By Lauren Hardy//Correspondent
After a series of blisters on both feet pushed her out of the sport of soccer, Danielle Tansel joined the local summer swim team when she was 11. Two years later, her friends convinced her to swim year-round, and since then, she hasn’t looked back.
Today, Tansel is going on her third year as the assistant coach for the University of Michigan’s swimming and diving program.
“I had a feeling early on that swimming could take me places,” says Tansel. “There are so many aspects of coaching that I enjoy and delight in, and it is an incredibly rewarding career path.”
Prior to joining the Wolverine swim staff, Tansel coached throughout her graduate study at Oakland University, where she received a master’s in counseling. As her knowledge of collegiate coaching and counseling accumulated over the years, a calling fell on Tansel to commit to coaching full-time.
“It really sparked a need in me to combine my swimming experience with my desire to infuse more mental toughness and happiness into those I work with,” she says.
Tansel spoke with USA Swimming about her coaching journey, and what she believes has helped pave her way down the road of success.
What's your coaching philosophy?
My philosophy is to build relationships and help create an environment where athletes feel supported, comfortable and powerful. I make it my priority to know my athletes very well, so that I can make personalized decisions, rather than relying on my expertise in physiology, a specific stroke, etc.
How important is communication in coaching?
Communication is essential to team building. Luckily, effective communication is one of my strengths. I also put a lot of stock in self-awareness and helping the athletes gain more of that, in order to make them better athletes and faster swimmers!
What do you consider to be the crowning achievement of your coaching career?
I am extremely proud to be at the University of Michigan, coaching with some of the finest coaches in the world and some of the best athletes. I struggled with my own decision to keep swimming in college, so to be working with such an elite team, helping them become faster, happier and building relationships with each of our athletes rewards me on a daily basis. There really is no better feeling than when an athlete looks at you, after achieving something big, and has that response like “wow, that just happened!”
You just wrapped up your second season as assistant coach with the University of Michigan. How have you grown, and how do you continue to improve your coaching?
I ask a lot of questions! I always sat in the front row in my college classes, and I continue to seek out information from those around me. I am truly blessed to work at Michigan, where we are given many resources by our athletic department, as well as work with a great group of coaches with diverse strengths and backgrounds. It helps a lot that Mike (our head coach) is very creative, thinks outside the box and encourages us to do the same.
What’s that hardest part of being of coach, and how do you balance life/work?
Luckily, my husband, Bryon, is also an Assistant Swim Coach at Eastern Michigan University. Swim-talk is very prevalent at our house, so we can be sounding boards for one another. This helps with understanding long hours or taking phone calls during dinner, movies, etc. The challenging part is finding the time to re-charge, so that I stay positive and energetic. I place a lot of value in “small things,” like a glass of red wine, a great book, or a weekly show to look forward to. When something is truly important, you find a way to keep it in your life (for me that is visiting family)!
What are your coaching career goals?
I would love to see both of our men and women’s teams win the Big Ten Championships, NCAAs and place an athlete (or more) on their respective Olympic Teams!
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by numerous coaches I have worked alongside and come into contact with. I respect their ability to use the knowledge they have gained, and then tweak it to become their own unique coach. If I had to pick a well-known coach right now, I would say Hutch, who is the Head Coach of Women’s Softball at Michigan. I know her team is very successful, she gives off a supportive, yet no-excuses vibe and I see her at my boxing classes doing work! I have always respected coaches who take care of themselves, as I feel it shows our athletes that we too still challenge ourselves daily and respect what we are asking of them.
Tansel’s Five Keys to Coaching Success
1. Have a great team of coaches who can teach you and push you to grow
2. Be a great listener. It’s important to reflect on what you learn and incorporate that knowledge into coaching.
3. Have a strong sense of who you are! For example, I am an energetic, optimistic, athletic woman who is passionate about having a positive impact on the world (even if it is just by impacting one individual at a time). Having a sense of self is both empowering and confidence building, which are qualities a coach needs to be successful.
4. Have a good support system outside of work. My family is tough, stubborn and loving, and that has helped over the years.
5. Lastly, my husband, Bryon. He sacrificed a lot to help me get where I am and we are both feeling the benefits!