“Reflecting and looking back on the life I have now, a lot of it is due to what I had for my four years at Bluefield University,” alumnus Michael Swan said.
Swan, a native of Newcastle, England, said that coming to the United States and playing college soccer at Bluefield University was “a dream come true.” Since completing a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education at Bluefield University in 2000, he has coached several American college soccer teams. Since December 2019, he has served as the Head Women’s Soccer Coach at Marshall University in Huntington, WV.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work behind the scenes, a lot of character building, a lot of adversity, but now the program has come out of the pandemic like the rest of the world, where we’re starting to see the results of the hard work that we’ve put in the last 24-months,” he shared. “We’re seeing a lot more excitement from the student-athletes. We’re seeing a lot more optimism with results and performances. We’re seeing young people reach their goals in what they want to do after college.”
In addition to Marshall University, Swan has served as a head soccer coach at Virginia Intermont College, King University, and Catawba College and an assistant coach at Flagler College and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte. He was named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Conference and Region XII Coach of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
Swan’s teams have won the Conference USA championship, qualified for the NAIA National Tournament, and claimed several Appalachian Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships. His team members have been named All-American athletes, Freshmen of the Year, and all-conference players, and some have become professional soccer players.
“Throughout my career, I’ve had the honor of going to four national tournaments with four different schools, and each one of them has been a special moment because you see the student-athletes excelling on the field and also in the classroom and onto their great lives after college. Those two awards are great, as well as the conference championships and the final appearances and the national tournament appearance, but what goes down best is the memories and the times that you spent with some great student-athletes,” Swan said.
As a coach, Swan likes to arrange for his teams to compete overseas, allowing the student-athletes to experience the world firsthand. His teams from Catawba College and UNC Charlotte played in England and Ireland, and one player went on to play professionally in England and France.
“Getting them out into the world is going to be key. It creates excitement. It creates a goal or a dream that they’re looking to do. It’s how I became what I am by stretching myself and coming to the United States and creating a life for myself,” Swan explained. “We (coaches) want to give back to them and take them to the experiences that we’ve had as student-athletes.”
Displaying the principles of servant leadership he developed at Bluefield University, Swan keeps his team members engaged in the community. He is preparing to launch a mentor program for youth in the Huntington area.
“We’ll take four student-athletes from freshmen all the way up to seniors, and they’re going to mentor some elementary school kids and hopefully see them through their elementary schools for four years and cycle them out into the middle school as confident young people,” Swan said.
As an athlete, Swan’s list of achievements continues. In 1996, while a BU freshman, the fourteen-player men’s soccer team won the regular season conference championship. He often looks back on that time, the encouragement his team received from students in other athletic programs, and the feeling that “everybody was rooting” for the soccer team, he shared.
Swan met his wife, Cresta, who attended Bluefield University before him, through mutual friends while he was a Bluefield University student. Their wedding was officiated by then-BU golf coach Dewayne Belcher. They have a daughter, Willa, and a son, Abrum.
“Probably the best thing about Bluefield is that everyone made you feel welcome, not just at the University, or College at the time, but within the community,” Swan said. “We walked into a situation where the whole community embraced some international students who were trying to find our way in the world, and I couldn’t thank the community and more so the College for their open arms and welcoming us into Bluefield, Virginia and West Virginia.”