Ever wonder what it’s like to be on the inside of one of the largest AAU basketball programs in the country? Mike Byrnes did, too, before he took over The Swarm in the winter of 2016. The Swarm, founded in 2008 out of Central Massachusetts, is one of the premier youth basketball programs in the United States that has seen unprecedented growth since Byrnes’ arrival at the top of the program. Rising quickly from 5 to 20 teams in a short period, as of today, The Swarm is the largest basketball club in New England.
When Mike Byrnes was still a senior in college, he knew he wanted to take over The Swarm. With a passion for the game and a business mentality to make the program successful, Byrnes saw an opportunity and ran with it. After spending three years as an Assistant Basketball Coach at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Nichols College in Massachusetts, he stepped away from the college game and towards the youth program in which he saw so much potential. Under the direction of Byrnes, The Swarm has expanded into more states – Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio – and boasts upwards of 150 teams for boys and girls grades 3-12. With Byrnes leading the way, the sky is the limit for The Swarm.
The Swarm aims not only to teach the game of basketball to its participants, but to make the players into the best athletes and people that they can be. Byrnes sees youth basketball as a vehicle for teaching life lessons through sport. Through his own athletic career, he has battled adversity and learned the types of lessons that he wants to pass down in a mentorship role. He sees his work at The Swarm as a chance to teach players how to play the game the right way and to do so with a focus on character development. Through a recently established partnership with the Jr. NBA, this goal becomes more of a reality for Byrnes and his staff. The Jr. NBA was created with a goal towards enhancing participants character, fundamentals, sportsmanship and teamwork. This partnership places a major focus on these elements for all participants, and sets the standard for The Swarm at success on and off the basketball court.
This focus on teamwork is important even amongst Byrnes and his staff. When Byrnes first took over The Swarm, he was challenged with finding a support staff that believed in his vision for the program. Byrnes found success when he found a group he could rely on and who shared his vision of success for The Swarm. He wanted people that he knew he could count o through the trials and tribulations of expansion, and that is what he found with his current team of support staff. Together, they have grown The Swarm into the largest youth basketball program in New England, and hope to continue this growth and expansion in the years to come.
Still in his early 20’s, Mike Byrnes is effectively leading a major youth sports organization while simultaneously coaching the boys basketball team of a local high school. He credits his youth, though, for his work ethic and commitment to the program. Byrnes says that being young in this position helps him because he is not necessarily tied down to anything, and he is able to work the long hours and days it takes to expand the program the way he has. His passion for the game fills his time, as he balances his work at The Swarm with his tutelage of the boys’ varsity basketball team at Shepherd Hill Regional High School. In his first year at the helm, Shepherd Hill took home the Clark Tournament Large school title and was also crowned the D2 Central Mass Champions. For his success, Byrnes was awarded the MBCA Central Mass Coach of the Year.
Despite the growth that Byrnes and The Swarm have had in recent years, there are still obstacles in the way of success. One such obstacle is finding facilities in which teams can practice and improve. With rapid expansion into different areas of the country and more and more youth athletes to accommodate, The Swarm has had difficulty finding the gym time and space they need to succeed. According to Byrnes, “Finding gyms has been a huge challenge for us, especially as we continue to grow. I didn’t anticipate us being in so many locations in this short amount of time, which is why Playeasy will be so helpful for us.” The Swarm will use Playeasy in all of their local regions to book facilities and practice space moving forward, saving Byrnes and his staff valuable time and energy that they can instead put towards their main objective: impacting youth through sport.