By definition, a dynasty is a line of hereditary rulers of a country. And although they are not hereditary rulers of a country, the Missouri State women’s swimming and diving team rule the Missouri Valley Conference.
Since joining the MVC in 1998, MSU has amassed 16 conference titles. The team’s current winning streak spans four years, from 2016 to February, 2020. Their longest streak of holding the MVC crown lasted eight years, 2007-2015.
Since MSU joined the MVC, the only other team to record a conference championship is Southern Illinois. And MSU more than triples the Salukis’ championship total in that timeframe.
Sixteen titles in 21 years. By those standards alone the MSU swim and dive team have created a dynasty.
“Obviously the success has been there,” MSU head coach Dave Collins said. “It’s something we take a lot of pride in.”
The program’s history is very recent, as the program was founded in 1998 by then-head coach and MSU hall-of-famer Jack Steck.
Steck served as the Bears’ head coach from 1983-2011 before Collins took over the position in 2012. While in the MVC, Steck guided the women’s team to eight of its 16 conference titles.
Collins served as an assistant under Steck from 2007-2011 before taking the reins in 2012.
“(The dynasty) started before I got here,” Collins said. “What I was able to do as an assistant coach was learn a lot, and my goal as an assistant was to support the head coach.”
In his time as an assistant, Collins helped the dynasty hit its peak. From 2007-2011 MSU won four straight MVC titles, and Collins coached 26 individual champions.
The team was accustomed to winning when Collins took over, but he believes he and his staff elevated the level of success.
“The winning was a little more sporadic,” Collins said. “So our goal was to come in and try to take it to the next level and sustain it.”
And they have done just that.
Throughout the interview, Collins echoed two keywords. Tradition and pride.
“We talk about our winning tradition quite a bit,” Collins said. “We make sure our team is aware of it, and they are because they’re training in a pool with banners that have all the championship years on them.”
While Collins uses the rich history of the program to motivate his athletes, he also believes in ripping off the rearview mirror and focusing on the road ahead.
“I think there’s a balance,” Collins said. “When we talk about next year’s meet and goals for next year, we can't look back at this previous year’s championship.”
Along with not dwelling on the past, Collins said he doesn’t want his coaches or athletes to get too happy with the championships.
“I think it’s really easy when you win championships to get comfortable and say, ‘We can just cruise and keep doing what we’re doing,’” Collins said. “I think that’s really important, and if you get comfortable, you can take a big step back.”
Recognizing history, not looking back and not getting comfortable are some of Collins’s keys to creating and maintaining a program with such a high pedigree. But there’s one more piece to the championship puzzle: the balance between coaching and performing.
MSU may have that perfect balance on their hands right now. Collins made it clear that his assistant coaches and athletes have that championship level balance and will to succeed.
“I think it’s a mix,” Collins said. “The athletes are the ones that are scoring the points. The coaches aren’t out there competing — it’s the athletes that have to do the performing. Our job is to get the right athletes in the door and train them the best we know how.”
Four consecutive MVC titles, 16 titles in 21 years, 56 all-MVC first-team selections— this dynasty has no plans of handing over its crown.