in there gave them new drills, new things to share and a different focus.

JZ: Now you are stepping into a head-coaching job with a proven team with a winning tradition. Is your approach different?

FS: I think so. I have to be much more serious about it. Before I could wing a practice. I could think about it driving down to Hailey. Now I draw them up the night before. There are things we need to improve and I want to get it done. I am definitely going into it with more of a sense of purpose.

JZ: Do you think you are a hard coach?

FS: At times. I think I demand a lot because I expect a lot.

JZ: What are your goals for this season?

FS: The #1 goal is to win state. More short term, taking it game by game, winning league games, districts.

JZ: As a female coach of boys? varsity sport do you feel like a pioneer of sorts?

FS: I think so. The Wood River Valley is pretty advanced in terms of the rest of the state, so we have to be the pioneer. We have to set the example. But if you have the right rapport and confidence anyone can do it regardless of sex.

JZ: Do you feel lucky?

FS: I do. I feel very, very fortunate. I think it is more of an awareness of who I am and where I am in my life. Coaching soccer has given me confidence in a lot of other aspects in my life. I am lucky I get to coach in such an awesome place. Somewhere where I want to be and doing what I want to do.

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