During the busy holiday break, Tennessee coach Matt Swinea was nice enough to take the time sit down and talk with us about a variety of topics. Swinea not only has been a coach for Tennessee at State Wars and a big help to State Director Chad Hudnall, but Swinea has taken State Wars to the next level, using the event as a great recruitment tool for Bethel Universities roller hockey team which he also coaches. Not only do four players from Team Tennessee play for Bethel but this year marked something new as three great players from Team Alberta have travelled all the way to Bethel to play college roller hockey.
Below are some questions and answers of this interview. Thanks Matt for taking the time…enjoy!
TM: How long have you been involved with roller hockey?
MS: I’ve been involved with roller hockey for about 10 years. I grew up playing ice hockey and transitioned when I moved to an area about 2 hours from an ice rink.
TM: Where did you grow up?
MS: I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama; it’s known as the “Hockey Capital of the South”
TM: What got you involved in coaching?
MS: I got involved through a parent of a player and started coaching youth hockey in Jackson, Tennessee. I found I really enjoyed it and liked being involved with hockey in some way.
TM: Give me three adjectives that describe you as a coach?
MS: Passionate, competitive, and caring.
TM: How many years have you attended State Wars?
MS: I’ve been to State Wars for three events.
TM: I am sure you have been to a ton of hockey tournaments in your life, how does State Wars shape up with the rest?
MS: State Wars definitely ranks with the very best. The event is very well organized and extremely professional. Having players all wearing the matching state/provincial uniforms and the fact that you are representing where you live, give it the edge.
TM: Tell me a bit about your position with the Bethel University team?
MS: As Head Coach at Bethel University, I am responsible for recruiting student-athlete in-line hockey players, coaching the team, coordinating with the NCRHA, planning our trips and making sure that the players are working to the real “goal” of getting a college degree.
TM: What is different about coaching in a short tournament compared to a long season in college?
MS: The big difference is in making adjustments and being able to work on those adjustments in practice. During the collegiate season we have breaks in between games where we can go and review video, then work on mistakes we made to improve before the next games. At State Wars, you have to be able to make changes quickly and without the ability to try them out on the rink.
TM: I know you have a good mix of State Wars players on your college team and even a few from Alberta. How did that come about? Do you feel that State Wars is a good place for college coaches to recruit or look at players?
MS: I believe we have a tremendous mix of players; mostly from Tennessee and three from Alberta, Canada. I saw Ewen MacPherson playing goal in State Wars in Cincinnati and was very impressed with his play. After contacting him, he and his family came for a visit. He was the first player to commit to play at Bethel and he helped with the recruitment of the other two players, Cole Sonstelie and Josh Foote.
State Wars is a tremendous recruiting opportunity for me. It puts all the players from each state that truly care about playing hockey in one place. The players at State Wars have gone through the tryout process showing that they are passionate about playing the game. College coaches should use State Wars as an opportunity to find quality players from each state in one place.
TM: How is the Bethel University team doing so far this season?
MS: We have played 8 games and are 5-3. We learned a lot from our losses and have put together some quality wins. We defeated one of the best D-II teams in the Southeast Region when we beat the University of Miami Hurricanes 10-7 in our very first game. We also defeated George Mason who is D-I 10-7.
TM: What is going on with Tennessee roller hockey in the state?
MS: There are several in-line leagues throughout the state. I think Memphis (Collierville) is strong, as is Jackson. There are multiple leagues in Nashville (Lavergne, Bellevue, Spring Hill and Hendersonville), but I hear of nothing in Chattanooga and Knoxville. All the leagues besides Memphis use outdoor rinks which I think hurts. I think that Tennessee needs more indoor facilities. It’s my hope that after many see the rink we at Bethel have built it will invigorate others to build rinks.
TM: How do we get more young players playing roller hockey?
MS: The think the way to do that is have more ice/in-line cross over and show how in-line hockey can actually make them a better ice hockey player.
TM: What age groups should we watch out for at State Wars VII?
MS: The Tennessee 1993 and 2000 teams.
TM: Chad Hudnall had been a great supporter of State Wars since his days in Kentucky and a big help in building the sport in Tennessee, how is it to work with him? What differences in hockey “personality” do you guys have? Who’s the better coach?
MS: Chad has tremendous enthusiasm for State Wars and does a great job getting everyone together.
I don’t think there are a lot of coaching differences between Chad and I, we are both very competitive. He takes on so much, like last year he tried to coach three teams; I was just fortunate enough to be there to help a little.