Divers adapt to tough mental demands

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Junior Myra Johnson executes an inward pike dive before a meet. According to coach Matt Fahey, divers must master mental aspects of diving to be successful. Photo courtesy of Matt Fahey.

While throwing your body into the air, twisting around twice and ending gracefully may seem like a daunting task, it is just another day of practice for the members of the girls diving team.

The team works diligently five days a week to improve their skills. However, the tough mental demands of the sport are misunderstood by non-divers.

“Diving is not that hard physically, but once you start trying new things and pushing yourself to limits you didn’t know, you could hurt yourself,” junior Myra Johnson said. Johnson has three years of diving experience at the high school.

According to coach Matt Fahey, the complicated positions that divers assume are hard to mentally process before attempting to dive. For many prospective divers, this mental aspect can be daunting when learning new moves and can potentially deter them from returning to the team the next year, Fahey said.

“ Diving is 99 percent a mental sport,” Fahey said. “For most people starting off, just going on a diving board and saying, ‘Well, I’m just going to toss myself off this board and hope that it works’ is hard. For new divers, it pushes people away because a lot of people don’t have a sense of where their bodies are in space.”

According to Fahey, the community’s lack of understanding towards the difficulties of diving manifests itself in many ways, one of which is the lack of funding and equipment that the team is provided. The team has only one diving board to use, down from the two that were usable last year. Having only one board to practice with limits both the time each diver can spend on skills and the number of girls that can be on the team, according to sophomore Lily Harris.

“If we had any more people than five, we wouldn’t have as much time on the diving board, and then we wouldn’t improve as much,”Harris said.

In contrast to swimming, where the athletes are constantly in motion, divers spend the majority of their time picturing the way the dive is supposed to look and mentally preparing themselves for the brief moment of intense power needed to launch themselves into the water, according to Fahey.

“In diving it’s a lot of prep work, stuff in your head, trying to figure out how am I going to do this dive,” Fahey said. “Over and over again. Visualization.”

Even though the team does not have the ideal amount of equipment or receive recognition for how hard they work, the girls still try their best to get better at their dives and improve their personal scores for state and local competitions. If anything, these setbacks have pulled them together and kept them to working hard for the love of their sport Harris said.

“Especially because they took away our diving board last year, we have had time to talk and get to know each other between dives,” Harris said. “We help each other and build skills together. We are all really good friends.”

Isabel Meyers can be contacted at [email protected]