Getting To Know: Brittany Sayler

Brittany Sayler joined the North Texas swimming and diving staff in June 2013.
July 1, 2015

Head coaches are at the front and center of every college athletic team. Their assistant coaches are tirelessly working behind the scenes, juggling multiple things at once. What are their stories?

Every Wednesday during the summer, MeanGreenSports.com will be featuring an assistant coach from a North Texas team.

Brittany Sayler has been an assistant coach with the North Texas swimming and diving team for the last two seasons. At only 30 years old, Sayler has had coaching success at virtually every level, a career that has allowed her to work with everyone from beginning swimmers to a two-time all-American. An accomplished swimmer in her own right, Sayler qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open during her senior year of college, and she will be getting married later this month.

We caught up with Sayler to learn more about how she found her way into coaching, what she does on a day-to-day basis and what keeps her going.

How did you get involved in coaching?
“I started coaching the summer before I went to college. I needed a job that would work around my swimming schedule and my club coach let me take over the eight-year-old group. I was just teaching them how to do the strokes legally and getting them to love the sport of swimming. Then when I came back the next summer my coach gave me the kids that were eight to ten. The summer after that I was working with every age group in some facet. So really my coaching career began with age group swimming.”

Was that something you were into right away or did you view it more like a part-time job?
“I viewed it at the time as something that was fun and it fit right into my schedule. It was really great because I was at the same swim meets as the kids. I was competing myself for my club team and so it only required me to stay around when I would usually go home and take a nap. It was so worth it because I was seeing them improve and just watching the excitement of an eight-year-old. You know, I’m over here telling them what they can do to improve their stroke and all they really need is the high-five. It brings you back to the love of why you started swimming.”

What were some of the steps in your career after Ball State?
“When I was a senior in high college I needed to do student teaching so I got placed in a town called Frankfort, Indiana. I was in the second grade classroom and I reached out to the head swimming coach there and basically just volunteered. I spent the semester volunteer coaching for the high school guys and girls teams, and when I returned for my fifth year at Ball State my coaches there also let me volunteer with the team as a student coaching assistant.

After I finished up at Ball State I was applying to pretty much every elementary school in the state of Indiana because that’s just where I thought I would be. I got one call back from the athletic director at Frankfort High School. He said that their legendary swimming coach was retiring after 35 years and he wanted to give me the men’s program. So as I was going through and getting the certifications I needed to coach at that level, he came back to me that summer and offered me the women’s program as well. It was great. So I was in charge of the guys and girls swim teams, the Frankfort summer swim club and I also started an affiliation with my USA club team. I just realized that these kids needed to compete at a higher level than what their summer league was offering.

After that, I had a connection with an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Their head coach had just left so he had gotten promoted and needed an assistant. I told him no initially and I took the job after my family reminded me that coaching college is what I’d always wanted to do. Two weeks later I was moving to Milwaukee and that’s where my college coaching career started.”

What brought you to North Texas?
“While I was still coaching with Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I just started meeting more people and eventually a connection knew that Brendon had just gotten the job here and they thought we should meet. When we finally met and were going through the philosophy of the program, it was almost like a lightbulb went off. My jaw dropped because I whole-heartedly believed in what he was saying and I wanted to be a part of it. I left that meeting and knew I wanted to be at North Texas, I wanted to work with Brendon and I wanted to put his vision into full force. What we do here is a pretty progressive view of swimming and it’s taken a little bit of time, but it’s showing itself in bits and pieces and it’s so exciting.”

Obviously you have a ton of experience in the sport. Tell me about your own background as a swimmer?
“Starting off as a swimmer, I was a butterflier and I was also a gymnast which led me into diving. I grew about four or five inches so I lost the diving. About my junior year of high school I started focusing on backstroke. My role at that point in my career was that I was basically the clean up kid. It was my job to get third place and beat out the other team’s second-best person. At that point the coaches that I worked with turned to a lot more stroke training, where you basically focus on a single stroke. I went with the backstroke and that was simply because I could breathe the whole time. It ended up working out. My junior year of high school I broke the school record and I started to get stronger and faster in that. I had made the Indiana state high school meet and by the time my senior year came I made state in two individual and two relay races. By that time I had honed in on what my strengths were, and that led into college where I was primarily a 100 and 200 backstroker. I finished my career at Ball State with the school records in both of those races.”

As an assistant coach, what duties do you have that some people may not realize?
“I view my job as keeping the wheels on the bus. I try to take care of things that people really don’t see so everything can just move forward. If there’s some kind of systematic breakdown I see that as my fault. On a smaller scale, I make sure we have food when we’re on the road and I handle apparel. With the team and training, I work a lot with technique. I’ve found that it’s something I’ve honed in on through having great coaches growing up who see things a little differently than the traditional coach.

My background has opened my eyes to swimming and I’ve found that through my teaching background I can get them to understand what I’m trying to say pretty easily. I think that since I have a background with so many different strokes it helps so much. Even with something like the breaststroke, something that I was never particularly good at, I think I’ve learned every trick in the book to get through it and race it.

Out of the water, I run our dryland program and that helps to really have our girls move through space easier. I’m all about developing our athletes as a whole so I like to design dryland workouts that make our girls stronger physically, not necessarily bulked up, but they are very internally strong. When I can teach body awareness on land, it carries over into the water and makes the conversation a lot easier.”

What makes it all worth it?
“What makes it worth it for me is the Jessica Rodriguez swims. It’s the senior swimmer here that’s still fighting and still giving it her all. The way that Jessica approached her senior year, she did it without any questions. It was ‘Okay, I’m going to put everything aside, I’m going to release any chains I have holding me back, and anything you tell me to do is what I’m going for.’ To watch our swimmers finally realize that they are capable of anything they want to do and see girls like Jessica get the best times she’s ever gotten in the last meet of her career, that’s what anybody wants. To be a part of it, to watch her going for it day in and day out, and getting to work with those kinds of athletes that aren’t afraid to go after it even if they’re tired or sore or if they don’t feel well, working with those athletes makes it all worth it. The thing about swimming is that it’s a slow process and it doesn’t happen instantly. Challenging our athletes and keeping them focused on the end goal is what keeps me going.”

Getting To Know Archive
June 3 - Chris Cosh
June 10 - Derek Mackel
June 17 - Daniel Dobson
June 24 - Jeff Hammond

 

 

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