Tide looks to build an Olympic program

Dan Waters is in his second year at The University of Alabama, but he’s already working to build a program that will produce athletes ready to take on the rest of the world.

“It’s a long term vision for [our athletes],” said Waters, Alabama’s cross country and track and field head coach. “Athletes that we’re bringing in here, we’d like them to be able to compete for SEC titles and national titles but then have aspirations of being in the Olympic games either eight or 12 years from now. That’s the trick about recruiting and working with athletes.”

Waters said it is rare for most athletes coming out of college to be developed enough to compete on the world or Olympic level. However, that is the challenge UA is accepting and tackling head-on.

The SEC had more than 150 athletes compete in this year’s Olympic games in London. The University of Alabama had representation from two former track and field student-athletes – Trish Bartholomew and Kirani James – in the games. The University of Florida led all SEC schools with 39 current and former athletes competing in London, according to gatorzone.com. UF had 10 track and field athletes showcase their talents. Auburn University had 10 track and field athletes compete in London, with two of them being current AU student-athletes. Auburn’s head track and field coach Ralph Spry spoke on the tradition of the Tigers in the Olympic games.

“At Auburn, we are very proud of the tradition of excellence in the SEC, nationally and on the Olympic stage,” he said. “We take great pride in giving our student-athletes the chance to succeed in all three stages of competition. Auburn has always been in the upper echelon nationally in both track and field and swimming and diving. The programs’ continuing output of having both current and former athletes compete at the highest possible level shows that at Auburn we have the resources and the facilities to help a student-athlete get to the Olympic Games by creating environments that are conducive to the success of world-class individuals.”

With a core of athletes that are underclassmen, Alabama looks to steadily progress and reach the potential of producing Olympic-ready athletes. Waters said recruiting, patience and getting athletes to understand the Alabama way is key.

“We’re trying to allocate our scholarships to pillars of the program that can help us win cross country and SEC titles and national titles and then develop some young people underneath them,” he said. “By recruiting and working hard and being dedicated coaches and working with athletes that are equally as dedicated to the long term picture, we think that we can develop our program into being a team that’s consistently had representation at the Olympic Games.”

It seems as if the Tide track and field program is moving in the right direction with its new coaching staff and the re-construction of the new UA track. The world will get the see the Alabama program’s progress at the next Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.