Meet the CMS Stags New Football Coach Kyle Sweeney

Coach Kyle Sweeney knows Division III football. As a four-year starter during his college career at Occidental College and a veteran coach with experience on the staffs of five different college programs, Sweeney brings expertise and savvy to the Claremont Mudd Scripps Stags head coaching job. Sweeney’s resume speaks for itself. He helped all the programs he has worked for improve their records, and in some cases brought teams to their Conference Championships. During his time as a Graduate Assistant at Illinois-Wesleyan, the team won back-to-back conference championships, a feat that it had not achieved in over thirty years. As the Defensive Coordinator for the University of Chicago’s football program for the last two years, Sweeney transformed Chicago’s defense into one of the best in Division III. The Maroons were nationally ranked second in sacks and third in tackles for a loss. Last season, Chicago won the University Athletic Association Championship, and Sweeney’s defense led the conference in rushing defense.  “My time at Chicago was great in preparing me for working at CMS, because the schools share a lot of  similar challenges and advantages,” says Sweeney. “I think that with my experience at a top tier school like Chicago that my transition here will be much easier.”

Sweeney grew up in Sacramento, California, and when the prospect of joining the Stags coaching staff presented itself, he jumped at the opportunity. “This was exactly the kind of school I was looking for,” says Sweeney.

“Athletically, CMS has one of the strongest programs in Division III. Year in year out, you see success in all the other athletic programs. I feel like this is a place that I can be successful at and win, but at the same time experience being a part of one of the nation’s great colleges.”

Sweeney has picked up a CMS team with 19 seniors, a factor that he thinks will ease his transition into coaching. With these experienced seniors making up large chunk of his 52-man roster, Sweeney’s focus is all on preparing his team to play its best every day. “We are striving to take care of all the little things and to be prepared so that we can give ourselves every advantage,” says Sweeney. “The thing I tell the team is that every guy on the team is really smart, and that gives us a mental advantage over everyone else. We’ve got to make sure that we minimize mental errors and that we take the extra step to learn new plays and schemes that other teams can’t achieve.”

“Overall my approach is: let’s develop leadership, let’s take care of all the details, and let’s have fun. Football is a fun game, but it’s a lot more fun when you win.”

The thing that Sweeney loves about coaching, however, is not the team’s record or its statistics, but watching each player mature and grow. “I love the day to day interactions with my players. Seeing the development of someone from the time they get here as a freshman to the time they are done playing as a senior and feeling like I had a hand in their development is one of my favorite things,” says Sweeney.

The players had a lot to say about the coach as well.  “Coach is really organized with his meetings,” says Mike Connell (Safety) ’15. “Every hour of every meeting and practice is planned ahead of time and every day we watch the film of the previous day’s practice.”

“It’s nice to have an organized coach,” says Josh Thomas (Left Tackle) ’15. “We definitely are not underprepared.”

Sweeney has been working on integrating more complicated plays and schemes into the Stags’ playbook, a change which is drastic compared to last year’s more simple offensive and defensive set ups.  “A lot of the plays we are working on now are very different from what was done before,” says Connell. “It will take some time to get used to, but once we get the plays down I think we will be really strong and will have a shot at a SCIAC Championship.

Coach Sweeny also kept alive the “Stags Make Friends” tradition where Stag football players, dressed in Stag football gear, help students carry refrigerators, lift heavy boxes and help people get moved in before the school year starts. The purpose is to have the players meet and befriend more people on campus.  If they helped you move in, you had better be there on Saturday.

For Sweeney, coming back to California is a dream come true. “Being from California, coming back to the west coast is huge for me,” says Sweeney. “My family and I love Claremont. It is a really friendly and social place. I couldn’t be happier.”

Despite last week’s loss, Sweeney is optimistic about the team’s future. “It will take time to complete the transition here, but the great thing about football is that it is measurable,” says Sweeney. “Every Saturday the scoreboard justifies what you did that week.”

Sweeney seems comfortable in his new role. This weekend he will have another chance to prove it in the Stags’ home opener against Pacific. The home opener is this Saturday. Opening kickoff is at 7:00 pm.  If you cannot make the game on Saturday, the Forum will broadcast the game live starting at 7:00pm.