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Homeschooled Athlete Success Story: Five Years Later

The following article appeared in 2000, in the "Curt Comments" column of the Middlesex News.

Curt Comments
By Curt Lovelace
Managing Editor, Middlesex News

Last week Will Swedberg signed a national letter of intent to play football at the University of New Hampshire. The University will grant Swedberg a full scholarship to play offensive (and maybe defensive) line. At 6 feet, six inches tall and 327 pounds, he could play the entire line for a lot of schools.

Swedberg played his high school football at Mahar Regional High School in Orange. But he didn't attend classes with his teammates. Swedberg, you see, was a home schooled student all of his life.

Blessed with size, desire, good coaching and a supportive family, Swedberg has been cited by his high school coach as "one of the finest young men I have coached over the past twenty-five years." A natural leader, Swedberg was both respected and well-liked by his teammates. In his senior year, the coaching staff counted on him to help bring along some of the younger players.

The likeable young giant has been named All League, All Western Mass and All State. He also starred on the Mahar track team, winning two Western Massachusetts shot put and discus championships and finishing 4th in New England in the shot put.

Swedberg paved the way for a lot of running yardage at Mahar. A 5 foot five inch girl from Groton, however, paved his way.

Five years ago, Swedberg would not have been allowed to play high school football while remaining a home school student. He was given the opportunity after that young lady asked her mother if she could try out for the Groton-Dunstable Regional High School field hockey team.

Upon inquiring whether this home schooled child could go out for the team, her mother was told that the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) had rules against such things. The "Blue Book" (the MIAA rules) would have to be changed in order to allow such a practice. To allow her to play would place Groton-Dunstable at risk of forfeiture of games and championship play. A change in the Blue Book was not seen as likely. Mom was told.

Understanding that the Athletic Director's hands were tied, the mother approached the MIAA about the situation, meanwhile alerting other homeschooling families about the situation. Among those families was the Swedbergs.

It took a while for the rest of this story to unfold. It involves many meetings and hearings as well as a couple of court cases and injunctions. The mother of that Groton teenager became a member of a special subcommittee of the MIAA charged with finding a solution. Finally, more than two years later, the MIAA agreed to a trial year. Home schooled students would be allowed to play if the local school committee agreed and if they met some fairly stringent academic reporting requirements. The following year the rule was permanently changed.

It was too late for that young lady from Groton, who had completed her first year in college before the rules were changed, but it was just the opportunity Will Swedberg needed. He has taken full advantage of the opportunity. In the meantime, he has made the MIAA look like a caucus of the Mensa Society. He is a veritable poster boy for their decision to change the rules.

Bright, hard working and goal oriented, Swedberg did well on his SAT scores and has already completed some college work in preparation for going to the University. UNH Head Coach Bill Bowles came to dinner at the Swedberg home one night and offered him the scholarship in person.

Swedberg, by the way, never played football before trying out for the team at Mahar.

What about that young lady in Groton? She's now raising a family of her own and couldn't be more pleased for Swedberg. She commented, on hearing his good news, that "even if I didn't get to play, I know we helped someone."

Her mother, the one who worked tirelessly on behalf of home-educated students around the state, remarked, "isn't God good." It wasn't a question. It was a statement.

Both women will be on hand when the Gridiron Club of Boston hosts its "Super 26 Dinner," honoring the top 26 football players in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Swedberg is one of just 26 players, out of the 20,000 high school gridders in the state, to be chosen for this honor. He is the first and only home schooled student ever included on the state All-Star team.

A lot can be done with faith, persistence and hard work.

Congratulations are in order for all involved.


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