Updated: Mar 6
Written By: Jeff Dugdale
In 1992, Coach David Marsh asked me to join his coaching staff. In doing so he knew that he was getting someone who:
Understood, embraced and wanted to engage in his vision
Was passionate about their school and the future of the program
Didn’t know what they didn’t know
Had a growth mindset
The bases of the above four statements are the pillars or foundation of my transformation into and throughout my career.
Having a vision is critical. A vision is the structure in which all resources, capital, and decisive decisions come from. At Queens, our vision of “Building Leaders for Life…With Royals Pride!” is the phrase I use to make all my decisions - spending, decision making, discipline, recognition etc., are all supporting Building Leaders for Life.
At Auburn, the mission of 1 x 4 (becoming champions in four years) and David’s vision of excellence that embraced the creed provided me with the materials needed to market the program - to recruits and for sponsorship. A strong vision gives you direction, aligns you with other businesses to possibly sponsor your program and provides clarity in conversation. Should the vision be so strong that it moves you emotionally, the passion that is felt on the receiver’s end will lead to results.
When I was asked to take the helm at Queens, the first thing I did was sit down with my first program and share my vision. I even put it in my signature as to not let it get lost or be distracted throughout our journey.
After creating the vision, the next step was to identify how a Queens experience both in the classroom and in the water would support our vision. In doing this we were basically letting our recruits and potential partners/sponsors know that we were ready to deliver a unique experience that would differentiate them from all others. Similar to my Auburn experience in the early 90’s, budget was the common enemy. If we were going to build an experience, we were going to have to become creative and partner with like-minded people that would appreciate the wild ride of a journey that starts at last and thrives in first. It is what every self-help book discusses. Thus, having a growth mindset, I decided to call people who knew more than me who were decision makers and were invested in my success.
At Queens I started by calling the Director of the CSCAA, Bob Groseth. I told him my budget and he asked me “what do you have to offer?” I, with passion, described my vision and the business plan to back it up. Bob told me if I wanted to be National Champions in five years then we would need some lane lines. I received a call a few hours later from Bob who was at the warehouse of Kiefer Aquatics in Chicago. He asked me if I was ready to go shopping. The clarity of my ask, as well as the passionate plea to partner with me to build a successful program led to the following:
Three lane lines for a four-lane pool
A starting block
Backpacks for the swimmers that year
& many other goodies to get me started.
At that time, I approached many suit companies and they politely told me that they would not work with a DII start up. However, one company was willing to risk a partnership because of connections and similar vision - Speedo. Speedo had faith that if we were able to do it at Auburn, I could accomplish it at Queens. Thank you, Speedo. Because of our success, Speedo continues to remain a loyal sponsor and take risks with us and we continue to strive to make them happy.
We also partnered with Colorado Timing system, Paddock Pools & Paddock Evacuator to build a new pool, ProMinent Controllers, Orenda Enzymes, Hale Sports, AquaGen and Pacific Ozone. All companies wanted to be aligned to our vision. I am forever thankful for them as they have been extremely instrumental in our success.
Soon after, the athletic department wanted to move to a more consistent branding, thus entered into a deal with Under Armour. Because Under Armour was not in the swimsuit business, we were able to negotiate a “dry” and “wet” side deal. So that I could continue to prominently expose both brands at a high level, I was allowed to incorporate the Speedo logo within our school logo which allowed me to use it alongside the Under Armour logo.
Other partnerships that have been instrumental in our success: partnering with our business school to leverage the expertise of our marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship, and emotional intelligence professors who help me build leaders for life regardless of your major.
My biggest piece of advice - don’t limit yourself, have a growth mindset, be passionate about your vision, you are the creator of it thus you are the expert and don’t limit yourself or the resources that can help your vision. Examples of this are the following: At Auburn we secured a golf cart custom painted with our national championships on it to drive our recruits and their families around. In 1992, I partnered with our cross-country coach at Auburn to talk to the Nike rep to get our men’s and women’s team Nike shoes to wear at NCAA’s.
I will be forever grateful that Coach Marsh sat me down and asked me to take his vision and run with it. I am even more grateful that he warned me that many don’t have the ability to see such a big vision and they will say no however, don’t leave without asking them to commit to becoming a fan of the program. I have done the same at Queens and we have gathered a very loyal family of fans that even travel to our championships now.
USA National Team Coach / Six-Time CSCAA Coach of the Year / Eight-Time Bluegrass Mountain Conference Coach of the Year/ 2019 Jimi Flowers Coach of the Year
Jeff Dugdale begins his 11th year in charge of the Queens University of Charlotte men's and women's swimming programs in 2020-21.
A native of Kenosha, Wis., Dugdale joined the Royals in the summer of 2010 from the SwimMAC Carolina, where he assists Head Coach David Marsh in all aspects of running Team Elite whose members include Olympian Cullen Jones and record holders Nick Brunelli, Nick Thoman and Josh Schneider.
In addition to working at Queens, the summer of 2012 Dugdale started as the Director of High Performance for SwimMAC Team Elite. He assisted in placing five athletes on the U.S. Olympic Team that returned to Charlotte with three gold medals and three silver. Prior to joining SwimMAC Carolina, Dugdale was an assistant coach at Duke University, where he helped lead recruiting and leadership development. While at Duke, Dugdale had a hand in seeing both the men and women break all but three school records while moving up the ACC and NCAA ranks. In 2008, he spearheaded the merger of two club programs, Tar Heel Aquatic Team and Blue Devil Aquatic into Duke Aquatics, currently a Silver Medal program. Dugdale was a member of the men’s swim team at Auburn University becoming a three year letter-winner, 1989-1991, before getting his start in collegiate coaching at his alma mater in 1992. Like many of the Queens swimmers have done in this first year, Dugdale helped to transition the Tigers’ program into the one it is today with countless NCAA and SEC Championships. As a junior, Dugdale was tapped as Marsh’s first recruiting coordinator and helped Marsh recruit the university’s first SEC and NCAA Championship Team. He assisted in coaching 218 All-American honorees, 16 Academic All-Americans, and one Olympian, Yoav Bruck of Israel. Dugdale earned a bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Performance at Auburn in 1995. Dugdale has two children, Sydney and Colby.
Here are quotes about Coach Dugdale:
“Jeff is not only an exceptional on-deck coach, but a dynamic individual with a wealth of knowledge in how to develop and grow a program to an elite level,” said Dan Colella, head men’s and women’s coach at Duke. “He is a great recruiter of not only potential student athletes, but supporters for the program. He knows how to inspire and bring out the best in everyone, swimmers, alumni, and staff. We miss having him with us here at Duke, but Queens is fortunate to have one of the best as a member of their staff.”
David Marsh has worked with Dugdale for more than 20 years, dating back to the time when both were at Auburn University together. “His enthusiasm and passion coupled with his desire to make a positive impact in the sport of swimming make him a tremendous leader.”