Dana Duckworth takes over as gymnastics coachBy Sean Landry | 07/20/2014 1:36pm
Dana Duckworth will take over as head coach of the Alabama gymnastics team. CW | Pete Pajor
Instead of a ring, the former Alabama gymnast and two-time balance beam national champion ordered a pendant, large, silver and jewel-encrusted, just like the 2012 ?championship ring that she does wear.
“I did that by design,” Duckworth said. “So when I was recruiting, I have both on my body.”
It’s that recruiting acumen, along with a history of success in the gym and in business, that Duckworth and former gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson hope will help create a seamless transition between the storied coach and her longtime student and assistant.
Along with Duckworth’s promotion, former assistant coach Bryan Raschilla will serve as associate head coach.
“Bryan was incredible today,” Duckworth said. “The way he handled the news, the way he was honored to recieve the associate head coaching title and everything. To me, his response is that we will do this together as a team.”
Patterson endorsed Duckworth and Raschilla, her longtime assistants, for the head coaching posts.
“Dana has always been a great role model for our ladies,” Patterson said. “She enjoyed tremendous success in all aspects of her Alabama career, and her championship experience is an invaluable resource as she and Bryan move this program into the future.”
Duckworth came to Alabama in 1989 as a student-athlete on Sarah and David Patterson’s gymnastics team. After graduation, Duckworth coached youth gymnastics part-time in Dallas. After returning to Alabama for her MBA, Duckworth spent several years working in various Alabama businesses, eventually returning to Tuscaloosa with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. During that time, Duckworth worked as a volunteer coach with the Crimson Tide, eventually turning to full-time coach in 2008 at the Pattersons’ request.
“The greatest part of that is the sales training that I received for the 12 weeks I had it,” Duckworth said. “To me, recruiting is selling your program. It’s selling The University of Alabama. It was an easy transition to go from selling your product to selling your alma mater.”
Duckworth said she takes the charge to carry on the Pattersons’ legacy seriously.
“It’s a lot harder to maintain something than to build something,” Duckworth said. “I think the fact that if we can continue to maintain the standard of excellence in the classroom, on the competition floor and later in life with postgraduate scholarships, we can continue to grow and we can continue to win on the highest level, then I don’t think anyone would look back and say ‘That was a bad turnout.’”
Duckworth’s recruiting ability will be put to the test early as she attempts to fill the assistant coaching vacancy left by her promotion.
“Our coaching community is tight and it’s small,” Duckworth said. “When I sat down to make a list of potential candidates that are at existing schools, it is even smaller than I thought. I have friendships with a lot of assistant coaches, and it may not be that an assistant coach is the way to go at a current program. It may be to go to a smaller school and look at a head coach that may be willing to come to a caliber program like Alabama. There’s also the option of some amazing club coaches that are great people... We’ll find ?somebody fantastic.”