Trading a Dream Job for a Dream
Assistant, Media Relations and Publications
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 29, 2011) - “I have left my dream job to be a part of this sitting volleyball team,” Charles Swearingen said. “There is good passion there, a passion that we athletes have burning inside of us. It’s a commitment and a sacrifice."
Swearingen, 34, a member of the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team, was elected on Sept. 9, 2011, as the United States Paralympic Athlete Representative.
In the process, he is being nominated for the Americas Paralympic Committee (APC) Executive Board, a position to be voted on by ‘Aa' athletes from Nov. 10-19 at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“I received an email saying I had been nominated for the selection process for the Americas Paralympic Committee,” Swearingen said. “I looked into it and thought it would be interesting to be a part of the politics and inner workings of the game. The thought intrigued me.”
Swearingen joined the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team in 2010 after leaving his job as a flight paramedic and dedicating his time to training with the national team. Competing as an athlete and working in highly ranked positions have been his separate loves. This opportunity to represent Paralympic athletes presents itself as a marriage of the two.
“I would love to understand more of the political aspects of our sports,” Swearingen said. “I have opinions that I have gathered over the past two years and my teammates and fellow Paralympic athletes have opinions, too.”
Swearingen was born in 1977 in Biloxi, Miss., without the non-weight bearing bones of his lower legs, resulting in the amputation of both legs above his ankle joints. Despite this challenge, Swearingen has led an athletic and inspiring life, which led him to the men’s national sitting volleyball team.
Photo: Charles Swearingen Charles in his flight uniform with his prosthetic legs behind him. Swearingen said that his team performs best when it practices together and spends time together, which will be his main focus in Guadalajara. The team that wins the Parapan Am Games will represent the region in the 2012 London Paralympic Games, making the November tournament an incredibly pressure-filled experience.
“The team and I are focused on winning the tournament,” Swearingen said. “I will devote time to the election, but I won’t let it take away from my dedication to those guys. My first priority is this team. I promise to be with them and be there for them no matter what.”
As the U.S. Paralympic Athlete Representative, Swearingen will be the voice of the athletes at the Parapan Am Games in addition to the four years after the competition. Swearingen will attend annual meetings and be a part of monthly conference calls about all aspects of the Paralympics.
“For me to voice [the athletes’] opinions, I have to know their opinions,” Swearingen said. “My first priority is to gather information by talking to all sports, maybe through their captains. What does it mean to them to be a part of the Paralympic family? What is their tone?”
After being elected as the U.S. Paralympics Athlete Representative, by submitting his resume and accomplishments, Swearingen was honored to be one of only six international athletes, selected from applicants in all sports from all countries, to run for a position on the APC Executive Board.
“It is a great honor to be up for election and I don’t want to let this opportunity pass,” Swearingen said. “I am not sure of the voting set-up yet, but my goal is to find a middle ground of campaigning, nothing crazy, but I want people to know I am here. I will ask questions, find out what athletes want to focus on, but I don’t want to be over the top.”
All ‘Aa’ accredited athletes are eligible to vote for one of the six candidates at the Athletes Village in Guadalajara. Other nominees include Jason Dunkerley (athletics) of Canada, Daniel Giraldo Correa (swimming) of Colombia, Terezinha Aparecida Guilhermina (athletics) of Brazil, Enrique Rodriquez (tennis) of Uruguay and Juan Pablo Rosatti (swimming) of Argentina.
Though Swearingen jokes that no buttons or T-shirts will be made with his face on them and no catchy slogans will be posted on locker room doors, he notes that he does take this nomination seriously and promises to be passionate about it every step of the way.
His passion at his previous job was found at a few thousand feet above the ground as a critical-care Photo: Charles Swearingen Charles (3) blocks the ball in a sitting volleyball match. flight paramedic at the only trauma hospital in Mississippi. Swearingen and his crew used the helicopters to transport critically ill or injured patients from intensive care units and emergency rooms to different hospitals. The crew aboard AirCare also responded to serious car accidents and other fatal scenes to move the victims to burn centers and ICUs throughout the state.
“In my past job on the aircraft, we reacted quickly and got to where people needed us, I always seemed to know what to do,” Swearingen said. “I had to use my voice to get the job done, a tool I will use for this position and the possible APC seat.”
Swearingen went to Millsaps College where he played baseball and beach volleyball along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Mississippi Health Care and a professor of EMS at Oklahoma City Community College and is working on his PhD in physiology through the University of Mississippi Medical Center. His is also a part of the UCO residency program.
Using his past job skills of speaking, Swearingen promises to also listen to his fellow athletes and to represent them in a true and honest light whether he remains as the U.S. representative or if he goes on to be the international athlete representative.
“I want to be involved in getting the job done, whatever that may be,” Swearingen said. “I want to be involved in getting the job done right.”