Evan Thompson / The Record — Terry Swanson, a longtime youth coach, will lead South Whidbey High School’s girls soccer team in the fall.

Select coach hired to lead South Whidbey girls soccer program

Terry Swanson is South Whidbey High School’s new girls soccer coach.

Swanson, who has 17 years of youth coaching experience with select and premiere teams, said the “timing was right” to take over the reins of the program. He replaces former head coach Brian McCleary, who resigned in December 2016.

“I would definitely like to see this team play in the playoffs,” Swanson said. “There’s no reason we can’t.”

Swanson, who is also a geology professor at the University of Washington, coached premier and select teams for 10 years. He and co-coach Karl Peterson led South Whidbey Reign’s U14 and U17 girls soccer teams to runner-up finishes at the Washington State Youth Founders Cup earlier this year. He also coached the Reign’s boys U-19 soccer club that won a state championship in 2014 and finished second in 2009, while also amassing a 25-8-3 record in two years.

Swanson said one of his main goals for the program is developing a defensive culture that refuses to allow opponents to come onto the Falcons’ turf. He also wants to instill an aggressive attitude in the girls so they are relentless in their attacks on their opponents’ side of the pitch. To achieve this, Swanson said, the Falcons need strong cardio.

“You don’t have to be the fastest player in the world, you just have to have a high level of fitness,” Swanson said.

Swanson described his coaching style as “intense, in a kind way.”

“I try to motivate my players with humor,” Swanson said. “I’m a softie as much as anyone. I want the players to have a good time at practices.”

“They can address issues about playing time. But, I’m going to be honest with them. The girls know exactly what my expectations are and know exactly where I stand on things,” he added.

South Whidbey Athletic Director Paul Lagerstedt said he’s excited to have Swanson on board. He says one of his biggest strengths is his experience with soccer, from his coaching to his playing days in British Columbia.

“We had a hiring panel of community members and kids and everybody was impressed with his energy,” Lagerstedt said. “He’s got a good energy. I think his technical training skills are especially strong.”

Lagerstedt said his expectations for Swanson and the program are for the kids to have a “great experience.” He also wants to see Swanson come in with goals for the Falcons and a plan of “attack and execution.”

“I expect our kids to be competitive,” Lagerstedt said. “Count wise, I understand we’re young. I think there’s some talent there. I’m looking for good things from our kids.”

Lagerstedt also thought it was promising that Swanson has helped develop a strong Reign program for both the girls and boys club teams.

“The kids know him and responded well to his coaching at the select level,” Lagerstedt said.

Peterson, who has coached with Swanson the past few years, thinks Swanson can lead the program to a higher level of success. He thought Swanson’s positivity will rub off on girls whom he hasn’t coached in the past.

“I think he has great capabilities,” Peterson said. “I’m excited for him taking the high school job and the success that I believe they can have.”

Peterson also said a strong component of Swanson’s coaching style is his persistence for all the players on the field to rally to the ball and act as defenders.

Many of the girls he coached on the U14 and U17 teams will once again play for him. Ashley Ricketts, who will be a sophomore at South Whidbey this fall, is among them.

“He’s been my coach for a few seasons now, and he’s just a great guy and a great coach,” Ricketts said. “I really like working with him. He’s always super positive and encouraging and supports us in everything we do, not just soccer.”

Mikayla Hezel, a second-team all-Cascade Conference forward in 2016, is “beyond excited” to spend her senior year under Swanson’s tutelage.

“I had experience with him a few summers ago,” Hezel said. “He’s a really great coach, really positive, knows how to work us; he knows us really well. He’s coached pretty much all these girls.”

Ernie Merino, McCleary’s assistant coach in 2016, is also returning to help Swanson coach the team.