Pursley Pep Talks: Perseverance

Swimming World will publish a collection of coaching perspectives written by Alabama head swimming coach Dennis Pursley. This is the 13th installment of a series that will be rolled out throughout the coming months.

Often during my coaching career, I have been struck by the many formidable obstacles that coaches and swimmers have had to contend with: injuries, illness, disappointing performances, relationship issues and other personal problems.

At times, these obstacles can seem to be overwhelming and very discouraging, but it has been inspirational to witness the perseverance demonstrated by great athletes in responding to these challenges. As inspiring as it may be, I suppose it should not be surprising since perseverance is a key component of success.

Obstacles are inescapable in life. We can mitigate or minimize them if we live our lives with prudence and integrity, but we cannot avoid them completely. If we had a choice, I’m sure most of us would prefer not to be confronted by these challenging obstacles. Ironically, though, they are indispensable to our personal growth and to the pursuit of excellence.

It is through encountering and persevering through obstacles that we develop the strength of character necessary to achieve anything of significance. In this sense, obstacles can actually be opportunities to grow. It is also precisely because of our perseverance through these obstacles that our achievements are meaningful and rewarding. An accomplishment that is not difficult to achieve is usually not an accomplishment of much value.

I don’t know if it is possible to single out one attribute that is the most important in achieving success in any endeavor, but perseverance is certainly as important as any other. It is one of the fundamental prerequisites in the successful pursuit of our goals.

The following words of wisdom more effectively reflect these thoughts:

• “To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it—who can say this is not greatness?” —William Thackeray

• “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” —Confucius

• “Ask not for victory, ask for courage. For if you can endure, you bring honor to us all; even more, you bring honor to yourself.” —from the Decathlete

• “He conquers who endures.” —Persius

• “The ultimate measure of a man (athlete) is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.”

• “No man is a failure until he gives up.”

• “The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.” —John Ruskin

• “…so stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit; it’s when things seem worse that you must not quit.”

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.