What song best describes senior Jack Swindells of the Utah State men’s tennis team?
“Chain Hang Low” by Jibs featuring Jibs.
It’s a great song,” says teammate and roommate Austin Bass.
At once, it’s an answer that does little to describe Swindells, if at all. Upon closer inspection, however, it explains everything that Swindells has meant to not only his teammates, but to the university for which he represents.
To fully understand how that is, it’s important to understand who Swindells is and the course of events that brought one of the best tennis players in Utah State history to Logan.
Swindells is from Towradgi (pronounced toe-rah-gee), Australia, a small suburb of Wollongong, which resides roughly an hour south of Sydney. It didn’t take long for the allure of tennis to claim his attention.
“I was pretty lucky — my dad’s a tennis coach,” Swindells says. “When I was about seven, I would just sneak on for other people’s lessons. I’m sure they didn’t like that but my dad turned a blind eye. I’d just hit in and I loved it ever since.”
As luck would have it, Swindells was a pretty excellent tennis player.
He climbed into the top-100 of the men’s open division rankings in Australia; and that same success ultimately carried Swindells across the Pacific to Morehead State in Kentucky. Immediately upon taking the number one spot in the Eagles’ lineup, Swindells went 9-11 in his freshman year during the 2013-14 season.
Jumping straight into Kentucky from Australia, however, served as a bit of a shock.
“It was a tough experience … It’s the real deep end of hardcore American culture which I was not used to at all,” Swindells said. “My first week there, I was sitting at a friend’s house and this deer walked past and a guy grabbed his bow and arrow, shot it, and then dragged it and put it on the deck. I was like, ‘What’s going on here? I’ve never even seen a deer and now it’s dead.’ It was a funny experience.”
Searching for a more comfortable culture and mindset is where Utah State comes in. While Swindells was learning the ropes of college tennis at Morehead State, USU was just beginning the program’s turnaround under former head coach Clancy Shields. The Aggies would finish that season 9-16 while going winless in the Mountain West.
That offseason, Swindells arrived in Cache Valley.
Little time passed before Swindells’ ability began to express itself. Coach Shields compared the arrival of Shields to “striking gold.” That season, Swindells’ record actually dropped to 6-10, but the team’s rose to 18-9 en route to finishing second in the MW. Along with fellow teammates Jaime Barajas, Kai Wehnelt and others, Swindells has helped to turn the tennis program at USU one of the most respected non-P5 programs in the country.
“It’s a crazy, crazy time to be given. When I sit down and think about, because you kind of get lost in what you’re doing, it is amazing how far this program has come,” Swindells says. “Four years ago, we didn’t win a match in the MW. Last year, we won it, year before, we’re second. Now, we’re No. 40 in the country. To help be a part of that is amazing.”
Being here for three years, and being one of only two seniors on the team, Swindells has also emerged as one of the key leaders for this team.
“He’s definitely the biggest leader on our team,” said Bass. “He’s always fun, always brings his energy… Probably one of the best guys I’ve ever met. Wouldn’t trade him for the world.”
Perhaps no one knows the effects of that leadership better than sophomore Jonas Maier, Swindells’ doubles partner. The two have taken the court for doubles 24 times this season, winning 14, and as Maier tells it, Swindells is a major key to the pair’s success.
“It’s great to be with Jack. He’s always got positive energy, we bounce back off each other,” Maier says. “We’re just really close together and I think that’s why we’re such successful doubles partners.”
“When we played against Oregon, it was pretty tough. It came down to us two, I think we won 7-5 in doubles. It was great. We had the teammates and both of us and we were just super pumped about it and that’s how we got the win.”
Maier particularly remembers a doubles match facing Oregon earlier this season, a team now ranked 23rd in the nation. With the doubles point landing squarely on the shoulders of Swindells and Maier, the pair faced a 4-5 deficit with Swindells serving. Calm, cool, and collected, Swindells held serve, allowing the Aggie duo to break Oregon’s serve on the next point, en route to a 7-5 set win to clinch the doubles point for USU.
“Playing big programs like that puts it in perspective that we are a legitimate program,” Swindells said. “We shouldn’t be scared of anyone. Matches like TCU and Oregon… stuff like that motivates you to just keep going for the rest of the season and knowing that that level that you had as a player is still there.”
Head coach James Wilson has also taken notice of Swindells’ stellar play.
“Jack is one of the main reasons why the program is where it is today,” Wilson said. “Because of what he’s done. Because of his development. Because of his dedication. Because of his leadership. He’s one of the main factors why Utah State is here today. I’m really proud of him. I think he deserves all the credit he gets.”
The Aggie record books back up the praise.
Swindells has his name on a number of lists, with the potential to land at the top of several. Top five in doubles wins. Top five in singles wins. Standing at 21 wins on the season,with eight matches left in the regular season, Swindells also stands a terrific chance to break the single season record for singles wins, currently held by Barajas with 25.
“It’s super cool when I found out because usually I’m like the tenth person to find out. It is really cool. It’s just another example of how far this program has come and what everyone here is being apart of,” Swindells says. “I think it’s a testament to consistency. One thing I’ve prided myself on is just showing up everyday and giving it my all.”
You don’t end up as the leader Swindells has been for this team, however, solely relying on on-court performance. Off-the-court time can be just as important, and Swindells, for all the success he’s enjoyed on the court, does not place himself above anyone once he steps off. In an apartment he shares with Maier, Bass, and junior Andrew Nakajima, Swindells takes his fair share of jabs and jokes from the other three.
“It’s always fun around Jack,” Maier says. “We have a great time at home playing FIFA in our apartment and I’m pretty bad at FIFA. I think I beat him once so that was like my highlight of the semester. He’s a great teammate and a great roommate and I just love him.”
Here, we return to ‘Chain Hang Low’ by Jibs featuring Jibs. Bass, whom Swindells holds a radio show with called ‘Beats and Banter’ every Monday at 3 p.m. on Aggie Radio, is quick to name the song to describe his close friend and teammate.
“Jibs describes me? I don’t know why, but I guess I’m the oldest, they think it’s very funny just to aggravate me as much as possible,” Swindells says in response. “Jaime, Jonas, and Bassy take the lead on that. Any song that I really dislike, they’ll proceed to make that their favorite and play that on repeat.”
Swindells’ final take on the song?
“Jibs featuring Jibs is probably the worst song out there,” he quipped.
Like I said, it doesn’t really describe Swindells at all.