Pursley Pep Talks: Unconditional Support

Pursley Pep Talks are a collection of coaching perspectives written by Alabama head swimming coach Dennis Pursley. This is the 25th installment of a series that will be rolled out throughout the coming months.

Pursley Pep Talks: Unconditional Support

Unconditional support is one of the fundamental prerequisites of a successful team effort. There are those, however, who sometimes question this concept and, instead, advocate challenging authority, demanding accountability and championing individual rights.

While all of these things have a place in a prosperous society, the willingness to commit to a TEAM effort is a foundational principle that has been the cornerstone of almost all group achievements of significance in the history of the human race. Our challenge is to determine when and how to work for change, and when to fully support the team effort.

There is a time and a place to analyze, evaluate and constructively criticize, but if we are to become the “perfect” team, there also comes a time when we have to set aside our personal preferences and personal agendas for the sake of the group effort. In other words, there comes a time when we have to pledge our unconditional support. This principle is fundamental to the ultimate team experience in any field of endeavor.

We’ve all heard many times that “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Each of us would likely do things differently if our preference were always available to us. The degree of success of a group effort is determined not so much by the group approach to the task at hand as it is by the extent to which each member of the group supports that approach.

Conditional support (i.e., “I’ll support it on the condition that I agree with it”) will never be as successful as unconditional support (i.e., “I’ll support it and make it work for the team effort whether it suits me or not”).

Our goal is to make the team experience an experience of a lifetime for each athlete who participates—an experience that provides for the achievement of individual AND team goals. The team aspect will add a whole new dimension to this experience and will bring out the best of each individual.

When a person willingly sacrifices individual privileges for the sake of the team, the experience becomes much more fulfilling and meaningful than it could have otherwise been. The team accomplishments become as gratifying and rewarding as the personal accomplishments, and the benefits will more than compensate for the sacrifices that are required to achieve them.

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

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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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