West Chester University’s head football coach Bill Zwaan traveled down a long road before securing his Division II coaching job in 2003.
The journey began with Zwaan’s own football career. After graduating from Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Pa., Zwaan received a football scholarship to the University of Delaware to play quarterback for coach Tubby Raymond. Zwaan had a stand out career at Delaware, where his team played in two National title games, winning one.
While Zwann holds a very impressive resume when it comes to coaching, the most inspirational connection he has comes within his own family. “One of the things that got me involved in coaching was my dad,” Zwaan explained. Zwaan served as bat boy at West Catholic High School in Philadelphia for his father’s team, something he says “had a huge impression” on him. Later his Dad also coached his baseball team at Archbishop Carroll.
During his sophomore year at Delaware, Zwaan’s father passed away at the young age of 45. A tremendous amount of people who knew his father through coaching attended the funeral. Hearing these people’s kind words made Zwaan realize that. “I obviously had made a difference in their lives. So I thought to myself at the time, I knew I wanted to coach,” Zwaan said.
Being the oldest male of 11 children, Zwaan felt like it was “a real challenge to try and stay in school, feeling like I should be home trying to help with my family.” Although it was a challenge for him, Zwaan decided to stay at Delaware and finish his degree in Marketing. He knew that staying and playing for Raymond would be his first step to accumulating the knowledge needed to become the great coach that he is today. Because he was the team’s quarterback, Zwaan got to be involved in the game planning each week. “I really got to learn how to be a football coach as a quarterback down there,” Zwaan said proudly. “Some of the things he did I still do today,” Zwaan explained after sharing a story about his playing days under Raymond. While he may not have known it at the time, he was about to begin his 35-year coaching career.
After graduating from Delaware with a marketing management degree, Raymond recommended that Zwaan become a high school coach at Monsignor Bonner in Drexel Hill, Pa. Since it is a Catholic school, Zwaan was also able to be a part of the schools’ faculty, teaching math and health classes, while taking classes at night towards his education degree. During his three year tenure at Bonner, Zwaan had to learn how to coach every position. “It really helped round me into being a good football coach,” Zwaan said.
The next stop on Zwaan’s journey was his first college position at the University of Cincinnati. While the job didn’t pay much, and Zwaan slept on a dorm room floor, he was making the moves necessary to getting where he wanted to be. “I knew that was a way for me to get into that level; to meet some guys at that level and try to make an impression and hopefully someday that would lead to something else,” Zwaan said. He was right.
While at Cincinnati, he met Mark Duffner and Kevin Coyle, two guys that Zwaan says were “really significant in helping me to then move on to other college level positions.” So significant, that after the entire staff was fired after Cinci’s losing season, Coyle was offered a job at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York and asked Zwaan to join his staff.
While in New York he married his wife Rosemary, and they had their first child, Bill Jr. Zwaan then decided to move back home and landed a job as a merchandise manager at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. After a “very exciting three years,” Zwaan missed coaching and decided to take the opportunity presented to him from a college friend, Bill Cubit. Zwaan moved to Florida to coach, teach, and eventually become the Dean of Students at Martin County High School.
“When I write my book later, 90 percent of the stories are going to come from being the Dean of Students at Martin County High School,” Zwaan joked.f
He remained at Martin County for four years, until once again returning home to Pa., and this time it would be for good. Zwaan served as both the head Baseball coach and Assistant Football coach at Weidner University for five years before becoming the head Football coach and Athletic director, where he worked for another six years. While at Weidner, Zwaan applied for the West Chester job, and the rest is history.
“I’ve lived in the same house for the past 19 years, and for a college coach to live in the same house for 19 years is pretty amazing,” Zwaan said proudly. He was moved around many times during his career, so for him it was “very rare to settle down and stay in one area, but it was nice for my kids.” Zwann has held the head coaching position at West Chester for the past 12 years.
What made coaching at West Chester even more fulfilling for Zwaan was that he was able to coach his son, Bill Jr. Like his father, Bill Jr. also played quarterback, and currently ranks fifth all-time in school history in career passing yards. Coach Zwaan explained the importance of being able to coach his son, saying “he couldn’t imagine getting a phone call every week telling him how he played.” When recalling his best and worst memories of coaching his son, Zwaa
n says the best was when “he threw five touchdown passes in one game, it was one of his early games and I think he only played a half, and the worst was the last game he played.”
Zwaan has shown the effect his many years of experience has had on his coaching skills. During his years at West Chester so far, Zwaan has won three PSAC Eastern Division titles, winning Coach of the Year each time. He has guided the program to the NCAA II playoffs five times while advising the third-most wins in school history and steering the Golden Rams to the national semifinals for the very first time in just his second year. He mostly wants his players to see him as fair and honest. “I want them to think of me as a good technical coach, I know what I’m talking about I know how to teach it, I treat them fair but not equally,” Zwaan said.
Although he may never achieve his aspiration to someday coach at the Division I level, Zwaan is content.
“I am really happy here. It’s a great place to coach, I had a lot of great kids to play for me so it’s hard for me to not be happy.”
Maggie Jordan can be reached at MJ716717@wcupa.edu.