TUSCALOOSA — In a few short hours, Dana Duckworth went from longtime assistant and aspiring head coach to running one of the nation’s premier gymnastics programs.
With her college coach and mentor Sarah Patterson stepping down, Duckworth was handed the keys to the juggernaut that is Alabama gymnastics.
“It’s bittersweet,” Duckworth said of her new job.
“This is such an amazing opportunity. 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.”
Duckworth’s ties to the university date back to the 1990s. She spent four years as a gymnast under Sarah and David Patterson. After nine seasons as a volunteer coach and the last six as an assistant, Duckworth’s first year as a head coach will mark her 20th with Alabama’s program. Duckworth will be the Tide’s sixth coach in program history. Her promotion is subject to approval by The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.
“Dana will be a tremendous leader,” Patterson said. “She will do a great job and be a great head coach.”
Duckworth has experienced national championships as both an athlete and a coach. She was a member of Alabama’s 1991 NCAA championship team as a sophomore. She also won two individual national championships during her time with the Tide. As a coach, she helped Alabama to the 2002, 2011 and 2012 NCAA championships.
Duckworth will be joined by assistant coach Bryan Raschilla who was promoted to associate head coach. Raschilla has been with the program since 1997.
“We kind of just agreed that you know what, we’re equally qualified to do this job,” Duckworth said. “I asked him, ‘So if I get it, are you going to stay?’ He said yes. He said, ‘If I get it, are you going to stay?’ Yes.
“The beautiful part is we have worked together long enough to know we really can make this happen.”
“Dana’s going to be great,” rising senior Kayla Williams said. “She’s been one of Sarah’s athletes. She’s been Sarah’s assistant. She knows how it works on both ends. So, to be able to have that kind of experience is something not a lot of other schools have. She knows how everything works and she knows how we work.
“Not only has she worked with the girls that are on the team right now, but her and Bryan handpicked the freshman that are coming in. … She’s going to push us hard, but at the same time keep us healthy. I think we have as good a shot as ever to continue what we’ve been doing.”
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.