BSN Sports Swim Team of the Week: Auburn Tigers

The Auburn Tigers are one of the most legendary teams in NCAA swimming history, with a total of 13 NCAA team championships during an incredibly stretch from 1997 to 2009.

The Tigers just wrapped their first season under a new coaching staff, led by head coach Gary Taylor. Taylor came from NC State, where he was the associate head coach and led the Wolfpack distance group.

There was some immediate success with the new staff, as the Auburn women set several school records and placed 12th at NCAAs, their highest finish since 2012. Additionally, the women set school records in four of the five relays, and Alyssa Tetzloff ended the season with the fastest times in school history in the 100 back and 100 fly.

BSN Sports Team Ambassador Jessica Hardy spoke with Taylor to get his thoughts about the first year at Auburn, as well as some of his approach to coaching in general.

When it comes to a coaching philosophy, Taylor likes to come at from both an “out of the water” and an “in the water” perspective.

Out of the water: providing a nurturing, positive environment in which the student-athletes are happy, motivated to achieve at the fullest potential academically, athletically, and most importantly, as people.
In the water: daily intensity both mentally and physically in order to push the athletes in all aspects of the sport in order to become their best self in the pool.

Taylor feels like the Tigers’ great team chemistry is due largely to everyone – coaches and athletes alike – coming together quickly after the staff change last year.

The Auburn Staff has been on the Plains less than a year at this point. However the staff connected with the athletes on a personal level very quickly. After only a few months it looked and felt like the team had been together for several years. I believe the coaches on staff understand the X’s and O’s of the sport, but one of their greatest assets is the ability to connect with the athletes on a personal level. The athletes were absolutely willing to embrace this staff and it allowed for a family atmosphere quickly.

Any time you talk to Taylor, you very quickly understand that he’s quick to give credit to his other coaches, and this was clearly the case when he was asked about his biggest struggle as a coach.

I would say I have many struggles, haha, but I’m very fortunate to have an awesome staff around me! My biggest struggle at this point in my career is the ability to take a deep breath and realize everything does not have to be accomplished now and today. The willingness to leave things at the office and separate every now and again would certainly help my long-term health. Beyond this, I can be too focused on the outcome down the road rather than being excited about the accomplishment here in the moment. That’s not fair to the people around me!

Taylor’s coaching career has taken him down many paths, leaving him with plenty of great memories in over two decades on the pool deck.

There are far too many favorite memories for me to single out just 1! The relationships and memorable performances during my time in Minnetonka, Dynamo, Florida State, and NC State have played significant roles in my overall development and career path. I’m so lucky to have met so many outstanding coaches and athletes along the way who have left a mark on me. Beyond this seeing athletes accomplish their goals, whether it be as novice swimmer or international performance, gave me tremendous satisfaction as a coach. Watching athletes have those “I cannot believe I’ve just achieved this” moment is what coaching is all about. All of these moments lead to me become the Head Coach of Auburn Swimming and Diving, which in itself was a dream scenario when my career started almost 20 years ago.

While the awards and accolades are great, ultimately Taylor and the rest of the Auburn staff know that, in the end, four years of college swimming will make up a relatively small part of a student’s entire life, and they want to make sure they set the stage for student-athletes to become leaders down the road.

I constantly implore our swimmers and divers to take ownership of their careers and make elite decisions. An athletes ability to understand they play the greatest role in their own process is a tremendous realization. Our staff holds our athletes accountable to accept education from the staff and support, embrace the hard work necessary to achieve goals, and striving to reach their ultimate potential. This encapsulated by an overall selfless, family first thought process will allow our athletes to achieve great success. Becoming your most elite self is doing the mundane, basic details at a high level each and every day. This thought process will lead to success and leadership in the pool and also in their own lives far after their athletic careers have been completed.


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