Monday, August 8, 2005
Swarthmoor College
It's one day after all the excitement at the Heywood Cricket Club -- a hard act to follow, no doubt. The team has completed its morning training session under the tutelage of our guest coach and tour coordinator, Jack Edwards. We're back on the bus and driving northwest toward the Lake District. Beautiful English scenery passes our windows on yet another day of blue sky, sunshine, and cool breezes. I notice a turreted house on a hillside in the distance, and everywhere are massive black-and-white dairy cows munching on the green grass. Some surprisingly high and rugged mountains appear on the horizon as we near Ulverston, our first destination of this day trip. We drive past a stunning 11th-century Saxon castle.

  Watch this film clip of Jack Edwards at the August 10 morning training session.

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Jack, a native of these parts, points out landmarks and tells us about the region's importance in Quaker history. It's no exaggeration to say that this is pretty much where it all started. We see an obelisk marking a hilltop spot called Pendle Hill -- does that sound familiar, anyone? -- and signs for a town called Kendal.

I have to tell you about Jack. He's been a good friend of Eric's since they met at a soccer camp in the U.S. about 15 years ago, and Eric has made annual trips to the U.K. ever since to work with him. Jack is a five-foot-eight (if that) block of granite with a gray crew cut, a gruff voice, and an amazing arsenal of colorful colloquialisms. Jack doesn't suffer laziness or foolishness, or excuses from young soccer players, for that matter. Last night, while addressing the team as they boarded the bus following the big party, Jack said he expected them on the practice pitch the next morning "as bright as buttons." (They weren't.)


Jack is a sports fixture in the area where we're staying, legendary for his work as a soccer trainer, scout, and coach. His main gig these days is scouting for Oldham Athletic. Jack's sphere is bigger than sports. He seems to know everyone in the communities on the north side of Manchester and can seemingly open every door, access every lever.

I ask Duncan Gromko '07 to join me for a quick interview as the bus driver exits the freeway and picks up a smaller, local highway. Duncan, a junior from just outside of Toledo, Ohio, is the son of a Swarthmore alum and onetime soccer player, Mark Gromko '72. His dad didn't insist on Duncan attending his alma mater, and Duncan had lots of choices. In fact, he got accepted at every college to which he applied, including several other highly selective liberal arts colleges. It came down to a gut decision following his second visit to campus.


"A couple people from my high school have asked me if going to Swarthmore is all work," says Duncan, who runs track in addition to playing soccer. "Sure, the academics are tough, but they're manageable, even with soccer and track. I've never stayed up past one o'clock studying. We study a lot, but if you enjoy it, it's not a burden. I think people at Swarthmore feel like we're getting an education different from most schools."

Given where we're heading, Duncan is just the guy to interview. His mother and stepmother are both deeply involved in Quakerism, and he went to meeting every week while growing up. Duncan says he wishes Collection were reinstituted at the College. "But, overall, I feel the core Quaker values are present in the administration of the College and the way the professors teach."

After stopping and asking for directions, we find the narrow, hedgerow-enclosed lane that leads to our destination. It's too tight for the bus, so we get out and walk the final distance.

"Hey, it's spelled wrong," one player jokes as the sign comes into view at the entry gate. And there it is: Swarthmoor Hall. This is perhaps the most revered spot in Quaker history and, of course, the place from which Swarthmore College derives its name. (For the rest of the story on Swarthmoor Hall and the College's founding, visit and An Onward Spirit). I feel a little awed by the house looming over us. The course gray texture speaks to its tremendous age -- it was built in the 16th century -- and the house is huge, three stories, with vines covering much of the wall facing us.


Bill Shaw, the friendly-looking manager, steps out to greet us. He wasn't expecting us and has no idea who we are and why we are there. I quickly explain. "So, you're looking at your roots then, aren't you?" he says as he invites us in.

Bill spends the next hour or so giving us the history and taking us on a tour of the house, the place where George Fox found a haven for his radical Quaker faith. The history is fascinating, and Bill tells it well, keeping the athletes, coaches, and our guests thoroughly engaged. He catches himself at one point, though, and asks if he should continue. "Is this something the football team is interested in?"

There are lots of nods "yes." Sensing that Bill may need a little information on us, assistant coach Eric Savage, the son of emeritus biology Professor Robert Savage, chimes in: "This is the smartest football team in America!" A few in the room chuckle, but no one argues. The lesson continues.

Bill bids us goodbye after standing in for the customary team photo, and we're back on the highway and on our way to Lake Windermere. Jack will be training the team again tomorrow morning before we tour Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. Here's hoping the boys' buttons will be a little brighter this time. ...

Monday August 08, 2005 posted by Tom Krattenmaker @ 5:04 PM

About This Site

In August 2005, the Swarthmore College men's soccer team embarked on England Tour 2005. Their mission: Play matches against English teams, spread good will, take in the sights, attend a professional match or two, learn about English culture, and, well, have fun. Follow their progress at this special web site, written by Tom Krattenmaker, director of news and information, who is traveling with the team.

Men's Soccer Website

Tour Roster

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England Tour 2005 Itinerary

Other Posts

Lad Reading: Aug 2, 2005

Eastenders: Aug 4, 2005

Bangin': Aug 5, 2005

The Real England: Aug 7, 2005

Swarthmoor College: Aug 8, 2005

Birthday Goal: Aug 10, 2005

Red Carpet: Aug 12, 2005

American Idols: Aug 15, 2005