Pursley Pep Talks: Priorities

Swimming World will publish a collection of coaching perspectives written by Alabama head swimming coach Dennis Pursley. This is the 14th installment of a series that will be rolled out throughout the coming months.

Many years ago, I was watching the NFL (American football) Hall of Fame induction ceremony for one of the sport’s most accomplished coaches, Tom Landry. During his acceptance speech, Coach Landry mentioned that his three priorities in life were his faith, family and football. Although I didn’t think much of it at the time, after further reflection, that simple comment changed my life forever.

I was very motivated by my professional goals, but beyond that, I hadn’t given much thought to my priorities in life. Coach Landry’s comments prompted me to give some serious thought to this concept.

Although I had to put swimming in place of football, I eventually decided that my priorities were similar to his. The life-changing part of this thought process came when I realized that these priorities were not always reflected in my daily thoughts, words and actions. This obviously made no sense. I was confronted with the choice of changing my lifestyle to reflect my stated priorities, or changing my stated priorities to reflect my lifestyle. I chose the former.

What does this have to do with world-class swimming? In my opinion, it has everything to do with it. Presumably, performance excellence is one of the top priorities of every world-class athlete. We all know that performance excellence in any challenging endeavor at the world-class level requires a “24/7” commitment.

It is important that we examine every aspect of our lifestyle in light of our priorities:

• Do you consistently apply yourself to your training sessions to the best of your ability?

• Do you focus on the “little things” that can make a big difference in your quest for perfection?

• Is your lifestyle outside of the pool compatible with performance excellence?

If the answer to these questions is, “Yes,” you are on the path to success. If it is, “No,”—like I once did—you, too, have a big decision to make. There is no better time than now to make that decision.

About Dennis Pursley
After getting his start as a volunteer coach on Don Gambril’s first Alabama staff, current Alabama head coach Dennis Pursley has gone on to one of the most extraordinary careers in the sport of swimming, a career that led him to be named one of the 25 most influential people in the history of USA Swimming in 2003.

Pursley has helmed coaching staffs throughout the world, including stops as the first head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport, the inaugural director of the United States National Team and most recently the head coach of Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic squad. Pursley returned to the deck in 2003 as the head coach of the Brophy East Swim Team in Phoenix Ariz., before becoming the head coach of British Swimming in 2008.

Pursley and his wife Mary Jo have five children, Lisa, Brian, David, Steven and J.J. Lisa and David have joined him on the Alabama staff.

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Author: Jason Marsteller

Jason Marsteller is the general manager of digital properties at Swimming World. He joined Swimming World in June 2006 as the managing editor after previous stints as a media relations professional at Indiana University, the University of Tennessee, Southern Utah University and the Utah Summer Games.

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