That’s the word that comes to head coach Pablo Morales’ mind when describing associate coach Patrick Rowan.
Rowan has been passionate about swimming for the majority of his life, but it didn’t start out that way.
When he was younger, he was like most kids and tried out a variety of sports, but his favorite was soccer because all of his friends played it. He loved the feeling of being a part of a team and working together for a common goal.
During the winter in Lincoln, there is no soccer offered, so his parents told him to pick a sport for the season when he was eight years old. He decided to swim at the YMCA near his house. Instead of working with a team, he was practicing and racing on his own, which he found less appealing.
Rowan swam at the club for five years until he switched to Nebraska Aquatics, which practiced at the Devaney Sports Center.
Once he made that change, he found his love for the sport.
“Something clicked, either it was the kids or the training because these kids had started when they were six, training twice a day,” Rowan said. “I got the first view of what real swimming is all about and like I said, something just clicked.”
When he started high school at Lincoln Southeast, it was a no-brainer for him to swim.
“It was my first team atmosphere that just was something I never experienced before, because of that atmosphere I knew I wanted to swim in college,” Rowan said.
His school was a two-time, Nebraska Class A state champion while he was there, but he said his freshman year and first state title was his favorite memory.
“Yeah, I won medals after that, and some individual things that were amazing for me but nothing beat that freshman year title, the way the team came together to win and just the all-around atmosphere on deck was something that will never be beaten,” Rowan said.
He knew that the route to collegiate swimming was going to be tough for him coming from a state that isn’t known for swimming, so he sent handwritten letters to colleges all around the country to have them scout him.
He was able to get some schools to look at him like Arizona State and Eastern Illinois, but he didn’t feel the same about those schools as he felt when Eastern Michigan started calling him.
“I remember my first visit [and ]I could feel an energy with the team and the coaches, the team just reminded me a lot of the kids I swam with in high school and I could tell they wanted to give it their all for Coach Linn,” Rowan said.
Rowan didn’t win anything individually during his time at Eastern Michigan, but that wasn’t what the team was all about.
“It was doing it for each other, it wasn’t about who won if we won as a team, I had some best times and some other things that I am proud of but at the end of the day it was about the team,” Rowan said.
After graduating from Eastern Michigan, Rowan came back to Nebraska and was looking for what he should do next. He had a passion for two things: psychology, his major in college, and swimming. He decided on the latter and became the head coach for his old club, Nebraska Aquatics.
“I just loved the whole process of being good at swimming, having to grind 24/7, 365 days which just drew me and I just couldn’t get out of the world of swimming,” Rowan said.
Just like when he swam for the club, the practices for Nebraska Aquatics took place at the Devaney Center. Rowan, being a fan of the sport, knew of Morales and would pay close attention to the Nebraska team.
“I wanted to get back into college coaching so bad,” Rowan said. “I was missing that team atmosphere that I had just experienced at Eastern [Michigan]. For probably three years straight I asked Pablo [Morales] what I could do for him and how I could help. Finally, after bothering him, he finally let me get into the program.”
Rowan’s job was as a volunteer assistant coach, so he was timing the swimmers and helping out with meals, but not doing much coaching. As Rowan said, he was just putting his foot in the door and trying to do as much as he could with what they would let him do.
As much as Rowan loved coaching and being a part of the team atmosphere, he always wondered why he didn’t make it big swimming and decided he wanted to find the answer.
“My mental game wasn’t 100% and that's why I didn’t go far, so I started to look around at programs for me to study, and I found Missouri,” Rowan said. “I was ready to quit coaching and become a student again.”
What Rowan didn’t know is that during his move, the Missouri men’s and women’s swim team had a spot open up for a new graduate assistant coach.
“It was weird how it worked out, but when I got down there they had a spot open and I got in touch with coach and I was back to coaching while being a full-time student again, but this time for my masters program,” Rowan said.
Through his time at Missouri he learned many lessons that made him into the coach he is today.
“There isn’t a practice that goes by that I don't relate it back to what I learned [like] positive self-talk [and] getting them to realize what they have actually done,” Rowan said.
He is now pursuing a doctorate in sports psychology with Missouri.
That wasn’t the only thing of note that came out of Rowan’s time at Missouri. In his first year as a graduate assistant, the sprint coach left, which created an opening for Rowan to take a step up.
“They promoted me. I was now a full-time student also coaching, helping with recruiting, helping in honestly any way possible that I could, and also learned as much as I could from the program,” Rowan said.
Of all the things Rowan learned about recruiting, the most important lesson was to make the most of every moment that recruiters have with the recruit. This is because the recruits have taken tours before, so it’s up to the recruiter to make it special for them.
Rowan was a coach at Missouri from 2007-12. During that time, the program was ranked in the top 15 for all but one year. The recruiting classes for the women's program were ranked 18th and the men’s ranked seventh in 2011.
With all of his success in other places, Rowan never forgot where he came from. So, when Morales called him asking if he was interested to come back and be his assistant coach, Rowan began to seriously consider it.
Rowan had learned some new tricks in recruiting, but Morales had a trick up his sleeve to get Rowan back to Nebraska.
“I was interested from the first call, but I think it was my second interview that I had here was with Tom Osborne, and you sit down in Tom’s office and hear him say, ‘Pat, we need you to come back home,’ I just couldn’t say no,” Rowan said.
Rowan has been as an associate head coach for eight seasons now and has contributed to bringing the program back into the top 40.
In 2018, the Nebraska swim and dive program got the No. 1 rank in the country for recruiting, retention and improvement among all NCAA Division I women’s programs, according to SwimSwam.com rankings.
Rowan has brought a lot to the program and has helped make them the successful team they are today.
“[The] work behind the scenes that Pat doesn’t get enough credit for is the amount of work he puts into recruiting in general, recruiting phone calls, program operations and just remaining a student of the sport,” Morales said.
Rowan will continue to add to this program as much as he can as the program continues to grow every year.
“All the accolades and awards are great but really for me it’s about the relationships that I have with these kids,” Rowan said. “Of course I want to win but at the end of the day, if I can make an impact in someone's life that’s all that matters to me.”