For the first time in program history, Ohio State men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams will be coached as a combined unit, starting in the 2018-19 season.
The man tasked with leading the unit will be women’s swimming coach Bill Dorenkott, who will expand his duties and take over the coaching of the men’s swimming and diving team from Bill Wadley, who retired after 26 years at the helm of the team.
This change will be an adjustment for the program in its entirety, which is why the department’s primary focus is completing its staff, Dorenkott said.
“So, once we have the staff in place, I think then we’ll take the time to sit down and really map out the strategy in terms of the nuts and bolts of day-to-day, week-to-week and throughout the seasons,” Dorenkott said. “ But I’m confident, one, that we’ll hire the right people, and two, that we’ll put them in the right spots.”
Dorenkott recently completed his ninth season coaching at OSU, and has developed great relationships with his athletes on the women’s team. However, during the nine years he has shared a deck with Wadley, he never bonded with the members of the men’s team.
“I really only knew the guys in more of an informal way, not on a deep level,” Dorenkott said. “The number one goal right now is to develop relationships and connections with each of the men, and to help them get what they’re looking for out of this experience.”
Though the men’s team hasn’t been able to spend much time with Dorenkott, they have been trained by him.
“We actually train with coach Dorenkott in the summer, which is why I think we’re all pretty optimistic about the change,” junior Thomas Trace said.
The program change was a surprise to many members of the women’s team, but they view the merger as a positive adjustment for their team, junior Amanda McNulty said.
“We were not expecting such an immediate change when the men’s coach retired, but overall both teams are ready for it,” McNulty said. “The program change will bring in a lot of new coaches which will be great additions to our current staff.”
At the recent 2017 NCAA swimming and diving championships, 32 universities finished among the Top 25 scorers at either the men’s or women’s NCAA championships, and 23 of those schools have combined swimming programs.
Since the merger was announced, the teams have practiced together in the pool. The women’s and men’s teams typically still lift weights separately, but they train together in the afternoons, which Dorenkott believes can be beneficial to both teams.
“We’ve talked with the guys about some of the things that they want to see out of the combined setting that maybe we weren’t able to offer with the teams being divided, and I think one of those things is just an attention to detail,” Dorenkott said. “When you have a fully functioning staff of six full-time coaches, and you think about having a coach-to-athlete ratio of 12-to-1, that’s pretty neat, and that’s as good as anywhere in the world.”
The women’s team is already familiar with Dorenkott’s coaching. Now, they are eager to see what he might accomplish as coach of both teams, McNulty said.
“Coach Bill always has a vision and drive for what he wants to accomplish, so I think he’ll do a great job of creating a new team,” McNulty said. “I trust in his process and I don’t think he would have decided to merge teams if he didn’t believe it was going to be great for both the women and men.”