In two short years, Head Coach Dennis Pursley has taken the University of Alabama Swimming and Diving program from the bottom ranks of the SEC to the top fleet of the NCAA Division I Championships. In this interview, Coach Pursley (DP) speaks with Tim Elson (TE), former Head Coach of Pepperdine University and current Vice President of FINIS, Inc., about the keys to his success.
TE: Congratulations Coach on all your success the last couple of years.
DP: Thank you very much, it’s been quite a ride.
TE: You and your Associate Head Coach, Jonty Skinner, are both Alabama alumni, so I can see the appeal of coming back, but did you think you would come so far so fast?
DP: We knew we had the potential to climb the rankings, but I could not have predicted that some of our guys would step up to swim as fast as they did, and we’re not done yet – we are still building, and have a very young team on both the men’s and women’s side.
TE: Of course a big reason for your success is the rocketing stardom of Kristian Gkolomeev.
DP: No question, I’d have to say we got a little lucky finding Kristian. He has flourished in two years, and we are just scratching the surface with this young man, which is amazing considering he’s already won both SEC and NCAA titles as a freshman and sophomore.
TE: How good do you think this kid can be?
DP: Barring any unforeseen injury or illness, the sky is the limit for him. He has exceptional talent, a great attitude and strong desire along with a tremendous amount of undeveloped potential.
TE: You’ve been successful as a coach everywhere you’ve gone. Can you give our followers just a taste of your philosophy, and why a young man or woman should want to swim for the University of Alabama?
DP: I believe it all starts with building a culture based on our core values of “Attitude, Character and Commitment”. With this as a foundation, the performances will follow. Our mission is to build a culture of excellence that will enable each individual on the team to achieve his or her full potential in the pool, in the classroom and in life. We put a very strong emphasis on the team concept but at the same time we make a concerted effort to identify the needs of the individual athlete.
TE: To many, the combination of you and Jonty Skinners is a very powerful, dynamic team. Tell us a little bit about how you and Jonty work together?
DP: All of the coaches on the staff work together in our weekly planning sessions and all are encouraged to contribute their perspective. We all benefit from the insight of one another and we end up with a very balanced program. Jonty and I also feel particularly honored to have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our mentor, the great Coach Don Gambril who still lives in Tuscaloosa.
TE: Thanks very much for your time coach, can you leave us with any predictions on Nationals this summer, or perhaps what the 2015-16 season looks like for the Crimson Tide?
DP: I’m not big on predictions. We just know that good things will happen if we keep our focus on our core values.
TE: Thanks again, Coach
DP: My pleasure.
FINIS, Inc. is the worldwide technical leader in technical swimming development. John Mix and Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Pablo Morales founded FINIS in 1993 with a mission to simplify swimming for athletes, coaches, beginners and lifelong swimmers around the world. Today, FINIS fulfills that mission through technical innovation, high quality products and a commitment to education. FINIS products are currently available in over 80 countries. With a focus on innovation and the fine details of swimming, FINIS will continue to develop products that help more people enjoy the water.
Swimming Q&A is courtesy of FINIS.