- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 10:31
- Published on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 10:31
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Drifter “Black & Gold” blood will forever flow through his veins — he pushed the envelope of success beyond its limits. Steve Swope is more than a sports icon, he is an American high school sports institution, and now that he has officially announced his retirement from the Colonial Beach school system, his tireless spirit will be embedded in the fields associated with Monroe Park, and the rattling rafters of the Drifter dome.
“They always tell you that one morning you’ll wake up knowing its time,” Swope said. “I woke up one morning in January this past year knowing my time had come.”
At the end of the school year, he will have taught his final class, and coached his last game; however, his legacy lives on through the thousands of lives that he has touched during his 34-year tenure as an educator and coach.
“A lot of thought goes into something like this,” Swope said. “At one time, I thought I was going to retire at the end of my 30th year. Instead, I took a year’s sabbatical from coaching, and thought it over, and came back a year later. Although I’ve certainly enjoyed myself from that period forward, there are some things out there that I’ve dreamed about, which my wife (Anne) and I have thoroughly discussed.”
Swope graduated from Colonial Beach High School in 1973, and after graduating from Virginia Tech (1978, B.S. in Physical Education), he returned his Colonial Beach to teach and coach.
During his 30 years as the varsity boys’ basketball coach, Swope led the Drifters to a record of 517 wins and 237 losses (68% winning percentage). Swope’s basketball leadership also included: VHSL Group A, Division 1 State Championship (2008-2009); VHSL Region A Championship; 12 District Championships.
While there is still a small possibility he may eclipse the 500-win milestone in baseball victories, he currently stands at 479 wins and 222 loses. “It’s been a fantastic run, and barring a miracle of a 21-win season, we may fall a little short—I didn’t come back to get 500, but I certainly enjoyed everything along the way,” Swope said.
Swope’s baseball legacy also includes a winning percentage of 69%, 11 District Championships, 12 District of the Year Awards, and three FLS Area Coach of the Year Awards.
In 2011, because of his coaching accomplishments, and service to the sports community, Swope was unanimously voted into the Northern Neck Hall of Fame.
Behind the headlines, and hidden in the shadows are the numerous community service activities and fundraising events he has coordinated throughout the years. From 24-hour basketball marathons to yearly trips to Disney World to compete against baseball teams from across the country, Swope’s signature for putting his athletes first is legendary.
Rather than rest on the past laurels, his focus has always centered on the next phase of helping his student-athletes. By partnering with the local business community, and individual entrepreneurs, he has helped raise funds to build the current Drifterdome and finance baseball and basketball uniforms/equipment, and transportation used for trips to sports clinics throughout Virginia.
Coaches from around the Fredericksburg area have wondered for years how Swope could take the fifth smallest school in Virginia that plays sports, and somehow sustain a winning tradition that has lasted nearly four decades. The answer can befound in the hearts and minds of his former and current elementary/middle school students.
Whether it was verbal pop quizzes on current events in the world of professional sports, or physical fitness activities, Swope is an ardent believer that sharp minds, and fit bodies would some day benefit his students. Interestingly enough, some of his former students include Baltimore Ravens and Superbowl Champion Torrey Smith, Minnesota Timberwolves center Chris Johnson, University of Longwood standout guard TT Carey, Ferrum College and Drifter legendary pitcher Mike Baskeyfield, University of Mary Washington, Rappahannock Community College, and Drifter legendary baseball infielder Brent Steffey and University of Mary Washington basketball guard, Dylan Farinet.
“Throughout the years I’ve built a good rapport with kids when they were young,” Swope said. “I also gave them things to do in the off-season, and when they return at the varsity level for me to coach, it’s made the transition easier—and the trust factor easier.”
His devotion to his former players and students did not stop after they made the transition to the corporate world. In fact, whether it’s attending a Timberwolves game with his family or calling Smith after his Superbowl win, Swope’s allegiance to his players is steadfast. “Right now, we’re in the what is called the “Golden Age” and it’s never been better than to have our kids representing Colonial Beach, at the highest level of everything,” Swope said. “I tell all of my kids that I love them like they’re my family, and that’s the way you have to try and treat people.”
Family is paramount to the Swope family. Faithfully by his side during every minor or major sports event is his wife Anne. Also close to his heart is the experience of coaching all three of his sons - Joey, Tyler, Kevin. Throughout his teenage years as a student at CBHS, his brothers played an important role in his formative years.
“I was happy to be born a Drifter, and I will die a Drifter,” Swope said. “Colonial Beach has been special to me in my life—I love this town, community, school, and most importantly, I love these kids.”
Swope’s swan song from the world of sports is still a work in the process. After making a connection with a friend who is affiliated with Major League Baseball, Swope has been given the option of taking his career to the next level. Stay tuned—the world of Swope is still in play.