Loyalty, family keep coaching duo together at Iowa State


Brian Mozey/Iowa State Daily

Diving coach Jeff Warrick talks to the divers after their competition against UNI. Iowa State won the meet 197-99 on Jan. 23, 2015.

Rachel Given

Loyalty is part of head swim coach Duane Sorenson’s reputation, and that’s what led him to Ames almost 20 years ago.

Sorenson was close friends with the former ISU men’s swim coach and a former college swim teammate, Trip Hedrick, who mentioned the job opening for the women’s team. Sorenson considered the position even though he thought he had a great job coaching high school and club swim in Minnesota.

“Just to keep our friendship going, I applied, did the interview, and everything fell into place for both Iowa State and myself,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson was accustomed with the swim program at Iowa State after having numerous of his high school swimmers go to the program. Sorenson also had family teach at the university and often visited them.

“It was very familiar, and it was an opportunity coming from a club program and a high school coach,” Sorenson said. “To jump right to head coach in college is very unusual. My career path was not the norm.”

Iowa native Jeff Warrick joined Sorenson as the dive coach just one year after Sorenson started coaching.

“I was teaching math and coaching at Davenport West High School and I just had heard that this job had come open,” Warrick said. “Honestly, it was kind of like a, ‘Well, why don’t I try to see what could come of that?’ I didn’t really think anything would.

“What also helped was, I guess, the three guys ahead of me turned down the job.”

Warrick said he grew up an ISU fan and his mother attended school at Iowa State, so it was a natural fit for him to come.

Sorenson has had a lot of success since becoming the women’s head coach, especially this season, reaching many other milestones. Under the leadership of Sorensen, 100 school records have been broken. 

Sorenson also earned 100 wins early on this season after beating TCU and South Dakota. He is also undefeated against 15 teams. But if you were to ask about records or scores, he’s not the one to answer.

“Those things are all nice, but I’m more of a process person,” Sorensen said. “Those are outcome type things. I’d rather see our individuals get better rather than the big goals.”

Adding wins and records to their coaching résumé aren’t the only reasons why the duo stays with the Cyclones each year.

“[Sorenson] is very passionate about Iowa State swimming and diving, and I think he conveys that and brings that to the program,” said assistant swim coach Kelly Nordell. “He’s just a consummate professional and represents the university so well.”

Outside of the pool, the coaching trio acts as mentors for their student-athletes.

Nordell notes that Sorenson truly cares about his student-athletes and takes great pride when they graduate and become professionals in their fields.

“[Sorenson] takes time to try to ask [international athletes] about their family and their culture, and teach them some things about our culture,” Nordell said.

International student-athletes may have a harder time adjusting to a completely new culture, but Warrick believes the team encompasses an atmosphere that makes the women feel at home.

“I think because of the team environment, the family atmosphere that we have on the team, I think they really like that,” Warrick said. “Even though they’re maybe as far away as China and different places, I think they feel, eventually, at home here.”

Warrick said all divers are different, noting the only thing the two share is the water. Each has a different style and Warrick adapts his coaching style to each one accordingly.

“Toward me, he’ll know when to push my buttons and when to move on,” said senior diver Elyse Brouillette. “He’s very understanding when we have injuries and when we’re sick.”

The athletes aren’t the only ones who see all sides of Warrick. Sorenson also sees the laser focus Warrick brings to the table. 

“I always say for Jeff [Warrick], he’s such a focused person that there could be an earthquake on one side of the pool and a fire on the other, and he would be totally focused on his divers,” Sorenson said. “He’s got very much tunnel vision, and I give him crap about it all the time.”

The team can tell the coaching duo has a system in place, for both teams, and it works. It makes practices and meetings as a whole team cohesive. 

“They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses … probably like brothers. They know when to leave each other alone,” Nordell said.

Even at the pool during practice, it’s easy to notice the brotherly love between the two, whether it’s in a joking matter.

“I pick on [Warrick] all the time,” Sorenson said. 

All jokes aside, the pair is thankful for each other.

“It’s a very good relationship because we think a lot alike, [and] we’re both very dedicated to our athletes,” Sorenson said. “We try to push our athletes to the limit every chance we can get it and get them to go more than what they think they can do.”