BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Despite the vast numbers of activities, sports, events he will be charged with, building character and integrity in local students is one of Jeremy Swink’s top priorities.
Swink will take over as the Fort Madison Community School District’s new activities director on July 2nd, replacing Andy Mitchell who’s leaving the district after five years in the post to take an assistant principal/athletic director position with the Atlantic, Iowa school district.
Swink comes from three years as a teacher, coach and activities director in the Burlington Notre Dame school system and said he’s excited to focus his efforts on managing the activities, as opposed to the smaller school responsibilities of managing the activities, teaching and coaching all at the same time.
“It’s comparable,” Swink said of the two schools. ” I think the hours will be very similar to what I’m used to at Notre Dame, but at a small school one person does a lot of different things, concession manager, coaching, and managing… those types of events. This will be a different type of busy, but the hours and duties will be the same to what I’m used to now.”
The rich traditions of not only the athletic programs but other extracurricular activities is something that he’s looking forward to in the transition as well. Notre Dame has rich traditions at their school, and Swink said he knows of similar traditions and successes at Fort Madison.
“Notre Dame has a handful of athletic programs that have rich programs,” he said. “Fort Madison has the same thing with some pretty rich and great tradition – similarities that will be real easy to adapt to. One big difference would be that we have about 14 activities that Notre Dame shares with West Burlington back and forth. I don’t think there’s as much sharing going on down there. But I’ll also be managing and leading a few more sports teams there than I do here so I’m looking forward to that.”
Swing said he is aware of the shared programs with Holy Trinity and Central Lee, but isn’t fully up to speed on the all the sharing at FMCSD.
“That’s something I don’t know a whole lot about. My philosophy on shared programs there is that Fort Madison is a decent-sized 3A school and if we share with another school it’s not going to hurt us,” he said. “If anything it helps us and our programs. There are many positives in sharing. At Notre Dame, if we didn’t share, we wouldn’t have success in some activities and in some cases we may not even have had a team.”
He said sharing can also help with numbers and that’s important with a lot of rural areas having trouble getting students to participate.
“I think a lot of sport teams throughout Iowa are struggling with participation numbers. Some are good, and some we definitely could get some more numbers out there. One of my main objectives and my philosophy as part of the program at the school is doing some recruiting with the students. Once we build that, They’re a lot more likely to get involved in the programs,” he said.
With conversations wrapping up with Burlington possibly joining the conference in 2020 and Ottumwa thinking of joining the conference, Swink said that would also be advantageous to district students. He said he hasn’t been party to any of those conversations so his opinion is that of an outsider.
“What I’ve ben told is that Burlington is for sure coming in 2020. Ottumwa is on the fence, but I haven’t been part of those conversations,” he said. “But having those teams come on will be excellent. Having the low numbers in the conference makes it tough to schedule, but being able to bring on a Burlington and Ottumwa would help getting more conference games and help join those communities together. Sure it will help gate and concessions with Burlington being just 20 miles away vs an Iowa City or Cedar Rapids, but it will result in good competition for the district.”
Swink has been in southeast Iowa his entire life, graduating from Burlington High School where played in five sports including golf, wrestling, tennis, baseball and basketball. After graduation he attended Ellsworth Community College and William Penn where he played on both schools’ golf teams. He majored in physical education, coaching and health and will graduate this summer with a master’s degree in education administration from Viterbo University which will give him a PreK-12 principal licensure.
In college he also got into officiating wrestling and basketball at all levels, but has some brief coaching stints in basketball, baseball, wrestling and golf. He’s also taught in the junior high and high school.
With some gaps in the Fort Madison coaching circles, Swink said no matter who coaches the teams, he wants to focus on participation and recruiting, to not only help the kids in sports, but also in life.
“We want those kids to be in sports and learn, have fun and win some games. But we also want to focus on quality character in our kids. I’m a fan of teaching them more than just basketball…or baseball where can we make them successful in sports – but also in life.”