Pursley Pep Talks: Honest Analysis

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

Honest analysis is a critical component of progress and success. If we are to develop our potential fully, we must objectively and accurately be able to evaluate our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. This requires a balanced approach to the process of evaluation, but some people tend to focus exclusively on their strengths and opportunities while others tend to dwell on their weaknesses and challenges.

This latter approach to analysis is clearly undesirable. An inordinate preoccupation with our weaknesses and challenges can result in a lack of confidence and enthusiasm. Athletes who fall into this category will rarely if ever experience any gratification or fulfillment in their performances. They will struggle to find the motivation to make the daily commitment to training and will usually expect the worst in competition. This is obviously not a recipe for success.

Less obvious is the negative impact on progress that can be caused by the opposite extreme. Athletes who “put their heads in the sand” and fail to identify their weaknesses, or underestimate the magnitude of the challenges they face, will not likely strengthen their weaknesses or be adequately prepared for a formidable challenge. Because they see only the “bright side,” they will usually tend to be complacent with their performances even when they fall short of their potential.

While the positive disposition of these athletes is certainly preferable to the negative perspective of the others, neither of these approaches to analysis will lead to progress or excellence.

A more balanced approach will lead to a more successful outcome. It is important to identify our weakness and shortcomings objectively and to develop a strategy to eliminate or mitigate them. Likewise, we must be willing to acknowledge when we could have done better and accept responsibility for our unsuccessful performances.

At the same time, we must draw confidence from our strengths and give ourselves credit when credit is due. Most importantly, we must believe that hard work and superior preparation will enable us to achieve our goals.

This balanced approach to analysis and preparation will better ensure success in competition.

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.