The Swanton boys basketball program appears to be on the right path under newly-hired head coach Joel Visser.
The 32-year-old native of the Grand Rapids, Mich. area comes to Swanton after serving as head coach for the past two seasons at Tipp City Tippecanoe High School, which is just north of Dayton.
At Tippecanoe, Visser was named the Division II, District 9 Coach of the Year after the 2015-16 season. They went from 3-20 to 16-8 in Visser’s first season in charge of the program.
“The search committee decided to hire Coach Visser for a variety of reasons,” said Swanton Athletic Director Wade Haselman. “The first reason was that he has shown a great commitment to improving not only his teams, but the schools’ overall programs at his previous school. He had coached multiple sports and has worked closely with other programs that allowed everyone to experience success. He has also shown the capacity to get the best out of his players athletically, while still holding them to a high off the court standard as well. Swanton High School feels very fortunate to have hired a fine young coach like Coach Visser, and are very confident that this trend will continue with him here at Swanton.”
For Visser, getting the Swanton job was more about timing than anything. His wife had taken a job at the University of Toledo, and the family then relocated to the area.
And although he spent some time commuting, often several times a week from Tipp City, he and his family are now fully moved to the area.
Swanton presents a great opportunity for Visser, where he will teach Physical Education and Credit Recovery classes at the high school.
“I was just excited,” said Visser on his thoughts upon learning he’d been hired. “I know it’s a good school district. It’s rural – it’s blue collar kids. And similar to my upbringing. So I felt I would be a good fit for it.”
He will look to build on the Bulldogs’ recent success that included ending a 17-year NWOAL title drought back in 2015.
“They’ve had a foundation of success over the last few years it sounds like,” said the new Bulldog mentor. “In multiple sports really. Whereas, they haven’t always been up there. So I am hoping I can kind of build off of what Matt (Smith) has gotten going over the last few years. See if I can take that and run with it.”
It is Visser’s hope that the Bulldogs will win more league titles under his watch. The goal each season will always be to win a league championship, according to Visser.
Specifically though, he wants his teams to play system basketball. They will play a lot of man-to-man defense and a halfcourt motion offense.
“I want to teach kind of across the board, from middle school onto the varsity, similar principles,” Visser explained. “So that our kids come in as freshmen and (have) a solid foundation and expectation of what to expect and do on offense, and what to do on defense. We can just kind of build on that.”
Visser’s initial goals, for the upcoming season especially, are to figure out who the leaders of the team will be. He will not put an emphasis on number of wins in the immediate future.
“We’ve got to go out, and we’ve got to play fast and we’ve got to play physical,” he said on the expectation for the upcoming season. “We’ve got to execute our offense and our defense and do it together. Both of those things are gonna require five guys playing together.”
Visser earned both his Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from the University of Toledo. From August 2008 to January 2010, while at UT, he served as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. He was also an assistant baseball coach for the Rockets from August 2007 until May 2008.
His other coaching experience includes serving as an assistant football and baseball coach at Tippecanoe from the time he started in 2013 until taking the Swanton job.
He was also the head baseball coach at Eaton High School for the 2012 and 2013 seasons where his teams had some success.
The new mentor has already had the opportunity to break in his new team. In fact, he held a team camp last week with an emphasis on speed and strength drills.
He also has given them an idea of what he hopes to see once the season begins.
“I want you to play hard and do the things you can control,” explained Visser of his initial message to the team. “I said hey listen, some days you’re gonna shoot the basketball it’s not going to go in. It’s not going to be your day. But, the things that you can always control are your attitude, your effort, your defensive intensity, rebounding, boxing out. Doing all those controllables.”
Visser expects all 10 of their summer coaching days to be used in June as basketball players that also play football will have to switch their focus once the calendar flips to July.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010