STRATFORD—For one to understand what Frank Scott Bunnell High School means to John Svatik, one must go back to the beginning.
No, not the day Svatik first walked into the halls of the school as a freshman.
Instead, back to 1960, the year the school was constructed.
“It’s a school I’ve been around since its inception,” Svatik said. “When I was a kid, I grew up two streets away, so I spent most of my time at Bunnell High. I went to all the football, basketball, baseball games. We used to hop the fence to watch football games.”
Svatik won’t have to sneak into Thursday’s 2019 Bunnell High Hall of Fame and Senior Recognition Banquet at Vazzano’s Four Seasons Banquet Hall in Stratford.
Instead, he’s one of two former athletes being honored with an induction into the school’s Hall of Fame.
“It means the world to you, at least to me,” Svatik said. “This is the place where I grew up.”
Svatik was a three-sport athlete his first two years at Bunnell before settling into football and baseball for his junior and senior years.
“I saw the light,” Svatik joked about the end of his basketball career. “There were players out there a lot more talented than I was.”
On the football gridiron and baseball diamond, though, Svatik was one of the Bunnell’s best.
His senior year he was the quarterback and captain for the Bulldogs football team and an outfielder for the baseball team, graduating in 1972.
He then took his football talents to Western Connecticut State University and upon his graduation jumped feet first into a coaching career that has spanned 43 years.
He had always known he wanted to be a coach and wasted little time in getting started.
“I was probably 11 years old when I knew I wanted to coach, for whatever reason,” Svatik said. “I remember with the games on TV—in those days you had the rabbit ears—and for whatever reason I always followed the coaches. A lot of guys followed the players, but I followed the coaches.”
His first full-time coaching gig was at Western Michigan University.
He returned to his home state to coach at Central Connecticut. He has also coached at Wesleyan and Sacred Heart and is currently the defensive backfield coach at New Haven.
He has also coached at Notre Dame-Fairfield and Stratford High but has never coached at his alma mater.
He is a teacher there, though, something else that means the world to him.
When he returned to Bunnell to teach history, he found many familiar faces that had shaped the person he had become.
He also found their lessons didn’t end when he graduated from Bunnell.
“It was a neat thing for me to do, to come back to Bunnell,” Svatik said. “When I came back, there were a lot of teachers I had who were still teaching and it was a great experience for me. Not only did I learn from these people as a student, but I learned the craft of being a teacher from them, as well.”
Through it all the self-admitted “gym rat” never stopped learning, never stopped teaching and never stopped coaching.
“In years, it’s been a long time, but in my mind, it’s been a short time,” Svatik said. “And it seems like I just started.”
And it’s led him all the way to his alma mater’s Hall of Fame.