PHOENIX, Arizona, November 9. WHEN USA Swimming announced its international team coaching staffs in late September, an unprecedented move occurred. For the first time in modern history, USA Swimming will have a brother-sister combination on the same coaching staff. Jimmy Tierney, the head coach of Northwestern University's women's swimming team, and Dorsey Tierney-Walker, the co-head women's coach at Auburn University, will both travel to the World University Games held in Bangkok, Thailand from Aug. 5-18.
While the trip will certainly be all business as the duo help some of the best of the collegiate crop, there will probably be a family vacation air for Jimmy and Dorsey. The duo both seemed extremely excited at the chance to coach together on the same team for the first time.
"I am thrilled, and it will be quite a fun time for us," Jimmy said. "I had never really thought about the possibility that we might be on the same trip until recently. When it happened, it was unbelievable. I just can't wait. I am looking forward to having someone carry my bags around for two weeks. I am just joking. It is going to be a great staff, and Dorsey has done one heck of a job both at Indiana and Auburn. She has earned the spot on the trip without a doubt. It will be an unforgettable experience to be coaching the same team together."
Dorsey concurred with Jimmy's elation while explaining the impact he has had on her coaching career.
"I am absolutely thrilled that we are on the same coaching staff," Dorsey said. "He has certainly guided me throughout my coaching career. In fact, I pretty much consult him on everything. He is a phenomenal coach. I am thrilled to be able to work along side him and continue to learn from him."
Both Dorsey and Jimmy have nothing but positive things to say about each other when it comes to their coaching styles.
"She is a wonderful athlete and an even better person," Jimmy said about Dorsey's transformation from swimmer to coach. "People are touched by her anywhere they might come in contact with her. She has a tremendous handle on how to lead athletes and how to guide them – when to be firm and when to be soft."
During her coaching career, Dorsey can already brag about a national title. Last season, her first on the Plains, she led the Tigers to their fourth NCAA title. Prior to her time at Auburn, she helped Indiana University's women's squad to a Big Ten title and five top-three finishes in the conference.
"She has figured out a wonderful way to guide and lead athletes to some pretty amazing things," Jimmy said. "She was the same way as an athlete. She was willing to commit to becoming very successful. She has that talent and ability to guide athletes the same way. Not all great athletes turn out to be great coaches. She has been blessed to do it both ways."
While Jimmy may not have an NCAA Championship on his resume, he has done wonders at one of the most challenging academic environments in the country at Northwestern.
"He plans very well," Dorsey said about Jimmy's best qualities as a coach. "He plans a season out, especially at Northwestern. [Northwestern] starts its semester out late and it is very demanding academically. He plans his season to allow his athletes to train well, and to be the students that they need to be in the classroom and perform at the big meets. He is very good at that."
This season marked Jimmy's 19th season with Northwestern and his 13th as the head coach of the program. During his tenure, Jimmy has guided 13 Big Ten individual champions, and has mentored the team to 10 top-15 finishes at NCAAs. Additionally, Northwestern swimmers have claimed 128 All-America honors under his reign.
"He also adapts very well," Dorsey said. "He is very good at technique and adapting year to year to what each athlete needs. When he first got to Northwestern, he was their distance coach. Now, he has a fantastic sprinter right now, one of the best in the country [in Andrea Hupman]. He can coach anything. He is a very good recruiter, because he is genuine and honest and forthright as a person."
Although this will be the first time the pair have sported stopwatches and clipboards for the same team as coaches, they both have had intertwined swimming careers. Early on in his career, Jimmy coached for the Lakeside Swim Club in Louisville, Ky. During his time on deck, Lakeside won 10 successive state championships. Notably, Dorsey became one of the best swimmers on the team and became a finalist at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Trials.
One of the toughest tests for the family came in 1981 when the matriarch of the family, Mary, passed away. One of the greatest drives for the siblings' love of swimming obviously came from their mother. Mary spent the bulk of her life around a pool. She swam a mile every day up into her 60s. Not much later in 1990, when Dorsey was still fairly young, the family lost their father, James Jr. After their parents' deaths, Jimmy became a parental figure in Dorsey's life.
"Dorsey and I have had a pretty special relationship for many, many years," Jimmy said about their bond. "Swimming helped bring us together. Our parents unfortunately passed away at a way too early time. We had a lot of opportunity because of circumstances to share things together and help each other out along the way."
Dorsey also speaks fondly about Jimmy away from the pool.
"We come from a very large family with eight children and I am the youngest," Dorsey said. "Jimmy is actually my godfather. My parents probably ran out of people by the time I was born. He has assumed a more of a fatherly role for me at times. He holds our family together. Our parents passed away when I was young, and he is the communicator. He is a phenomenal man. When we won our first Big Ten Championship at Indiana, he was the first person to be there and give me a big hug."
That early training at being a father has definitely shined in Jimmy's personal life as explained by Dorsey.
"He is a fantastic father to his two beautiful children, Adam and Samantha," Dorsey said. "He is a phenomenal father. His daughter is Daddy's little girl. He balances things very well as far as his work and his family. He loves sports, and so do his kids. His son plays about everything. He is a little stud in sports. Jimmy would tell you that, I am sure."
With both Dorsey and Jimmy serving on the coaching staff for USA Swimming's World University Games roster, the team is in good hands – from both a coaching perspective and as genuine people.