[I wrote this post in the end of February, having come off a long diving season, and thinking that Future Carita might be dreading the time commitment of the season ahead and might want to be reminded about all the things she loves about diving. Dear Future Carita, I've got you. You're awesome and you can do this! You had a smart idea and will have more. You go, Girl! Okay, now the essay I wrote at the end of winter.]
During the Olympics in 2021, NBC published the photo above in a piece that offered readers a glossary of diving terms. I get their implied point: people like watching diving because it's pretty and dangerous and athletic but would enjoy it more if they understood it better. For the past several years, I've watched a lot of diving.
When my younger daughter (Hi, Kiddo!) was in seventh grade, she pivoted from gymnastics to diving. We faithfully drove once per week to a diving class forty-five minutes away from our house. During those classes, I sometimes watched and sometimes read or graded. I didn't learn anything about diving.
It turned out that she didn't learn as much about diving correctly as we thought, either, so when she started at Hotchkiss, she had to unlearn some of the wrong things the first coach taught her. She worked hard, mastered a ton of skills, and did quite well as part of the team. I faithfully went to every home meet and some away and championship meets and enjoyed witnessing her strength and grace and bravery. My daughter never did the most flips and spins of all the divers, but she executed her dives beautifully. It was truly a joy to watch her. Still, I learned almost nothing about diving...even when she tried to explain it to me.
Flash forward to two years after her graduation, and the Dean of Faculty and Directors of Athletics asked me to coach diving. I instantly regretted not having paid closer attention to the rules, terms, point deductions, etc, but I'm not big on regret. It isn't a productive emotion.
Instead, I did two things. I asked for a good assistant coach and got a great one (Hi, BC!) and second, I started to study. I memorized the numbering system, read a book about diving, studied scoring rules, and watched so, so many YouTube videos. I will never know how the dives feel to execute, but I learned as much as I could as a non-diver about what to look for, how to move, and what counts. I learned all of the basics of diving, but there was still more to consider about the benefits of participating in this sport.
Last February, after our team's championship meets, I decided to give my future self this reminder of the other amazing lessons diving offers:
- Resilience speeds learning. I'm amazed at my divers' ability to smack, to hit the board, to get things totally mucked up in painful and bloody ways, and then to get back up and try again. In fact, the divers who are most willing to smack and recover are the ones who learn the fastest.
- Vulnerability promotes strength. So many teenagers (okay, all humans) fear showing their true selves without any masks or disguises. Divers, despite that fear, stand in front of a silent and attentive group of spectators wearing next to nothing and attempting to pull off amazing feats of power and grace that they may not have perfected yet. Divers put themselves and their skills completely and totally and (nearly) nakedly on display and say, "See me here where I am trying my best."
- We can do hard things. Looking at a flexible aluminum board hovering one meter off the surface of a pool of water, it's hard to imagine a body's being able to jump up, flip 360 degrees three and a half times, and enter the water almost splashless, yet people have done exactly that. Even the "easier" dives often seem to defy the laws of physics, yet many people learn them. And, back to the resilience point––the only way to learn to do hard things is to try them and to fail. Over and over. Painfully. Publicly. Divers learn that they can do hard things because they do them.
- Teams need individuals. While only one diver stands on the board at a time, diving is a team sport. The points divers earn go to the total swim/dive meet score. Divers depend on one another for tips and support. They have to perform the dives alone, but they function best as a team.
There are probably other great lessons divers learn. Can you add some in the comments below? Alternately, have you thought about a sport or activity that you're part of that teaches its participants important lessons that apply to other areas in life? Please share your thoughts in the comments.