The Alabama fall sports coaches spoke with the media Monday at a luncheon setup by the university’s athletics communications department. Dan Waters, head coach of the Alabama cross country and track & field programs, sat down with The Crimson White to answer questions about his coaching philosophy and his program moving forward.
Crimson White: Before arriving in Tuscaloosa, you spent seven successful seasons as a coach at Texas A&M, where you helped the Aggies win six NCAA national championships. What steps are you taking to replicate similar success at Alabama?
Dan Waters: There’s a countless number of steps; there’s so many different things that we implement: the way that we go about our business, how we recruit, how we have our athletes buy in, our staff buy in, getting everybody to understand the culture and understand the goals. It’s in everything. Every decision that we make has our ultimate goals in mind with a vision toward the future to be competitive at the conference and national level.
CW: As the cross country and track & field coach – both indoor and outdoor – your duties as a coach never really end. How do you stay on your game year after year as a coach with such little break in between each season?
DW: Well, when it comes to coaching, we have master coaches that know how to handle the different seasons to be able to get people ready. I don’t think you can focus in that there’s a down time. I think you set the standard that every weekend that you have to compete just like Coach [Nick] Saban talks about with his teams about having to go out and compete no matter who they are competing against. Whether it’s Georgia State or LSU, they’re going to go out there and do their very, very best to follow “The Process,” and that’s the same thing we talk about with our athletes and there becomes that expectation.
CW: Looking at it from one perspective, cross country and track & field are sports made up of a group of individuals. Are you more concerned as a coach at helping your team improve as individuals on their personal-bests or is it more about wins and losses for you?
DW: We work incredibly hard with every single athlete – passionately, individually, coach[ing] them to the best of our abilities. We teach them the most [as we can] about track & field; we share as much knowledge as possible with them. We work one-on-one with every single athlete, but we do it in a team atmosphere, so that if every one of our athletes are achieving their best, the overall team will be very, very good.
CW: Overall, you have a fairly young roster for both the men and women. Does that affect your expectations or approach at all?
DW: I think one of the nice things about having so many freshmen [last year] is that a lot of them got experience last year. They’re always better the second year they come back as far as if they competed in nationals their freshmen year, then it’s a huge breakthrough [for us]. I think we had six or seven freshmen compete in the national championships on last year’s team. … I guess you have to settle your enthusiasm, because they are still young, but the experience they gain is invaluable.
CW: With that being said, what are your expectations for this year?
DW: I think we have realistic expectations. I don’t think we’re ready to win a national championship or anything like that or win back-to-back, but I think we’re going to continue to improve, and that’s just the process you have to follow. That feels good as coaches, because those are our goals and those are our expectations for the athletes: just to get better. Get better each and every year and raise the bar, that’s what we’re excited about. We see the athletes mature; we see the program moving forward; we see our results getting better and better, and that generates excitement throughout the program.