I enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the coaches of the top three teams from NCAAs last year for both the men and women. We spoke a bit about their interest in coaching Division III, their respective colleges, and then turned to discuss the upcoming season. Here’s what they had to say.
Gregg Parini, Head Coach Big Red (2013 Men’s National Runner-Ups and 2013 Women’s Third Place). Coach Parini enters his 27th season as Head Coach for Big Red’s Men and Women. Denison has earned three national titles, thirteen national runner-up finishes, and for the past 52 years have been consistently in the top ten at the NCAA meet. Parini is a 1982 graduate of Kenyon College where he was part of the original 1979 national championship team.
As much as anything, the academics and athletics are in harmony with each other. I’ve always shied away from the word balance – it makes things seem watered down or diluted. I choose to look at things as if they’re dancing really well together. They’re in synch. It’s an easy place to aspire to do a couple of great things at the same time.
There’s a stigma with Division III: this is the place where swimming dreams die. I’ve never really ascribed to that. I think what we’ve found is that Denison is one of those places where swimming dreams can not only be embraced, but in many cases realized. And while we’re doing that, we’re also embracing the academic and professional dreams. It’s a great harmony. Professionally for me – I’m a professor here as well. I think what I do here mirrors what our student-athletes are doing.
What are you excited for this season?
I haven’t given it much thought. It’s not how I frame the season. I’m really looking forward to watching the team develop and come together. I’m looking at it maybe a little differently – a larger scale. I really don’t know that much about our team right now. I know what it looks like on paper, but I’m really and curious to see what it looks like. If we take care of that bigger picture, then the events will come together. We want to be our best as we head to National championships. Production at those meets is generally a result of how we’re doing the rest of the year. We begin by getting the team off to a good start.
Are there any freshman to watch?
I hope so! We’ve got some pretty exciting kids coming in, we’ve got some fresh, new faces. I think as a program if you rely on your freshmen to provide all the fireworks – I never wanted to count on the freshmen to carry the load. I think we’ve got some first years on the men’s side – but few freshman guys scored in three events at nationals. The men’s side is more challenging for students to make an impact because of physical maturation and the quality of the meet. Eighteen versus twenty-two – it’s just a harder time. And getting more and more competitive.
For the freshmen women, they’re not dealing with such a dynamic maturation process, which leaves a greater possibility for freshmen women to come in and make an impact. More first year women score in multiple events.
What’s different this year?
We take a really hard look at everything we do every year. Most coaches take a serious look, sometimes tweak, sometimes overhaul. We are doing a very different dryland program this year, making major adjustments. We had the new facility last year. We’re still learning how to integrate long course training with short course season effectively. There’s always change, and there’s value in change for change’s sake. In dryland, we’re fine-tuning things. We have new weight rooms after working in very confined spaces for the past twenty-five or six years. There’s lots more room to work with now, and an opportunity to do different things, and a new learning curve, too.
We feel really privileged to be in Division III and competing against great schools, great coaches and great teams. People look at these schools and see small time, but it’s our big time.