In Her Glory Days: Katie Swetnam

Sophia Kim, Staff Writer

In 2005, Katie Swetnam stepped onto Diamond Bar High School as a 5-foot-3 freshman, hoping to land a spot on the volleyball team. Ten years later, she returned to the same campus as a 6-foot tall Spanish teacher and assistant volleyball coach, ready to make her mark.

During her middle school years, Swetnam, then known as Katie Kelly, had a hard time finding a position on the volleyball team due to her small frame. She was cut from the team in the sixth grade at Chaparral Middle School due to her height, but was able to rejoin the team the following year.

In addition to playing volleyball, Swetnam played basketball for 11 years and soccer for six years, along with an attempt at softball. However, she soon found her passion for volleyball and decided to give up on all her other sports during her freshman year in high school.

“I love volleyball, it’s been a big part of my life, shaping who I am,” Swetnam said.

Landing a spot on the junior varsity team in high school her freshman year, Swetnam joined the varsity team in her junior year and became the offensive MVP.

As Swetnam grew in skill and stature during her junior and senior years, she started grabbing the attention of college coaches. She never thought she would get the chance to play collegiate volleyball until they started showing interest in her.

“College coaches started talking to me, and it started to become more of a reality because I didn’t think it was possible at first.” Swetnam said.

Swetnam decided to attend the University of Baltimore, where she received a full athletic scholarship and played Division 1 volleyball. Despite the excitement of collegiate volleyball, she underwent two shoulder surgeries in college due to the strenuous effort that volleyball required. After fighting through the hardships, Swetnam became the team captain for her volleyball team and helped her team make it to college conferences every year.

“Volleyball is really hard on your body when you’re a collegiate athlete,” she said. “I just have to play for fun now [like] on the beach with my friends.”

After graduating college, Swetnam started off her career at DBHS as a Spanish student teacher and an assistant volleyball coach. She was able to land her job as a full-time teacher and a coach on the same campus as her mother, DBHS English teacher Shannon Kelly.

Although Swetnam is not a collegiate level volleyball player anymore, she is still passionate about helping the volleyball players she coaches reach their individual dreams. After reflecting upon her past coaches, Swetnam realized that it was her time to help the students and give back the knowledge she received from the sport.

“It’s more than just coaching,” she said. “It’s helping these girls build character, learn discipline, and learn to work hard, so it’s really fulfilling.”

Dedicating countless hours every week to volleyball, Swetnam doesn’t have time to take a break. As soon as she dismisses her last Spanish class, she runs to the gym to get her team ready for any upcoming tournaments. However, the feeling she gets when she helps a student improve is something she feels proud of and motivates her to manage her team well.

“If I see a girl not using the best techniques, I want to give her feedback,” she said. “I want to see her make the change with my feedback the next time she touches the ball.”

Swetnam says she sees herself as a head volleyball coach someday. For now, she is just hoping to see improvement in her team and herself.

“My goal for myself and the team is to just grow this year as a team both on and off the court,” she said.