Sarah Patterson: Alabama’s persistent coach

Sarah Patterson Judy Bonner
Alabama gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson speaks at the dedication ceremony of the champions plaza named in her honor on Oct. 4, 2013.

My experiences with University of Alabama gymnastics Sarah Patterson had been limited before she came in as a guest speaker for my JN 418 class on a recent Tuesday night.

As someone who covers University of Alabama athletics as a staff reporter for The Crimson White and an intern with The Tuscaloosa News, I already knew plenty about her on what she has been able to accomplish in her remarkable career at Alabama.

I knew things like how she has won six national championships as the gymnastics at Alabama and that she had a humble beginning to her career compared to what the program is now. I knew things like how she was the last coach hired by legendary Alabama football coach and athletic director Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, but I have never really gotten a chance to really get to know Sarah Patterson for who she really is.

I covered the dedication ceremony for the new Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza that opened back in October, but that was the extent of the time I have spent around her.

Other than that, my main source for knowing who Sarah Patterson is has been Twitter, really, which I have followed her on since my freshman year last year. I always see her sending out positive tweets about not only her program, but for all University of Alabama athletics.

So when I got this opportunity to really get to know her at a personal level for the first time, I was not surprised to see that she was the type of person I always imagined her to be.

She was friendly and polite, yes, but she was also just fascinating. She is not what you would consider old, but yet she has so many interesting stories to tell because she has been at Alabama longer than probably just about any employee at the school.

When she first started, she had an old leftover wrestling mat that was expected to use as a floor exercise mat. So she went to Bryant himself as a young 22-year-old coach and explained why she needed it and got it.

She had to probably borderline bug people, including the local media to come to their gymnastics meets, and over time, they came.

And even with recruiting, which has changed dramatically from when she first started, she likely gave a recruit the hard sell if she really wanted to come, and a lot of them surely did based off her team’s records alone.

So in hindsight, when looking for an explanation as to how and why Patterson became one of the greatest coaches in Alabama history, I would say it’s because of her persistence.

The Alabama gymnastics program now has the facilities and equipment needed to succeed, every home meet is a sellout and is well covered by every local media outlet, and the talent they have is second to none.

Patrick Murphy Sarah Patterson Jay Seawell Mic Potter
Patrick Murphy (softball), Sarah Patterson (gymnastics), Jay Seawell (men’s golf) and Mic Potter (women’s golf) pose for a photo, a day before the dedication ceremony of the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza.
Mic Potter Jay Seawell Patrick Murphy Sarah Patterson Bill Battle Judy Bonner
(From L to R) Mic Potter (women’s golf), Jay Seawell (men’s golf), Patrick Murphy (softball), Sarah Patterson (gymnastics), Bill Battle (Athletic Director) and Judy Bonner (UA President) during the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza dedication ceremony.

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