Tuesday Conversation with Jim Swaney, (retired) Marion County head coach

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

Time for our first Tuesday Q&A of the season. This week’s victim is retired Marion County head coach Jim Swaney, who hung up his head set at the end of last season after a 31-year career.

And remember, send me names of any players or coaches you would like to see featured in this space to s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com. Thanks to those of you who have submitted names already. We’re working on it!

Jim Swaney, (retired) Marion County head coach

How good of a coach is Jim Swaney?

Even though he is retired, last week he received a call from a highly-successful, highly-respected head coach who has won multiple state titles and is still on the sidelines. That coach was calling him for some advice on how to attack their upcoming opponent. Swaney was happy to oblige.

It is that skill set, his ability to engage people, along with being able to “X and O” with the best of them, that guided Swaney to great 25 years of success as an assistant at programs like Taylor County, Macon County, Robert E. Lee, Westside-Macon and Upson-Lee. He spent the final six years of his career as a head coach at Marion County, amassing a record of 65-10. He brought a state championship trophy to Buena Vista in 2013.

These days, Swaney has gone from coaching upwards of 70 players to coaching one – his daughter, a promising ninth-grade tennis player at Taylor County. And while he’s happy and content spending a lot more time with his wife and daughter …

“Well, you never know,” Swaney said about making a return to the sidelines. “I don’t think I’d want to be a head coach again. But maybe somebody’s defensive coordinator. I enjoyed being an assistant. You never know.”

Here are more thoughts from Swaney:

When did you first think about retiring?

“The great thing about teaching is not only working with the young people, but also the fact that after 30 years, you can retire and go do something else if you like. We won the state championship (2013) and we had a pretty good team coming back. I told my principal if we won it again that would probably be it for me. But we lost to Hawkinsville in the semifinals and of course they went on and won the championship. A lot of my players asked me to come back one more year to make a run at it, and so I did. We just came up a little bit short last year (lost to Commerce in the quarterfinals). I decided that that was enough for me.”

Any regrets?

“I certainly had some losses that hurt, and still hurt. Some games I wish we could have won that we didn’t, but I wouldn’t say I have any regrets. I would say that I wish I could have done more for my kids. There were some that I know could have played (college football), but it was so hard trying to get recruiters to look at them and take them. We had our share and I’m proud of that, but there were others that I wish I could have done more for them. It’s just so frustrating when you know a kid has the heart and the talent, but the college coaches think they’re too small and won’t give them an opportunity.”

Proudest moment?

“I had a great career, a very rewarding career. So many great times, great memories, great people I worked with and learned from like (former Warner Robins and Westside-Macon head coach) Robert Davis and (former Robert E. Lee and Upson-Lee head coach) Tommy Perdue. I lost my dad a little while ago, but it was great having him down there on the [Georgia] Dome floor with us when we won it. That was special.”

Advice for a young coach?

“Learn how to work with people and be humble and be a good assistant coach first. You might know all the X’s and O’s, but if you can’t relate to people, you won’t be successful. Learn how to be a hard-working, faithful and loyal assistant coach first. That will take you farther in your career in the end.”

What would you change about Georgia high school football?

“I’ll tell you what. I saw all those games [last] weekend, all those teams from other states. Georgia high school football is as good as any there is in the country – our players, our coaches. We don’t take a back seat to anybody. But the one thing I would change is I think we start too early. It’s just too hot and it can be real dangerous for our kids because they aren’t as acclimated to the weather as we used to be. I think we should move the first day of school to after Labor Day, and move our football calendar back too.”

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