Hannah Swider is no stranger to Wheaton College. Born and raised right in Wheaton, no one was surprised when she began attending the college in the fall of 2018. The Swider family is a well-known name around Wheaton. Hannah’s father, Mike, led the Thunder football team for 24 years before retiring in 2019. Her brother Mikey was named new defensive assistant coach not long afterward. “There are times that I feel like I literally bleed blue and orange,” Hannah Swider said. “It’s something that’s been a part of me for my entire life.”
Swider, a junior guard on the varsity basketball team, is often described by her friends and family as a “light.” One of her teammates, junior comm major Amelia Sniffin said, “She’s gritty and determined and she leads our team with strength and grace. She’s one of the few players I have ever played with where I can feel myself getting better when we play together. Her determination on the court is equally matched in every facet of her life and she dedicates herself to her teammates in all areas of life.”
Swider comes from a close-knit, athletic family, with both her older brothers’ families living only 15 minutes away. “My parents established my family in a culture of faith, hard work and [valuing] each other.” Whether attending Awana, praying with her family or listening to her mom reading devotions on the way to school each morning, Swider says her family has inspired and strengthened her faith. Her father instilled the importance of living by faith everyday, and Swider said her biggest role model is her mom. “She is my best friend, and she models how I want to follow Christ and live my life. Whenever I journal my prayers, I ask the Lord that I can be half the woman she is.”
Swider shares a lot with her brothers as well, even matching tattoos on their arms. The “Stay Tough” ink comes from a saying that their father always used with his football team. She explained that “staying tough is working your hardest no matter what every single day, giving it 110%.”
Swider is studying to be an elementary school teacher with the hope to teach third and fourth grade. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since, literally first grade,” Swider said. She has appreciated the opportunity to teach fourth-graders at Wheaton Christian Grammar School remotely this semester. Usually children are harder to entertain and kept from distractions in online classes as opposed to in classrooms. This April, Swider will return to the grammar school to work as a student-teacher and is excited to teach an in-person class.
Swider’s own elementary school days were defined by sports. She remembered joining countless teams: “I started with gymnastics, soccer, boys’ baseball; literally every sport, I did it. I even started dance.” She started playing basketball competitively for a travel league in fourth grade. Swider admitted that while her parents initially encouraged her by putting her in so many different sports, she found her own passion in basketball.
Growing her passion for the sport, she continued to play at Wheaton North High School as a varsity starter in a senior guard position all four years. In her freshman year at Wheaton, she played 21 games during the 2018-2019 season, scoring a career-high of 8 points in a game. The following year, she participated in all 28 games within the season, being a starter in 13 of those.
In the 2020-2021 season, she was named CCIW Player of the Week in women’s basketball on Monday, Jan 22, following the unusual season’s opening game against Augustana. She was also selected as an honorary member of D3hoops.com’s Team of the Week on the same Monday.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA gave all student-athletes an extra year of eligibility if they returned to their school for another year. While some of her teammates plan to stay on at Wheaton, Swider has different plans for the future. After her graduation in May 2022, Swider plans to get married and move to Pennsylvania with her fiancé, Thunder defensive lineman River Shindledecker, who has accepted a job as a youth pastor there. Swider says she’ll be applying to teach at an elementary school.
“I am the first person to really leave [Wheaton],” Swider said, “and my mom especially is sad because we are such best friends.”
Having played sports competitively year-round since 4th grade, she knows that she will miss it. But she said that while much of her experience has revolved around sports, “another part of me is tired and wants to start something new.”
The rest of the Swider family are comforted by the fact that Pennsylvania is only an eight-hour drive from Wheaton, and they plan to visit frequently. Until then, Swider will continue playing basketball and studying at Wheaton, staying tough and soaking in all the orange and blue that she can.