Swegarden helped raise Raider football to new heights
The process of making a high school sports program a consistently successful one is something not done overnight.
Success is also not defined just by winning, but by what kind of young adults it produces and how that particular sport and team has influenced what those said student/athletes have become in the future.
Those considerations, as well as boosting numbers in the win column, will be Jed Swegarden’s legacy with the Lake Park-Audubon football program, something which he led for the last 14 years.
Swegarden submitted his resignation as Raider head football coach this month, but will stay on as LP-A’s activity director.
Looking back on his 14-year LP-A coaching career, Swegarden can reflect on many accomplishments, including leading the Raider squad to its first-ever state semifinal berth in 2008.
But it’s been more than just turning around an LP-A program which before Swegarden, had one of the most struggling teams in the area.
“I feel proud I was able to have coached with all the assistants I had through the years and I am especially proud of the kids I coached and helped transform towards bright futures,” Swegarden said.
Swegarden has actually coached for the last 29 years, 20 years as head coach and nine as an assistant.
When he came to LP-A 14 years ago to take over the football program, the Raiders unfortunately didn’t have much success to talk about.
In Swegarden’s first year at the helm, the Raiders had their first winning season in quite some time.
But again, it takes a while to transition a downtrodden program into an atmosphere of positivity.
“After winning that first season here, we dropped back down and that’s when the coaches and I decided we needed to make some changes,” Swegarden said. “In 2004, we started making some climbs back up and that happened for a number of reasons.
“First, the assistant coaches and the players worked hard and that means in the off season. The parents bought into it, as well and that’s what it takes – having that right attitude.”
Another important step which came in building the Raiders’ integrity came on the younger levels.
In the early 2000’s, Swegarden helped implement the addition of offering the Fargo-Moorhead Athletic football program to LP-A fifth and sixth graders.
“I went to a junior high game against Hawley and our kids barely knew how to get their pads on,” Swegarden said. “The Hawley kids, who had played in the F-M Athletics program, knew the game of football at that age already. We didn’t stand a chance.”
With the FM Athletic youth team filling up, which was helped by donations from LP-A businesses, dividends were paid off in 2008.
The majority of the players on that 2008 team played FM Athletics and since then, the Raiders have been more than respectable and competitive.
The doormat years were well behind them.
“Teams knew when they faced LP-A, they were going to have a hard game,” Swegarden said. “But some of the happiest moments didn’t come on the playing field, but being able to see the kids move on into life, graduate and go to college and become good people.”
Swegarden also had the opportunity to coach his son, Mason, through his football career.
Mason, who will be graduating this upcoming spring, played quarterback for the last three seasons and his biggest critic was his dad.
“It’s harder than most people think,” Swegarden said of coaching Mason. “It was probably harder on him, because I was pretty hard on him. But he understood what was expected of him, but also knew when things could be forgotten.
“It was a special time to be able to coach him, though.”
Now, Swegarden will be able to enjoy his two daughters’ LP-A playing careers, with Raider junior Jesse a good athlete and seventh grader Jayda also coming up through the ranks.
“Jesse sacrificed a lot because I couldn’t watch many of her volleyball games because I was coaching, so I’m going to enjoy her time now,” Swegarden said.
He will also be able to enjoy the new LP-A football facility, which he was a big part of bringing about.
The search for a new Raider head football coach is currently going through the process and no one has been named.
But Swegarden will still be around meandering the Raider sidelines, just in a different capacity.
“Oh, I will still be around watching all the football games,” Swegarden added. “I feel I am leaving the program in very good hands.”