Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Diving Coach Sarkisian Brings Tradition-Rich Past To NU (Men’s Swimming)

By Brian ReganThe Daily Northwestern

If Alik Sarkisian had his way, the Norris Aquatics Center would extend into North Beach and would house the best and newest diving and gymnastics equipment. But as the first-year diving coach is learning, donors need results to justify coaches’ dreams.

After former diving coach Tom Michael left for Wisconsin, Northwestern hired Sarkisian away from the Victory Diving Club in Oklahoma City.

Sarkisian is the former head coach of the USSR, Armenian and U.S. national diving teams, which he left to pursue more glory as an NCAA head coach.

“If you want to be a respectable coach in the United States,” Sarkisian said, “you have to be a university coach. The best facilities are at the universities and colleges, but there is very little at the Olympic level, which is different from the USSR.”

This is his first head coaching gig at the collegiate level after serving as an assistant at the University of Southern California.

With a wealth of coaching experience, Sarkisian has tried to motivate his divers into becoming even better performers, even though his style maybe different than his American athletes are used to.

“The transition made me nervous that the team would not know me or my style, which is very different than theirs,” he said. “But it didn’t matter because the team knew diving and they are all very smart.”

His personality and the Wildcats’ willingness to learn has bridged the gap and each party is succeeding so far this season.

“He has something about him that is very encouraging,” sophomore Alex Kiaie said. “Something innate that makes you want to work hard that I really like. He wants to make you be the best you can be.”

Kiaie, whose scores have gone up almost 10 percent this season, credits some of that success to Sarkisian.

Even though, Michael’s laid-back practices are gone and instead replaced with Sarkisian’s up-tempo workouts, the team’s morale is high and meet performances are improving.

“We’ve been a lot sorer than we’ve ever been, but we’re doing very well,” senior Leanne Dumais said. “The team has bonded much more than in the past this season.”

The squad has been putting up good numbers all season, helping the whole swim and dive team get more points at meets, which they are trying to do again Saturday at No. 16 Notre Dame.

Now that he has implemented his system, Sarkisian is aiming for bigger goals and accolades.

“In the future I am expecting to coach an Olympic champion and an NCAA champion,” he said.

But now he can feel satisfied knowing that the team respects him and his ways in just his first season as coach.

“You can see the kids have responded well to him,” NU swimming coach Bob Groseth said. “They are working harder and with more smiles on their faces.”

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Diving Coach Sarkisian Brings Tradition-Rich Past To NU (Men’s Swimming)