2009 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE GYMNASTICS
The University of Alabama has a lot of pride in its sports programs. There are very few sports in which the Crimson Tide compete in which the ultimate result of that participation is not at the very least competitive play, if not, excellence. Well, ever since the team first began competing back in the mid 1970's, Alabama women's gymnastics has made sure to follow that tradition. Sure, there have been some ups and downs over the course of the past 30+ seasons of gymnastics competition. But generally speak, there have been a lot more ups than downs, and Alabama has routinely finished in the top 2-3 teams in the Southeastern Conference.
The early seasons for Alabama women's gymnastics were, to say the very least, a time of uncertainty and instability. Over the course of the first four years of competition, the team did not manage to finish a single season with a winning record, and much of the team's inconsistency on the mats could probably be attributed to a remarkable lack of consistency in the coaching ranks. For each of the first four seasons, the Alabama gymnastics team had a different head coach. However, following the 1977-1978 season, a breath of fresh air in the form of a new head coach was about to take hold of the Alabama women's gymnastics program, and this head coach would change the fortunes of the program.
Sarah Patterson was named as the 5th head coach of the Alabama women's gymnastics program in the summer of 1978. There have been only five head coaches in the history of the program. She has remained there ever since. And why not? She loves the job, and Alabama women's gymnastics loves her.
Actually, more appropriately, Patterson now serves as part of a two headed coaching team, made up of herself, and her now husband, then aspiring coach himself, David Patterson, who was immediately brought on as an assistant coach upon Sarah Patterson's hiring. The pair immediately began shaping the future of Alabama gymnastics one season at a time.
It wasn't always a smooth, seamless ride. There were bumps. A lot of bumps. Throughout the early to mid 80's, the team was significantly improved without a doubt. But the team was having a little bit of difficulty getting over the final hurdles that stood between it and national success. Indeed, the Patterson had made a promise to the women who began with the team in 1980 that, by the time they graduated from the University of Alabama as seniors, they would go to the NCAA Championships. And while it took a while, they did finally get to go to the NCAA Championships in their senior season, the first time that Alabama women's gymnastics had ever made it to that event.
While making the NCAA championships in 1982 was a significant achievement, it was by no means the end of the road for the goals that the team set out to achieve. Not even close. The next item on the agenda for the Pattersons was the not only get this team to the NCAA Championships, but to put this team in the position to actually win the NCAA Championship. It took another 6 seasons of hard work and dedication, but eventually, in 1988, that dream was realized. The Alabama women's gymnastics team, that year, won the Southeastern Conference for the first time, and then went on to win its first NCAA Championship.
Since then, the Crimson Tide has experienced continued success. All told, the Patterson era has featured four NCAA Championships, five SEC titles, and 23 NCAA regional titles.
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