With a 2-1 victory over the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps soccer team earlier this month, Pomona-Pitzer coach Bill Swartz hit another milestone in his storied career, joining the exclusive 400-win club after 31 years coaching the Sagehen men.
Swartz said he grew up in Connecticut, where soccer wasn’t very popular. As a boy he played with and against other kids in Connecticut soccer leagues, before heading to Southern Connecticut State. After a successful collegiate career, Swartz said he heard about an open coaching position at Fitch High School, near where he grew up. He was hired and given the tall order of creating a high school soccer team from scratch. Swartz proved up to the task, spening eight years at Fitch as head coach and history teacher.
Looking back on the decision to leave, Swartz said, “as any young person you always think there’s more, at Fitch we had good success, we created a very good program.”
After eight years at the school, Swartz decided to move into college coaching. In 1981 he became the head coach at Thomas College in Maine. After five successful years with his team, Swartz felt the pull of the west coast. So, in 1986, Swartz was interviewed by Pomona-Pitzer and offered a one year contract.
“At first of course you’re never sure, it’s a new environment,” Swartz said of arriving in Claremont, “I found some very good faculty mentors in Bill Webley, Steve Koblick, and Eleanor Brown.”
Swartz has certainly found a way to fit in and excel. Over 31 years, his teams have been remarkably consistent, finishing above .500 on 23 occasions.
One of his favorite memories in Claremont occurred in his fourth year with the team. 1990 was the senior season for Swartz’s first recruiting class, and they were able to win the SCIAC Championship by beating CMS in overtime. Swartz was sure to note that Don Walcott scored the game-winner, an incredible shot that proved the team could be great.
In 2013, Swartz spent a year in England with the Tottenham Hotspur organization.
“You want your research to inform your teaching, and I’ve been fortunate to be around some of the best soccer minds in the world,” he said about the opportunity.
Swartz says that he’s been able to maintain the team’s success by adapting his coaching style to the times: “I think my game is not US-centric, I have of an open view about how the game has evolved and keeps evolving.”
While coaching styles are important, Swartz said he believes none of his success would have come without his players. “I don’t think you do anything without people wanting to be led, if you want to be a leader you need people who want to follow you,” he said.
Swartz is quick to share the credit to his 400 wins. He says he owes most of it to the support of his assistant coaches, as well as the administration, the trainers, and the faculty for being flexible with his players.
In the end, it is the students who Swartz appreciates most. This appreciation is not one sided. Another one of Swartz favorite moments is when a former player of his, Joey Greenwald, organized a string quartet to play at Swartz’s daughter’s wedding.
“To have people around you who can do varied things like that is one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed being here, it’s really an interesting community,” Swartz said.
With such a stellar career, Sagehen soccer fans will be happy to know Bill Swartz doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
“I think I’ll know when it’s time,” he said. “I’m not one to look too far in the future and I don’t look backwards. My goal at the end of this season is to work hard to do better next season.”