DEGREE: B.A. in American studies
JOB TITLE: Case manager, Team IMPACT
FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: My dad didn’t miss a game of mine in college. Home games were the shortest drives from Princeton, New Jersey: 338 miles round trip. Over the course of my four-year field hockey and ice hockey career, my dad traveled 56,647 miles to see me play. Win or lose, there was a hug and a kiss waiting for me. I can’t thank him enough for that.
REPORTER: What is Team IMPACT?
SWORD: Team IMPACT is a nonprofit organization chartered to help improve the quality of life of children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses by pairing them with college athletic teams. Founded in April of 2011, we have matched more than 300 kids with college athletic teams to join their support system for the duration of their treatment plans and beyond. From these relationships, Team IMPACT children are able to derive more hope, confidence, and compassion as they continue their medical journey. Trinity men’s basketball, football, and softball are all Team IMPACT teams!
REPORTER: What inspired you to work there?
SWORD: After graduation, I knew I wanted to stay involved with athletics, but I wasn’t sure coaching was for me. I have been unbelievably fortunate in my life, and after working in a position where I toured the country for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl (we put on official selection ceremonies for each of the football players and band members invited to participate), I decided it was time to give back. I heard about Team IMPACT when Trinity football drafted a three-year-old with muscular dystrophy and his brother onto their team in February. I have always loved the concept, from Middlebury’s “Picking Up Butch” tradition (where student-athletes have helped a local resident with cerebral palsy to enjoy sporting events for more than 50 years) to seeing other college teams embrace kids in their community. I saw a job posting on the Team IMPACT Web site and pursued the opportunity.
REPORTER: What do you do in your position?
SWORD: I am a case manager, so I work directly with the families and teams to facilitate relationships and guide the teams and kids through the process and relationship.
REPORTER: What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had working with Team IMPACT?
SWORD: It’s hard to pick one, but here’s a taste of what I get to experience every week. In one of my cases, a 13-year-old boy had fought, over the course of six years, through two battles with cancer and significant struggles with anxiety and depression stemming from his diagnosis. He was matched with a soccer team, and they hit it off right away. I received this e-mail from his dad a few weeks ago: “Thanks to the team, my son is more engaged in school than we have seen him in at least 5 years. We have told Coach that we cannot thank him and his team enough, but he always says ‘no, your son has done more for our team than I can say.’ ”
REPORTER: How did your athletic career at Trinity prepare you for this work?
SWORD: Every day I talk with parents and coaches and discuss the amazing power of team. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of many teams over the course of my life, but the field hockey and ice hockey teams at Trinity will always hold a special place in my heart. Both programs had incredible success, but more importantly incredible people. They epitomized family, and some of my best friends are Bantams who stuck by me through run tests, bag skates (grueling cardio drills), wins, losses, triumphs, and tribulations both on and off the athletic fields.
REPORTER: What role do you think colleges and athletic departments can play in their communities?
SWORD: We hear often about college teams behaving poorly. Through Team IMPACT, I have seen the positive power of the community that a team engenders. Any time a team opens up its ranks to support someone in need provides a much-needed reminder of the “good” that can be found in college athletics.
REPORTER: What advice would give to current and future student-athletes at Trinity about getting involved and helping people?
SWORD: There is always time to get involved and give back. Find something you are passionate about, and make it a priority.