Swim Coach Confidential: Chapman University’s Dennis Ploessel

by SwimSwam 1

December 15th, 2014 College, NCAA Division III, News, Training

Courtesy of Trevor Ziegler

Here we have it – yet another edition of Coach Confidential! This round, I spoke with Chapman University Swimming Head Coach Dennis Ploessel. Chapman is a Division III program located in Orange, California and is in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). Coach Ploessel has been with the program for 19 seasons. Under his leadership, the program has expanded from just men’s water polo and women’s swimming in 1996 to both men’s and women’s swimming, diving and water polo. A common theme throughout the Chapman University swimming program has been a continued excellence in academics in addition to the successes achieved in the pool.

Coach Ploessel spent his collegiate career swimming and playing water polo for Cal State Fullerton, where he earned a degree in Physical Education. He then went on to earn his Master’s degree in Special Education at Cal State Lutheran. Before taking over the swimming program at Chapman, Dennis Ploessel was the swimming and water polo coach at both Cypress College and Los Alamitos High School.

Let’s take a look at what Coach Ploessel had to say on this edition of Coach Confidential:

What was your major in college?

Physical Education

What was the last book you read?

41 (George W. Bush)

Favorite dryland activity?


What would you consider a “fun” practice?

Fun relays; letting them talk during an easy kicking set; or letting them out early.

What has been your most memorable swimming moment as a head coach?

Whenever my student-athletes graduate on time or early and become successful citizens!

What is your favorite set to give your swimmers?

10×100 Free on 2:00

What has been the most valuable piece of information you’ve learned from coaching?

Value each and every individual no matter how fast they are!

Describe your relationship with swimming growing up:

Through my parents- my dad was a world record backstroker, my mom was silver medalist platform diver.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a coach?

I’ve always known I wanted to become a coach.

Favorite/most useful drill you have your swimmers do?

I love to have my swimmers use snorkels.

Describe your coaching philosophy in 3 words:

Intensity – family – student

As a spectator (or coach), who has been your favorite swimmer to watch (any level)?

My sons

Are there any individuals who have directly-influenced your coaching style?

My dad, who was also my college coach.

Where would you be if you hadn’t become a coach?

I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for these past 42 years!

What are you commonly doing when you are not fulfilling your coaching duties?

Usually I’m working out or spending time with grandkids.

What would you consider to be the key to becoming a successful student-athlete?

Teaching how to balance different aspects of student life- being a student, being an athlete, being in social groups (i.e. fraternities), all while getting the most out of your school (study abroad, internships)

Favorite inspirational quote?

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” John Wooden, Success

Do you follow any sports other than swimming?

Water polo and local baseball.

Favorite facility to compete?

Our pool, Zee Allred Aquatics Center- it’s an amazing complex!

Do you go into a season knowing the type of team atmosphere you want to cultivate, or do you take a more adaptive approach in creating team culture?

I generally try to go in with a plan but sometimes things don’t progress as quickly as I’d hope for.

Trevor Ziegler, HeadshotTrevor Ziegler is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst where he also swam for the Minutemen. In addition to being well-immersed in the swimming world, Trevor is also a self-proclaimed pop culture aficionado. He spends most of his time brainstorming how he can write about both his favorite bands/tv shows and swimming in one coherent article.


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THE Other Hulk
8 years ago

I had the opportunity to meet Dennis when we traveled to CA for a training trip a few years back. His passion was contagious, and it was a lot of fun to get to know him. SwimSwam just did a feature on a great coach, great educator, and great guy.