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ConVal names  ex- FPU coach  as its new AD

Mark Swasey to fill role held by Jon Hall

After a month-long search, the ConVal School Board has selected a new athletic director. The 10-person committee of student-athletes, parents, coaches, trainers and administrators tasked with finding the new AD presented its choice to the board Tuesday night; the board voted unanimously to approve hiring Mark Swasey for the position.

“Mr. Swasey brings a clear vision to our athletic program and a history of success in a wide variety of athletic experiences,” ConVal principal Brian Pickering wrote in a press release. “His positive reputation as a coach in our area, having brought the Franklin Pierce women’s program to a national championship, is well documented and his connections and ability to teach, support and recruit great coaches is a quality we know he will bring to ConVal High School. The committee felt that even more important than his experiences, were the skills that he possesses to build strong relationships, be well prepared, be competitive and maintain our priorities of strong character and sportsmanship made for a great fit for ConVal.”

Swasey is a Charlestown native; as a junior at Fall Mountain High School in 1986, he was on the varsity basketball team that would go on to lose to ConVal in the championship game, so his appreciation for ConVal athletics runs deep.

“I’m excited to be part of the tradition,” Swasey said.

Swasey started his college basketball coaching career at Keene State College and rose to prominence as coach of the FPU women’s 2009 championship team; after living in the area for years, he has strong ties to the Monadnock region.

“The opportunity to live and work in the community that both my wife and I love is very exciting to us,” Swasey said. “We love that area. It was always hard to leave when we did, but I had an opportunity to move up in the coaching world and we took it.”

Swasey’s career NCAA head coaching record is 250-130, including his stints at Norwich University, California University of Pennsylvania and Franklin Pierce, where he was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association East Region Coach of the Year in 2009. Recently, Swasey has been living in South Dakota and working with Symphony Education, where his roles included helping universities stabilize themselves financially and helping place international student-athletes in U.S colleges. Between that and his college coaching career, Swasey brings a unique skill set to ConVal, with a mind toward the future of the Cougar student athletes.

“What Mark will be able to do is really support our student-athletes here with the potential to support them after high school,” Pickering said. “He has a deeper understanding of the process of what does it take to make yourself marketable to a college.”

Swasey said that he offered over $1.5 million in scholarships throughout his college coaching career, which helped him gain an understanding of the key steps in that process, academically as well as athletically.

“What I looked for as a college coach,” Swasey said, “was attitude, work ethic and academically – are they getting it done in the classroom? Because otherwise they’re not going to be playing at all. As a coach and being involved in education on all levels – high school all the way through college – my central focus has been academics first and will always be academically centered.

The athletic director position has been vacant since Jon Hall’s sudden resignation on Sept. 30 under circumstances that remain unclear, but Pickering said that the events of the past had no bearing on the new hire.

“Our mission every time there is a vacancy is to get the very best candidate for ConVal,” Pickering said. “It wasn’t about who they were replacing, it was about what are we looking for in an athletic director, and we’re really confident that Mark is that right person.”

Swasey, likewise, said he isn’t giving much thought to the events that preceded his hiring and instead is looking toward the future of ConVal athletics.

“I’m coming into this position with a tremendous amount of optimism,” Swasey said. “What helped me be successful in the coaching world has been staying positive. I’m not going to differ from who I am. As a guidance counselor that coached both boys and girls basketball, I should fit right in as far as what ConVal and the community is looking for.”

Swasey will be working remotely from South Dakota for the next two weeks before making the cross-country drive with his wife, Jen, and his two daughters, Addison, 13, and Avery, 11.

“My first order of business is just to listen and to meet the community – the parents, the students, the boosters – and meet the coaches,” Swasey said. “I’m very excited to have the opportunity to sit down and meet all the coaches. I’ll be jumping in with both feet.”

A welcome reception for Swasey is planned for Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the ConVal gymnasium.

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