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Rapid City Stevens girls' basketball coach Travis Swartz talks to the team during a timeout. A longtime assistant at Stevens, Swartz will take over head coaching duties on the interim basis this season.

Travis Swartz has certainly paid his dues as a high school assistant basketball coach, working for several prominent area head coaches in the past 11 years.

Swartz, who has been the Rapid City Stevens girls' assistant the past five seasons, will take over on an interim basis after head coach Michael Brooks resigned last spring.

He said that he and his wife, Sara, sat down and asked themselves if this what they wanted to do." They agreed that it was a key part of actually knowing what the needs were, and the benefits and positives of the program.

"I just got busy, and I really enjoy my job as an educator, first and foremost," said Swartz, a sixth- and eighth-grade social studies teacher at West Middle School. "But I have worked with some fun, fun head coaches and just got along well in that support roll. I worked with Coach Brooks, Dallas Richter, TJ Hay and Derris Buus. I really enjoyed my job as an assistant."

It was also his goal since college to become a varsity head coach. It turned out to not be a very difficult decision to make.

"It took a while, but I made it," he said with a laugh on becoming a head coach.

Swartz said he and Stevens Activities Director Jared Vasquez agreed on the interim role as it was getting late in the process.

"We just thought it would be best for it to be an interim position and kind of put everybody on temporary if they wanted to change roles going forward," he said. "We just wanted to do what was best for our kids and best for our program."

Along with the five years as the Raiders' girls' assistant, Swartz spent four years as the Stevens boys' assistant, and one year at Spearfish and one year at Highmore-Herald.

He'll turn 37 years old when the season begins.

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Swartz said he has known most of his players since those middle school days, while also coaching them on the junior varsity level.

There will be no real coach-player learning curve for next season.

"The Raid City Area Schools preaches building relationships with kids. It is something special to actually see those kids come to age through middle school, then they come to high school, watching them mature and grow up," he said. "I think honestly it is humongous advantage that we have that type of relationship. We all know what the line is, we know what the expectations are. I think we're all going in the same direction."

Swartz, who coached the team recently during some summer camps, said they worked hard and were constantly complimented by the college coaches, who asked, "How are you getting kids to play hard during the summer?"

"I just think it is from the personalities of myself and the coaching staff. We didn't set any expectations for those kids, but we also wanted to play hard and play without fear," he said.

Swartz said he goes back to what new Nebraska football coach Scott Frost said during some recent interviews about athletes playing without fear.

"We're not going to yell and freak out at the kids and make them play fearful ... then they won't make great plays. Not that anybody prior has done that, but that is kind of my philosophy," he said. "I have had some decent sub-varsity teams where we just had that camaraderie where it is okay to have a turnover, but just try not to do it again."

Swartz said it is going to be a fun ride next year to see what happens. You can't blame him, looking at the Raiders' expected roster for next season. Stevens won 17 games last season and this group of seniors have won 50 games in their varsity careers.

He said it is a positive foundation at Rapid City Stevens, and he is excited to tweak a few things to be even more successful.

"I'm looking on paper going, 'Okay, here's seven of our top 10 or nine of our top 12, or 10 of our top 15 on varsity. They are all back. We lost one starter from last year (Elizabeth Schaefer)," he said. "Not too many people get to walk into an opportunity like this and have a team be at the caliber that these girls are. They are awesome kids to be around and they want to work hard. They are motivated and I think they are hungry."

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