When Carol Capitani, Texas women's swimming and diving head coach, chose not to extend former assistant coach Roric Fink’s contract in April, she reached out to tenured swimming coach Mitch Dalton.
Dalton now calls Texas home, but he wasn’t initially looking for a new job.
“When Carol (Capitani) calls you up and tells you that you're on the short list for a job at The University of Texas in one of the greatest athletic departments in the country, it is certainly going to make you rethink your four- or five-year plan,” Dalton said.
Dalton began his swimming career as a child in Australia and eventually walked on to the men’s swimming and diving team at James Madison University.
“It was the purest form of our sport,” Dalton said. “It taught me the power of team and community, and that's what got my love of coaching going.”
After graduating from James Madison, Dalton enrolled at American University as a graduate student. He spent six months working as a lobbyist before giving into his true passion.
“I kind of always knew I wanted to be a coach, but I did not want to be that person where swimming was all that they had ever known,” Dalton said.
Dalton then joined the swimming staff at George Washington University, and two years later, he worked at Princeton University. After five years, Dalton left Princeton for USA Swimming to become the director of the National Junior Team. At USA Swimming, he created programming to help develop future Olympians.
“After spending time on deck with some of the best coaches in the world, it really shaped me and sort of made me realize that these men and women needed support in the trenches,” Dalton said. “After spending time with coaches in their home areas or with athletes at the Olympic Training Center running camp, it made me get the coaching bug again.“
Dalton had planned to stay in his role through at least the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Then COVID hit — I didn't know what that meant,” Dalton said. “A lot of the swimmers were going off to college, and (I didn’t know) if that would have changed my role or if there was a need for me.”
Capitani’s vision and drive pulled Dalton to Texas, he said. Dalton and Capitani began planning for the upcoming season after his hiring in May.
"I've been impressed with Mitch through this entire process,” Capitani said in a May press release. “He understands what it takes to compete at the highest level, in swimming and in the academic arena. Mitch is passionate about cultivating relationships and culture and has a great reputation among his peers and athletes in the swimming community."
Dalton’s impact is already being felt within the program. Last month, Erica Sullivan, the second-fastest miler in the country, announced her commitment to Texas after decommitting from USC this June.
“I am excited to work with Carol (Capitani) in the future, for she has shown immense support of my career path and I’m excited to see what we will accomplish together in the future,” Sullivan said to Swimming World Magazine in September. “I am also excited to work with Mitch (Dalton) again after our previous memories from Junior Team trips.”
The Longhorns are back in the pool practicing, and Dalton is excited for the season whenever the NCAA allows it.
“There are 25 women on this team — the 25 individual stories we see throughout a season,” Dalton said. “For each athlete, I am excited to see when they race. I am looking forward to seeing their hard work pay off and their growth each racing opportunity.”