Feeling the pressure?

Last season Alabama's athletics department saw four of its programs win national titles. With a new season beginning, do the coaches whose teams did not win national championships last year or in recent years feel the pressure to win and win quickly?

The pressure is on at Alabama.

Last season, the athletics department saw four of its teams—football, gymnastics, women's golf and softball—hoist national championship trophies over their heads. It was the most successful year in program history.

So what about the teams that didn't have as successful of seasons? The pressure is on.

Or is it?

"I actually posed that question to the team the first night of preseason," said soccer coach Todd Bramble. "Coming off a year of Alabama winning four national championships and, take football out of the equation, but the other sports, all those coaches are in my hallway where I go to work everyday, so I see those coaches everyday and see how hard they work and see their athletes and I wanted to make sure our team didn't feel any pressure because of that. But it's just made us even more motivated and inspired.

"It also gives you that confidence from an administrative standpoint that Olympic sports here do matter and they do give you the resources to be successful and they do want you to be successful."

Last season was the first time since 1998 the soccer team made the NCAA Tournament and the first time they had a winning record (10-9-3) since 2003. This year, the team's goal is to be better than that.

Bramble, who enters his fifth year coaching the Crimson Tide, said he often goes into his fellow coaches' offices to chit chat tactics.

"I like to pick the brains of people like [women's golf coach] Mic Potter, [men's golf coach] Jay Seawell, [gymnastics coach] Sarah Patterson, and [softball coach] Patrick Murphy," he said. "Those are great people to be able to rub shoulders with everyday. And it's nice to be able to go rub their national championship trophies when you walk by their office, too."

Cross-country and track and field coach Dan Waters doesn't feel rushed to win, either. He inherited a depleted program when he arrived in Tuscaloosa last year and doesn't have much experience to work with this year either, as Alabama's women's cross-country team has three returning runners and the men's team has one. The rest of the athletes on both squads are freshmen.

If there was ever a coach who had the right to use the "my athletes are young and inexperienced" excuse, it's Waters. But he's not. He knew what he was getting himself into when he took the job and is slowly implementing his philosophy, which is to take the youth he has and develop it.

The silver lining, he says, is his runners will compete young and learn and grow and get better as the years go by, and when they are juniors and seniors, they'll be experienced.

"It's like dealing with a lineman in football," Waters said. "The more playing time he gets, the more effective he becomes. We're asking a bunch of 18-19 year olds to compete against 23-24 year olds."

Developing athletes is a process, not something that happens overnight. Waters is happy with his program's current situation and is confident in his plan.

"I think everybody understood it wasn't going to be a one-year turnaround," he said. "It was going to take some time to redevelop the program the way that I told them I was going to do it when I was hired here. Within 3-4 years we should see marked improvement across the board and if that's not happening in 3-4 years then yeah, I'd feel the pressure, but right now, not really."

Alabama's men's tennis team has never won a national title and the last time it was crowned SEC champion was in 1976. The last time they finished in the Top 10? 1993.

After longtime head coach Billy Pate left for the same job at Princeton this spring, the Tide hired USC assistant George Husack, who was named last season's Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Assistant Coach of the Year.

Husack is used to working with a winning program. USC has won the past four national championships and before his stint in with the Trojans, Husack was an assistant at Illinois, a program that went to the NCAA Tournament every year during his tenure.

"Everything I saw when I came [to Alabama] from the moment I stepped on campus was very professional, very forthcoming with how much [the athletics department] supports all their programs, really to be in a situation to grow this program," he said.

So does Husack feel hurried to win at Alabama after being part of a winning tennis tradition elsewhere?

"I think it's great to be around [other successful programs] because that means everyone around me is motivated and they're raising the bar," he said. "I want to do it the right way. I'm not going to jump in and rush things. I don't feel that pressure at all."

It's difficult for one school to win one national title—much less four—in one season. But despite Alabama's immense success, winning is contagious and the Tide teams that haven't won national titles lately are on the upswing.


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