Stacy Swinea has seen all the major changes in the sport of softball across nearly three decades of coaching the sport at the high school level in Tennessee.
What has not changed, however, are the life lessons instilled both by the sport and the legendary Davidson Academy coach, who has been tabbed as a 2019-20 winner of the TSSAA’s Distinguished Service Award.
“Something I say a lot with my girls is, ‘Playing softball is more than just playing softball,’” said Swinea, who’s led the program to a trio of state titles and last year notched her 700th career win. “It’s about being part of a team. It teaches you life lessons. There’s going to be a day softball is over for you. Learning how to be a part of a team like you will do in a workplace, to get along w people of different personalities, learning to cooperate and work together. It requires and teaches a discipline, being committed to something. Because in life, you have to get up and go to work, keep committed to your family and committed to God.”
Swinea has been at it long enough -- she’s helmed the Lady Bears’ softball program for 27 years, having also spent a number of years coaching on the basketball hardwood as well – that she’s getting a refreshed perspective from former players.
“What’s so fun is now I have so many former players who are adults, friends on Instagram or they will email or sometimes stop by and see me,” Swinea said. “They do thank me eventually. I think for the most part, just years later of seeing them being productive adults and moms and being good Christians and having great jobs, all of that. It’s all very rewarding to me.”
Swinea credits a strong family dynamic with husband, Jeff, and sons, Zach and Griffin, as being integral to her longevity in the sport.
“I think first of all, just in the younger years, having a supportive husband (Jeff), there were times obviously you know you’re missing out on things my kids are doing and balancing all that, it was tough,” said Swinea, a Madison, Tennessee, native who played college basketball at Ball State before she completed her studies at Tennessee Tech. “I missed some things, but for the most part I am able to be at things, too. I would ask, ‘Am I missing too much?’ But my husband was always like, ‘No, I’ve got this. You make up your time in the summer.’
“My family always helped out as well. Sometimes you were going two different directions and if I’m not there, my sister or my husband’s sister or somebody would always help out.”
Though sports are suspended right now, along with most of society while battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Swinea does take pride in the growth of the sport of softball, at the state and national levels.
“I think softball has grown so much,” Swinea said. “When I first started coaching softball, you never saw it on TV or it just wasn’t talked about a whole lot. I think now, it’s just as big as baseball in my opinion. I never thought I’d see that.
“I attribute that to all the great coaches, like Don Freudenthal and what he built at Ezell-Harding. He was my mentor. I looked up to him so much and wanted to build that for Davidson Academy.”
With 18 appearances in the TSSAA Spring Fling championships and eight title-game berths, it’s mission accomplished for Swinea.
TSSAA is proud to honor Stacy Swinea for her contributions as a coach in Tennessee.