Svatik takes over for Duane Shirden, who stepped down after 10 years.
“I really wanted to be head coach again,” said Svatik, 56, a Bunnell social studies teacher who spent the last two seasons coaching defensive backs at UNH. “It was a golden opportunity for me to come back and coach in community that I grew up in, where I played baseball and football, and hopefully have a positive influence on the young men at Stratford.”
Svatik starred as a quarterback at Bunnell High School in the early 1970s and played at Western Connecticut State. He coached at Notre Dame-Fairfield from 1979-1987 before moving on to college.
He spent time at Sacred Heart and Wesleyan, but a majority of his college coaching career was as an assistant at the University of New Haven under head coaches Mark Whipple, Chris Palmer, Darren Rizzi and Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.
Now the Bunnell grad and teacher returns to the high school level as the coach of rival Stratford.
“See, I look at it from this standpoint: I’ll one of best jobs in town,” Svatik said. “I get to teach in one school and have a positive influence with the students there, and then I get to coach at Stratford and hopefully have positive influence on those young men.”
Stratford athletic directory Bob Baird said over 20 “very good candidates” applied for the job, including a handful of head coaches at other statewide schools. “I was very impressed with our list of candidates,” Baird said. “Johnny’s coached in high school, he’s been a coach for over 20 years in college. We’re looking forward to and he’s excited about it. He’s a very energetic guy. I had to go out and buy a new cell phone he’s called me so many times. He’s going to do a great job here.”
“He’s a Bunnell guy, but I look at it this way: He’s seen the light. Everything’s isn’t always greener on the other side of town, it looks a lot better in red.”
Svatik had been rumored to be Stratford’s pick for much of the last month. Baird said the selection committee offered Svatik the job just before the school’s winter vacation last week. But it was only until after the board of education approved the hiring that Svatik could be officially confirmed.
He’ll meet the returning Stratford players tomorrow.
“I’m little pumped about this. I’m very excited,” Svatik said. I’m excited to have the opportunity to coach here. There’s potential, there’s talent. I’m happy to be coaching. I have a passion for coaching.
“But this not about me, my passion is coaching kids. That to me is the most important thing. You shouldn’t coach for hardware trophies or rings. That’s all going to come. You coach for the kids to develop relationships. About the kids and about the program.”