TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Two-time NCAA balance beam champion Dana Duckworth has been named head coach of the Alabama gymnastics team, director of athletics Bill Battle announced Tuesday.
“When it became evident that Sarah Patterson would be stepping down, we knew that the pieces were already in place to continue our championship tradition,” Battle said. “We are proud to announce that Dana Duckworth, one of the most successful gymnasts in our storied history, will lead us into the future.”
After four years as a gymnast, nine seasons as a volunteer coach and the past six as an assistant coach, Duckworth’s first as head coach will be her 20th year with the Alabama program. She will be the Tide’s first new head gymnastics coach in 36 years and its sixth overall. Duckworth’s promotion is subject to approval by The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.
“This is such an amazing opportunity,” Duckworth said. “It is the best job in all of gymnastics and I’m extremely proud to be able to continue to be a part of this incredible tradition.”
“I am pleased that Dana has agreed to become Alabama’s next championship gymnastics coach,” UA president Dr. Judy Bonner said. “Her ability to bring out the best in our student-athletes will mean continued success for the team and for each individual gymnast. I am confident that our student-athletes will continue to thrive in and out of the classroom, and I look forward to watching these young women compete at the highest levels for many years to come.”
It was also announced that longtime assistant coach Bryan Raschilla will remain a part of the Crimson Tide staff.
In addition to being a two-time individual national champion, Duckworth was an eight-time All-American, an Academic All-American and an NCAA and SEC Postgraduate Scholarship winner during her career as a student-athlete.
“I love our environment, I love our culture, I love our tradition and I love the fact that as an Alabama gymnast you represent all those things," Duckworth said.
It was those same elements that made her decision to leave a lucrative career with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals to join the Alabama coaching staff on a full-time basis in the fall of 2008 after nearly a decade as a volunteer coach such an easy one.
"I really enjoyed what I was doing at Pfizer and it's a tremendous company but my heart and my passion have always been here at the Capstone with our program," Duckworth said. "I felt like this was an opportunity for me to do what I love and everyone I have ever talked to has said, if you love what you do, you'll never go to another day of work in your life."
It was an equally easy decision for Sarah and David Patterson -- Duckworth’s mentors as a gymnast and as a coach -- when they asked her to return to the program as a full-time assistant coach.
"Dana has always been a great role model for our ladies," Sarah 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 has experienced national team championships as both an athlete and a coach, having been a part of the Tide's 1991 NCAA title as a sophomore and the 2002, '11 and '12 NCAA championships as a coach. She has also won conference titles as an athlete (1990) and a coach (2003, '09, '11 and '14).
As much as Duckworth appreciates the championship tradition she has been a part of for so long, it's the overall atmosphere created by the people who live, work and go to school at Alabama that she truly appreciates.
"The people at the University of Alabama make everything unique and special," Duckworth said. "I love the fact that the University of Alabama is about tradition and culture. I tell people all the time that I feel like Tuscaloosa is the best-kept secret because we have it all here and everyone approaches things with a great deal of passion. It makes everyone’s experience very special."
• Legendary Alabama coach Patterson steps down