For most 17-year-old boys, life revolves around video games, girls and finishing homework on time. For Crew SC's Ben Swanson, it's a little more complicated.
The Black & Gold's youngest-ever Homegrown Player is currently away from his friends, family and schoolwork, taking part in his first preseason as a pro with the club in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. While the fitness drills were grueling at first for the youngster, Swanson feels himself progressing with each day of work.
"It’s my first preseason, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect," Swanson said over the phone from the Sunshine State. "I’d been talking to some of the guys before the camp, and they kind of gave me a heads-up. The first couple days were hard, but as [preseason] has gone on, I feel I’ve gotten better each day. I think I’m gelling pretty well with the guys and obviously trying to just get fit and make myself better."
Imagine being 17 and having co-workers nearly twice your age. Joining the club officially in October 2014, Swanson feels the extra time has helped bridge the age gap between him and his older teammates. He also noted that his fellow Homegrown teammates have helped with the jump to MLS.
"Being young, it’s hard a little bit to fit in and mold with these guys, but the past six months before preseason last year really helped me kind of gel with the guys and feel more comfortable," Swanson explained. "They’ve kind of taken me under their wing, and I’m grateful for that."
The midfielder continued: "A lot of the Homegrowns have been looking after me: Chad Barson, Ben Speas, Matt Lampson. It’s kind of given me the idea of what it takes to make it at this level and be mentally strong. Also, my roommate Adam Bedell, he encourages me when we’re even back in the room and on the field as well. Adam’s been a big help."
With his hard work so far in camp, Swanson has earned the respect of his teammates already at such a young age.
"He's doing great," said Speas. "It's tough, especially being 17. None of us were in his shoes at 17. We were there as rookies, so we know what that's like, and he's just a kid still. We're just trying to be there for him, give him advice, keep encouraging him and just let him know where he needs to be better or what he needs to work on. I think he's doing great. He's working hard and he's playing well."
Noticeably absent from Crew SC's preseason camp is Homegrown midfielder Wil Trapp, who is currently away on U.S. Men's National Team duty. Having looked up to Trapp growing up, Swanson could be looked upon to fill in for the 22-year-old midfielder at times this season should Trapp be called-up for international duty.
Swanson is well aware of that fact, working hard to be match-ready as a rookie in 2015.
"Obviously, [Trapp] has been one of my role models since I was young," said Swanson. "Just growing up and watching him play and being able to see the success that he’s had over the past year, being able to contribute with the National Team. If there’s a chance to maybe step in and fill a role for a little while, that’d be fantastic. That’s something I need to work toward, get fit and be able to adapt to the style of play, the speed of play and physicality of the League.
"That’s what I’ve been working on, this is my goal for the preseason so far."