To Bryan Raschilla, now in his 18th season with the Crimson Tide, there is no better place to be than the University of Alabama and no better job than coaching its gymnastics team.
"I absolutely love what I am doing," Raschilla said. "I get to meet and build relationships with some really wonderful people. The chance to work with this caliber of student-athlete, I don't think you get anywhere else. And what I like the most is that it's not just about gymnastics and it's not just about the four years they're here on campus. Being at Alabama is about creating lifelong relationships."
Most importantly to him, Raschilla has seen class after class of Alabama gymnasts come through the program, grow as athletes and people and graduate, ready to make something great of their lives.
"I'm at Alabama to be a part of a program that does things the right way," Raschilla said. "I have the good fortune to coach athletes who excel in academics, athletics and community service. To be able to have some part in their development is really at the heart of why I coach."
Since he joined the Tide for the 1997 season, Raschilla has helped coach Alabama to NCAA championships in 2002, 2011 and 2013 as well as a trio of NCAA runner-up finishes and 15 top-six national finishes overall. With Raschilla on board, the Tide also owns two of the past five Southeastern Conference titles and four overall, with league championships coming in 2000, 2003, 2009 and 2011.
Alabama gymnasts have won 13 individual NCAA titles during his tenure, including Diandra Milliner's 2013 NCAA Vault Championship. The Tide has earned 181 All-America honors and 162 Scholastic All-America honors during his tenure. On a conference level, in addition to the team titles, Alabama gymnasts have won 41 individual SEC titles and been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll 202 times since Raschilla arrived.
The Crimson Tide's tradition of excellence has garnered a staunch following, another aspect of the program that he loves.
"There is no better program in the country in terms of atmosphere," Raschilla said. "Coleman Coliseum is the best arena to compete in. We draw between 12,000 and 15,000 people per home meet and we've sold out multiple times, bringing over 15,000 fans in to watch our ladies compete."
Raschilla's excitement about Alabama goes far beyond the gymnastics program, extending to the University as a whole.
"I love the energy this campus has and how it's growing all the time," Raschilla said. "There's not a better time to be here than right now, and it's not just because Alabama won four national championships in 2012 and gymnastics won its second in a row. It's great people coming together to do amazing things. If you look at how the student body has grown and how campus has grown right along with it, today's students enjoy the best of the best all the time."
For Raschilla the campus atmosphere makes Tuscaloosa a great place to raise his family. And while he and wife Laura are both Ohio natives, their son Adam, born in 1998, and daughter Kathryn, born in 2001, were both born in Alabama.
"Both our children were born here, we have family that moved here to be with us and to get warm," Raschilla said with a laugh. "Laura and I may be from Ohio originally, but we consider ourselves Alabamians now and we feel fortunate to be raising our family in Tuscaloosa. It's a strong community, one that's growing all the time."
As his own family has grown, Raschilla has come to appreciate the family aspect of the Tide gymnastics program more and more.
"I am impressed and amazed by how our ladies stay connected to the program and to each other," Raschilla said. "They also remain big fans and supporters of the team, from those who graduated over 30 years ago to those who graduated last year. There is just a tremendous bond, one that lasts a lifetime, and it's truly a family, one that is there in the good times and the tough times."
His duties with the Crimson Tide are as wide-ranging as his talents.
"Bryan not only brings his keen technical analysis to the team, he also brings the sort of stability that is expected of this program," Sarah Patterson said. "After all, he's been with us almost 20 years, which adds a comforting continuity for the athletes."
Raschilla also brings a talent for graphic design to bear on the Tide's posters, logos, advertising, media guide covers along with a host of other projects. His most recent work is on display in the Crimson Tide's newly revitalized practice facility. Raschilla produced the graphics design for the larger-than-life murals that populate the gym.
So how did the 6-foot, 5-inch redhead with a degree in graphic design get involved in the one sport he'd never tried?
"I probably get asked that question a hundred times a year," Raschilla said with a laugh.
Asked to spot for his high school team, Raschilla's interest continued to develop throughout his time at Youngstown State University in Ohio when he coached age-group gymnastics. After 11 years of club gymnastics and countless state champions, national qualifiers and national team members, he moved into the collegiate arena.
"I started in 1983 and I've been coaching ever since," Raschilla said.
Following a two-year stretch coaching at the University of Michigan, Raschilla came to Alabama and in his years in Tuscaloosa with the Crimson Tide, Raschilla has accumulated masses of great memories, but for him, it's not just the championships, the honors and the victories that stick with him.
"As a coach, I think some of my greatest memories come from those moments that no one else sees," Raschilla said. "It's those moments in the gym when someone is having a hard time, but they push through anyway. It's breakthroughs in practice, and all the hard work along the way that sets up the championship moments. Those are some of my best memories."