Think SAT’s are stressful for kids? Reciting lines in the school play? Consider the high dive at the local pool. There, at the end of the board, time stands still above that watery abyss that is the deep end of the pool. Worse still, all eyes are upon you — friends, classmates, parents. There are few places lonelier than the end of the high dive at the local pool.
For the select few, there is also a shot at glory. There is the chance to put aside fear, to defy gravity and dance in the air for a split second, and to enter the water with elegance. There is chance to create art.
Several dozen young divers from grassroots summer diving programs participated in a recent clinic at Koury Natatorium that showcased N.C. Diving, a new program coached by 2000 Olympian and Head UNC Diving Coach Abel Sanchez. Divers from the UNC Faculty / Staff Recreation Association (a.k.a. “The Farm”), the Heritage Hills pool, and Duke Diving took part.
While some divers, as young as 5 years old, headed straight for the five-meter platform — two meters higher than the three-meter “high dive” at most pools — others simply used the opportunity to test the waters of year-round diving instruction.
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“Diving can be scary, and you have to be fearless,” said FARM assistant diving coach Claire Pedersen, who helped at the clinic.
Pedersen asserted that the pay-off was invaluable, however.
“Being able to learn a new thing — something they’re never done before — that’s something they can show off at the pool to their friends and their parents,” she said.
Under the direction of 20-year Summer Dive League coordinator Becky Binney, Candacie Schrader (The Farm’s head day / youth camp coach) along with assistants like Pederson and Molly Harkavy were on hand to help Sanchez. He had high praise for Binney’s longtime commitment to diving.
“I think Becky does a phenomenal job, and we’re just a continuation of that for those who want to dive longer,” said Sanchez, who had just returned from the World University Games in South Korea.
“We’re a year-round program, and we start kids as early as they can swim,” he explained. “We have 15 or 20 divers, and we’ve going for about a year and a half.”
At Koury, the young divers were introduced to a facility with resources not available at seasonal outdoor pools.
“We’ve got three-meter platform and the five-meter platform, so (Koury is) a little more conducing to diving,” Sanchez said. “We have video and a Tivo system, a harness, a dry-board, trampoline, a spring floor, and spotting rigs.”
Though the best divers are strong, flexible and have great body awareness, Sanchez said, there’s no prototypical diver. Sanchez will work with anyone with a passion for the sport.
“There’s no one mold,” he said. “There are all sorts of types of divers.”
While The Farm offers one of the few programs in the area that develops young diving, teaches safety, and instills body control, Binney also said that year-round diving with Sanchez was a perfect next-step for those divers who want to continue after her summer program ends.
“As a grassroots program, the intention is to feed new divers into age group programs like Abel’s to develop further,” she said. “We have had many kids start at a young age to dive at The Farm and then go on to dive in high school and even college.”
“This clinic allows some of our divers to see what Abel’s program is all about and decide if they want to give it a shot in the fall,” Binney added. “He’s got beginners, intermediates, and age groups. Most of the kids with Abel are kids who have had some diving, like it, and want to do it more.”
“We focus on teaching diving safety, proper technique, fitness, flexibility drills, basic diving skills, and having fun,” Sanchez said on www.divingnc.com. “We think this is an amazing sport which teaches discipline, strength, stability, perseverance and dedication.”
Farm Assistant Coach Molly Harkavy said that the clinic was a great chance for budding divers to see what opportunities lie beyond the local pool.
“This is really cool for them,” she said. “I already had one kid who came up and asked if they could dive off the five-meter platform.”
Binney said a move to year-round diving would be particularly valuable to more advanced divers like The Farm’s Daryn Armstrong, 15, who brings strength and clean lines to diving through her experience in gymnastics.
“I was a competitive gymnast for 10 years, but I was looking for something to do that (used) the gymnastics but was kind of different, too,” said Armstrong, who was at the clinic with her younger brother Devin, 10. “With gymnastics, I was just too tall.”
Up next for Binney’s Farm Diving will be a meet at Duke Diving this Thursday, leading up to a Summer Novice meet at Duke Diving on Aug. 13 and the Summer Dive League Championship at The Farm on Saturday, Aug. 15.
For those enticed by the year-round N.C. Diving program introduced by Sanchez this past week, the season will continue, and that precipice at the end of the high dive may grow a bit less lonely and a lot less intimidating.