From swimming world championships around the world to landing at Illinois State University as the new diving coach of the swimming and diving team, Logan Pearsall looks to bring his championship background to the Redbirds.
Pearsall got his start in swimming and diving at age 12, competing in summer leagues in his small, 2,500-person hometown Port Allegany, Pennsylvania. He found diving to be his niche. He continued diving competitively through college at Salem State University, University of Rhode Island and three years at Clarion University, where he won four national titles and was inducted into the Clarion Sports Hall of Fame.
“Getting inducted to my college sports hall of fame is one of my favorite athletic achievements,” Pearsall said.
Pearsall accumulated numerous accolades throughout his career, both as a diver and head coach. Pearsall is a 41-time masters diving national champion and a five-time world masters champion. He won four NCAA Division II diving championships between the 1- and 3-meter springboards and is a 6-time All-American. His four NCAA titles tie him for the most ever in NCAA Division II men’s diving, a record he now shares with his former student Ammar Hassan, whom he coached at Colorado Mesa University.
In his six seasons as CMU’s head coach for the Mavericks, his student-athletes accumulated 34 all-American performances as well as 13 honorable mention all-American efforts. Pearsall coached his and CMU’s first individual national champion during the 2017-18 season, Ammar Hassan, who won the NCAA Division II title on both the 1- and 3-meter springboards. For his efforts, Pearsall became College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) NCAA Division II Men’s Diving coach of the year in both 2018 and 2019.
To make Pearsall’s success even more astounding, he overcame an injury months before competing in the 2017 FINA World Masters Championship in Budapest, Hungary, during his tenure at CMU.
“I was playing rec league softball and trying to show off and I slid into third base trying to get the triple and I was safe,” Pearsall said. “But I slid in and came down the wrong way and snapped my wrist. For probably just over three months, I was in a cast. I didn’t really get to get in the water or anything”
Pearsall worked out with a personal trainer three days a week during his recovery process. He said while doubts lingered in his mind about being able to compete, he combated those thoughts with encouragement from friends, coaches and other athletes along with envisioning his recovery.
“Visualization is huge in the sport of diving,” Pearsall said. “So mentally getting myself out there and visualizing diving off the board and coming around and doing a lot of that work psychologically, it really helped.”
Pearsall fully recovered and competed in the championship, walking away with two gold medals, three silver, a fourth place medal and fifth place medal. Pearsall was relieved to return to competing at his highest level.
“It was a good feeling that the competitive rush came back,” Pearsall said. “There’s definitely something about being in the game-time situation. I’m the type of person that I can watch somebody that is talented and feed off their energy. And so, if I’m not able to feed off that, then I kick my own energy in. But there were a couple of divers that I had watched, and I was like, ‘All right, I want to beat them.’”
The Redbirds announced Pearsall as new head coach of the swimming and diving team in August. Pearsall said coming to ISU was an ideal next step in his career, going from Division II to Division I athletics.
“I’m a very competitive person in and out of the pool,” Pearsall said. “And I just thought that it would be a great fit. And so far, it’s been great that we’ve been hitting the phone heavy with recruiting and just trying to make sure that we’re getting the best athletes that are possible to come here to Normal.”
Pearsall said what he looks for in his recruits is talent, height, size and of course, academics.
“Being a good student-athlete is important,” Pearsall said. “I don’t want to have to be constantly sitting in on meetings and such with academic advisers making sure how do we get to above the 3.0, or whatever. I want athletes that I know are going to come in and I don’t have to worry about their academics. I worry about the pool side, and I know that they’re going to have those taken care of.”
The team has been practicing for a month preparing for the upcoming season, which has been pushed backed to as early as Jan. 1, 2021 due to the pandemic. Pearsall said himself and the team are already seeing progress and is excited for the season. Pearsall said along with his championship experience, his care for the team is another aspect of his coaching he’s bringing to the Redbird team.
“They're going to see that I care and that I'm very passionate about the sport itself,” Pearsall said. “They're going to see that they're like my children that I have to look after, and I take a lot of pride in that. Just them understanding that I've got their back and I'm going to care for them in the pool and outside the pool. Their decisions affect so many of us and my decisions affect them. So just them kind of buying into the process of what is ISU diving, and knowing that when I set their workout, it's because I think that it's the best workout for what they're going to obtain from that day.
“And, you know, if they have a certain category that they’re struggling with, everybody might be doing this certain workout, but we might individualize one person's workout, just because that's what they need. They can trust that [I’m] never going to set them up in a situation and practice to get them hurt, or to make them feel shame or anything like that.”
Pearsall said while talent is key in building a championship caliber swimming and diving team, it doesn’t stand alone. It’s the hard work and drive that comes from within that will help the team reach the goal.
“I think that it's all about attitude and finding those athletes that have that attitude that are going to get us to that next level,” Pearsall said. “Obviously, it takes talent as well. Hopefully, those will go hand in hand with a lot of our student athletes. But I think the attitude is something that's huge, and what we're looking for now. We're not just going to bring in athletes to bring them in. I want athletes that are going to want to win. Like I said, I'm competitive in everything I do, and if we can go and put six up in the top eight at conference, we're going to do it. And just getting those kids that want to be a part of that.”
Pearsall said he hopes the values and lessons he’s learned from his 16 years in swimming and diving are lessons that can stick with this Redbird team.
“I never would have saw myself competing in Budapest or being a Division I coach. So, I think swimming and diving has definitely helped me learn how to set those goals and dream and I'm not gonna stop until I reach my goals. If I have a dream and I see it, I want to achieve it, whether it be as a coach, an athlete whatever” Pearsall said.