By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
A career in coaching was never supposed to be on Carol Capitani’s resume.
As both a student and swimmer at the University of California, Capitani knew her path involved teaching but she imagined she’d be conducting class in a classroom instead of in the water.
“I was going to be a teacher and had no plans whatsoever to coach,” said Capitani, who took over the head coaching position of the women’s swimming and diving program at the University of Texas last year. “I saw myself teaching and writing short stories – not coaching college swimmers. But life takes interesting turns that we can’t always see.”
After graduating college in 1991, Capitani moved to Italy before returning to the states in 1993 to work on her master’s degree in English.
Planning to be a professor and writer, she didn’t think about coaching until the friend of a former coach told her about an assistant position at Villanova University.
After doing some soul-searching, she decided it was a good fit and went for it.
“I was able to go to grad school for free, coach and earn some money at the same time; it was a great situation for me,” Capitani said. “I always figured I would use it as a way to get to my final goal of teaching and writing, but I ended up loving coaching, and when I thought about it, I figured there were more opportunities in coaching than teaching.”
Twenty years later, Capitani is going strong, leading a Longhorn women’s program that didn’t need rebuilding but did require some restructuring when she took over a year ago.
She led Texas to a ninth-place finish at 2013 NCAA Championships (the same result as in 2012) – great for most programs – but when a school has the history and facilities that Texas has, more is expected, and Capitani embraces that.
It’s one of the reasons she took a leap of faith after 12 years as an assistant under Jack Bauerle at the University of Georgia.
“I figured if not now, when was I going to take the next step in my coaching career?” Capitani said. “There were only two or three head coaching jobs in the country that I was interested in, and when Texas became available, I asked myself what am I waiting for?
“I don’t know if I was looking for the perfect job, but I knew if it wasn’t Texas, then the perfect job didn’t exist for me. I was ready to take on a new challenge, and Texas was a great program for that.”
Before landing in Athens, Capitani spent three years as associate coach for the men's and women's program at Villanova. While at Villanova, she helped lead the Lady Wildcats to three consecutive Big East Championship titles, and several men and women in the program scored at the NCAA Championships each of those years
Capitani spent 14 years at Georgia during two different stints. She was as an assistant coach for 12 years (1996-2008) before returning to Athens in the summer of 2010 and serving as associate head coach for the last two seasons. She worked as the assistant head coach for the Singapore National Team from 2009-10.
While a member of the Georgia staff, Capitani was a part of four NCAA team titles (1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005) and seven second-place finishes (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012) with the Lady Bulldogs.
She also was a part of six top-10 NCAA finishes with the men's team and helped the Bulldogs garner five Southeastern Conference titles.
Along with her experience with the Singapore National Team, Capitani has served on several U.S. National team staffs. She was an assistant coach during the 2011 World University Games in China and also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Team at the 2007 Japan International Grand Prix in Tokyo and the 2005 World University Games in Turkey.
Having been coaching now for 20 years, Capitani said the reward comes from the opportunity she embraces every day in helping the athletes reach their goals – giving them the tools and guidance to accomplish that.
She also gains a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that she has helped “right the ship” from the outside at Texas – even though she knows patience isn’t one of her many virtues.
“I’m really proud of how quickly we’ve worked to get the program back to normal and on the right path moving forward,” Capitani said. “I’m the first to admit I’m not that patient, and I want to know that we’re moving forward quickly. I know that we are.”
Part of what excites Capitani about the future of Texas women’s swimming is her returning nucleus this season coupled with a very large incoming freshmen class of 10. She got a taste of what the team will be like last Friday in a dual against Rice, and she walked away pleased with what she saw.
“We were better in every event except one from last year, so I’m excited to see where we go from there,” said Capitani, mom to daughters Carmen Jane, 10, and Tatum Louise, 9. “There’s great energy on the team this year, and our schedule will get progressively harder as we move toward Big 12s and NCAAs next year. I want to test them along the way to see where we are and how they respond. It’s a great way to measure our progress.”
Still, despite taking over the head coaching position of the Texas women’s program, Capitani wants to be clear that she is still the same person as she was in Georgia and Villanova.
She just has more responsibility, something she takes very seriously, especially when it comes to the development of her athletes.
“My role may be different, but my philosophy remains the same,” Capitani said. “I can’t swim for them, so I have to make sure I give them as many tools as possible to succeed. It’s my job to get them in shape and own it so they can be successful in and out of the water.”
Capitani’s Five Pillars of Coaching:
1. Work hard.
2. Be accountable.
3. Pay attention to technique.
4. Always believe in possibilities.
5. Treat others and yourself well.