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What We Have Here… Is a Failure of Leadership

By Doug Beavers

Recently, as I listened to an author discussing his book on solving children’s sleep difficulties, I had a realization. What he had to say about kids, parents and sleeping patterns was like a revelation. The author described a common error that parents make with young kids. They leave the bedroom door open after bedtime, allowing the children to get up out of bed and leave the bedroom as they please. He commented that this practice often causes children to have recurring difficulties sleeping through the night. As soon as I heard this, I knew that I had to get tough with my team, starting that day. 

The author explained that clear guidelines and rules (I.E. “After bedtime, you may not come out of your room”) create a sense of security for a child. When parents are ambiguous about limits, children are left to fend for themselves.  When parents accept their role of leadership and set those clear guidelines, children know that they are taken care of – that the adults are in charge. If these rules are fairly enforced with consistency and consequences, the child can quickly let go of any thought of getting out of bed, going into the parents’ room, etc. He or she is relieved of the burden of trying to decide what to do. The options are: a) go to sleep, or b) lay awake in bed quietly. When parents are unwilling, unable, or just plain fail to create structured rules and guidelines for their children, those children are left in a frightening world where no one is in charge.  

Listening to this sleep expert, I suddenly realized that when I fail to take charge of my program and my athletes, I put them in a similar position. If I become permissive or lax in the enforcement of team rules or policy, I have done a disservice to my athletes. In the short term, of course, it is often easier to let it slide. I guess that’s why they call it discipline. At those moments when it would be easier to just smile and let someone get away with something, I need to remind myself that Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do - excellence is a habit.” 

I recognize that I am going against the tide of popular culture when I suggest this, but I think adults should actually create and enforce rules for children. They need it, and they actually appreciate it when it is done in an equitable manner. I know - it is very “old school.” But this progressive-kindergarten-teacher-approach to working with kids is madness. “I like the way little Johnny is standing in line.” Meanwhile little Jimmy is setting the coat closet on fire, but we don’t want to give him any attention… This is a world turned upside down. 

My point is simple - it is time for coaches to recognize their responsibility as the leaders of their respective athletes and parents. And it is a RESPONSIBILITY, not a right. It should be taken with a dose of humility, and seen as an honor. But we have to do the job. What we are doing now in many cases is allowing the athletes to run their own workouts. While our athletes are bright, highly motivated, and extremely capable, they should not be asked or allowed to be the coach and the athlete. We just do not serve our athletes or ourselves by shirking this responsibility, and cowering from our duty as the coach and the grown-up. 

It starts simply – we create rules, we create guidelines, and we take charge of our workouts. Why do our athletes balk, break position, and give up on dives so often in workouts and meet warm-ups? Why? Because WE LET THEM! We have not created rules or enforced guidelines that will help the athletes to eliminate these habits. Our permissiveness as coaches often comes from our desire to make everyone happy. Unfortunately this misguided approach does not accomplish its goal. Any motivated athlete who wants to get better will welcome a firm but fair rule that helps to eliminate “garbage habits” like balking, breaking position and giving up. As long as the rules and policies that we create are fair, consistently enforced, and intended to help the team improve, the athletes and parents will appreciate it. Athletes thrive in environments with such rule systems in place. 

Discipline, the habit of excellence, the grown-ups in charge, the children led by adults who take care of them with tough love and guidance - these are all principles that have been around for all of human history. They are principles that should never be looked down upon, no matter what the politically correct thinking of the day may be. And these principles are an integral part of every great success story ever told. Success never goes out of style, and without discipline we are just hoping that success will fall in our laps by pure luck. Don’t bet on it.     

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Fear Management for Diving Coaches

By Doug Beavers

If you sit back and think about it, diving is crazy. As coaches, we sit on the side of the pool and ask young people to attempt things that a normal person would not even consider. Ours’ is a sport of real risk. Every time a diver steps onto the board he or she risks a wipe out. While the risk of serious injury is low, the threat of real pain is ever-present.

As a result, all coaches must deal with the anxieties and fears of each individual athlete, as well as the group dynamics that result from unsuccessful dives. I refer to this process as fear management. Certainly technical knowledge, good progressions, experience and compassion will help to prevent many crashes. And a diver who smacks less will have fewer issues with fear, generally speaking. But even when we as coaches do everything right, somebody’s going to face-plant sooner or later.

Over the years I have developed several very dependable strategies for managing fear in individuals and groups that I have found quite effective. As with any strategy for cultivating change, it starts with you. How do you react to smacks? The coach is often looked to as the barometer of the team. How he or she responds to various situations will set a tone that the rest of the team will follow. Do you coddle your divers, hugging and consoling them after a smack? Are you the Drill Sergeant that wants to rip into a kid for not spotting while he is still trying to get the water out of his eye sockets? Of course, there are no hard and fast rules when dealing with athletes and other types of human beings, but I think these strategies will help you to make your pool less fearful and more focused on improving skills.

First, remember that kids love attention. In fact, most humans love attention, and we learn more than we realize by conditioning. Example: Little Kristin lands on her back on a front flip from one meter. Coach stops practice to see if she is all right, and the other four girls in line rush to the side of the pool to console her as well. Now Kristin doesn’t know anything about diving, but judging from the reaction she sees in the coach and her teammates, she can deduce that she may, in fact, be dying. So, Kristin’s first smack is painful, and the pain is supported by a complete stop of practice while everyone rushes to her aid. If she’s like most little kids when everyone gathers around she will burst into tears. The whole situation adds up to a mild trauma that this kid will not soon forget. 

Let’s not forget the fact that everyone else in your practice just saw this drama unfold, and kids who were not afraid before are now a little spooked as well. The big take-away here though, is that Kristin was the blubbering center of attention during this episode, which is actually a powerful reward for behavior.

Let’s try another scenario: Same situation, Kristin smacks, she comes up and the coach’s reaction is minimal, encouraging her to swim to the side, assuring her she will be okay. At the same time, the coach instructs the next diver to go, hardly missing a beat in the practice session. If divers are tempted to rush to Kristin’s aid, the coach can wave them off, saying, "She’ll be fine, stay in line." Now the coach has minimized the drama surrounding a smack, and can call Kristin over for a little talk. 

Here is the pep talk I give every beginner diver I work with after their first smack: 

COACH: (Calmly, but kindly) “Aw jeez! That hurts doesn’t it?” 

KRISTIN DIVER: “SNIFFLE-COUGH-GULP yeah!”

COACH: “Hey come here for a second, I want to tell you something.” [Looks over at the boards] “Next diver go ahead!”

KRISTIN DIVER: [Slowly swims to the edge of the pool by the coach]

COACH: “Hey do me a favor - can you see the clock right over there?”

KRISTIN DIVER: [Confused] “Umm yeah?”

COACH: “See the skinny red hand on the clock? The one that’s going around fast?

KRISTIN DIVER: “Yeah?”

COACH: “Watch that hand, and tell me when it gets all the way back to the 12”

[Coach continues working with other divers]

KRISTIN DIVER: “It’s a 12 now.”

COACH: “Right. now when you first hit the water it REALLY hurt didn’t it? But by the time you got to the side of the pool and we were talking, it wasn’t as bad. But now, 30 seconds later it hurts even less. Right?

KRISTIN DIVER: Uh huh…

COACH: “I know it still hurts, but check this out - if you watch the clock for another 30 seconds, it will feel even better, and by the time you get out of the pool and back in line, it will just be really warm on your skin.”

This is a good opportunity to assure Kristin that no one ever died from a one-meter smack, although sometimes it kind of feels like you are going to.

I make it clear that Kristin is expected to get back in line and return to practice as usual. I probably wont have her do the same dive again unless I am VERY sure she can succeed. The double whammy is hard to recover from for a newbie. When she does get back into line and does her next dive, I make sure that I mention to her how impressed I am with how tough she is, because toughness is super important in diving. This always elicits a big smile.

In a short amount of time I gave little Kristin a ton of information. I showed her that it was not a crisis - practice continued without interruption and I remained completely calm. She learned that what was happening was unpleasant and I understood that and empathized with her, but then I gave her a distraction to refocus her attention from the pain. Then I showed her how temporary the pain really was, and showed her a strategy for managing that experience. Finally I turned the whole situation into an example of what a tough cookie she is, and how much I really value the character trait of mental toughness. 

When implemented consistently over several weeks or months, this general strategy of downplaying smacking will significantly improve the group dynamics within your team. Individual mental toughness will improve first, but then the kids will start to feed off each other and you will see a cascading effect of confidence throughout your group. Once the stigma of “the awful and terrible smack” is broken kids are more able to relax. This can lead to a reduction in balking and an improvement in the time it takes to get off the board for new dives. 

Smacking is a simple fact of life for divers. If you play football you get tackled. In gymnastics you eat the mats. In diving sometimes you smack. That’s what makes it a sport, rather than a game. So participants must recognize and accept that risk. And if you can help them to minimize the drama surrounding this inevitability, or even find some humor in it - you have helped your team tremendously.

Think about it: Where else in an average person’s life would one fly through the air in a full body flail? Most people who experience such things have just stepped into an empty elevator shaft, or fallen off their roof. But almost every diver has had this experience at one time or another. They forget what dive they are doing or lose a leg in the middle of a trick. It is a truly unique experience to go through without being very seriously killed. So when the momentary terror is over, it is perfectly reasonable to laugh yourself sore. Laughter can take the fear right out of a pool.

When a coach truly understands how to manage fear, the team is transformed. Welts from the occasional smack are regarded as badges of courage. Divers take a hit and giggle about it. New dives are much easier to get off the board, and therefore training sessions are much more efficient. Teach your athletes to accept smacking as part of the sport. Demand proper progressions, and continually educate yourself to ensure that your teaching methods are minimizing this unpleasant occurrence. Then, when it does happen, react with compassion and humor. Because sometimes it really is funny.

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The Power to Choose

By Doug Beavers

Over the past few years my oldest son has taken part in a Lego Robotics League. It’s a fascinating combination of engineering, computer programming and competition, and it has been a wonderful experience for him. One of my favorite things that he has learned from the group is a concept called “gracious professionalism.”

Here’s how the folks at First Lego League define gracious professionalism:

“It's a way of doing things that encourages high­ quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. With gracious professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky­-sweet platitudes either.

Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended. In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.”

This concept was established on the first day of robotics practice and reinforced throughout their time together. If kids started to get snarky or nasty with one another, the coaches would stop the discussion and review the idea of gracious professionalism. The result was a group of children who interacted with one another in a remarkably functional and healthy way. The competitions were stressful. Mechanical, software and human errors abounded. But these 12 and 13 year old kids stayed cool. They worked together harmoniously, and they overcame major obstacles to perform beautifully under pressure.

It got me to thinking. The concept of gracious professionalism is a principle that could and absolutely should be applied to all aspects of our diving programs. This is an example of a conscious effort to establish healthy ground rules for personal interactions. It applies perfectly to communications between coach and athlete, among members of the coaching staff, between athletes, and between parents and coaches. It is a way to encourage people to stop and think before responding. It’s an opportunity to teach people that they can control their responses to situations, even when things are tense.

Emotions are a very real part of life. We shouldn’t hide from them, deny them or try to stifle them when they arise. But we also have to learn to process them in healthy ways. The disappointment of a poor competitive performance is real. It hurts to train hard and come up short. It’s excruciating for parents to invest time, money and effort into a diver’s training and then see all of that end in the agony of defeat.

Our organization runs several big events every year. Pulling together a large group of volunteers and staff to put on a dive show or a large invitational meet is a real challenge. Traveling to meets and enduring the frustration and anxiety of competition can test anyone’s patience. Coaching for twelve hours straight and then having a diver arrive late for warm­ up when you were already fantasizing about dinner and sleep can push any coach over the edge.

But if we all make a conscious choice to adhere to a principle of civility and courtesy we can make these difficult moments much more tolerable. Too often we are swept up in the emotion of a moment. We are triggered by a certain tone of voice, the roll of a teenager’s eyes, the piteous tone of someone who is feeling sorry for themselves. And we snap. Before we know it, words are coming out at top speed. These are the moments where relationships are damaged and where people are hurt. Sometimes that damage is lasting. But it is absolutely possible to break this pattern. We can learn to insert a tiny moment of reflection into these chaotic situations. We can learn to take a breath. We can memorize the phrase,

“This is probably not a great time to talk about this issue. Let’s discuss it after we’ve all had some time to cool off.”

The idea that we can decide our response to any situation, even the most stressful ones, is incredibly powerful. It’s a lesson I think every child should be taught, and a skill that we should all strive to master. Stuff happens. We all get the short end of the stick at some point. What’s important in these difficult moments is to recognize that there is one area where you still have control. You have the ability to decide how you will respond. When we learn to take a breath, consider our options, and consciously choose our reaction to a situation, we exercise an incredibly powerful muscle that will get stronger and stronger with each use. In those moments we strengthen the muscle of self­-mastery.

What better concept can we share with our kids than to teach them self­-mastery?

Emotions are beautiful and important and real, but they can also lead us to impulsive and destructive places if we don’t learn to take a moment and consider how we should respond. What response to this situation provides the best opportunity for a good outcome? I like this concept a lot, and I intend to make it a basic principle for all of our divers, parents, coaches and volunteers moving forward. When we run meets, we will make gracious professionalism a primary tenet. When we hold parent meetings we will expect gracious professionalism. When we communicate with each other via text and email? Gracious professionalism. Here’s hoping that gracious professionalism leads us to a more civil and courteous atmosphere in the future.

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Worldclass Parent

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Worldclass Parent

By Doug Beavers

Like all youth sports, the sport of diving can be a fantastic journey for coach, athlete and parent. The benefits of organized sport for children are well-documented, and those benefits are often the motivating force that brings kids and parents to the pool deck on that first day, starry eyed and eager to start on the path toward excellence. But “it’s complicated,” as they say. 

While we all start with great intentions, the day to day and year to year experience of being involved in a sport like diving is absolutely fraught with pitfalls. There are multiple stake-holders involved; coaches, parents and athletes all have their own motivations, priorities and expectations. Inevitably some of those motivations, priorities and expectations align beautifully, and some are in conflict. Take those occasionally conflicting issues and play them out over a six-ten year relationship with daily interaction, cross country travel, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat? Well, like I said, it’s complicated. 

I have found that it’s helpful to think of this relationship as a multi—person marriage. Just like a marriage, it requires sustained effort from all parties to be a success. It requires us to learn to forgive, and to ask forgiveness. It pushes us to see situations from other people’s point of view, and as the years go by, it’s easy to find yourself carrying the baggage of disappointment, resentment and frustration. When it goes well, it is an amazing experience to know that you have all worked together, slogged through the challenges and made something wonderful happen for a kid. 

After almost thirty years of coaching the sport of diving, I have noticed a few interesting patterns in this relationship, a few common themes that tend to cause trouble, and a few behaviors that have allowed parents, coaches and athletes to navigate this journey to great success. 

Let’s imagine that “success” is a bullseye. When the arrow strikes the target, the members of this multi-person youth sport marriage have succeeded. Our team analogy has three parts— the arrow-head (the athlete) is what actually strikes the target. Family is the arrow shaft, and the coach is the bow that aims and fires many arrows at the target. In order for this complex assembly of parts to hit the target, we have to work together. Specifically, we all need to understand a few things.

1) Understand Our Roles 

A frequent source of friction in this relationship is a lack of clarity when it comes to each party’s role. 

Coaches create the environment for training, they set standards for behavior, expectations for performance, dictate technique and determine the progression of skills. Part of their role is to cultivate an organization that will continue to provide training for future athletes in years to come.

Parents provide a support system for the athlete, addressing the diver’s emotional needs, logistics such as getting to practice on time, getting to meets, providing appropriate nutrition and medical care, and taking care of the financial obligations associated with team participation. Diving programs require a considerable amount of volunteer support to succeed. While not possible for every family in every situation, volunteering at meets or on a parent booster board is generally considered a standard part of being a diving parent.

Athletes have the tough job of getting out there and training their buns off. Because they are part of a larger unit (the parent-athlete-coach system) and others are working hard to make this all possible for them, they have an obligation to train with honest effort, and to communicate openly with respect to goals, fears and reservations.  

2) Understand Our Motivations

Coaches are motivated in many ways. Some are motivated by competitive success, such as how far they can get an athlete (State Championships, Nationals, Olympic Trials, Olympic Games.) Some are motivated by seeing continual improvement, others just want a fun environment and enjoy the camaraderie of working with kids. 

Sadly, some coaches are motivated by a need to control others, to manipulate children, or to gain prestige within their peer group. This is an area where problems develop.

Coaches with large teams are generally motivated to see their entire program succeed over the long term. Their decision-making is often guided by the needs of the many, and this sometimes conflicts with the needs of individuals. 

Parents are generally motivated to see their children succeed and get the greatest benefit possible out of the sport. Parents participate in a diving program for a finite period, while coaches have a longer term perspective. As a parent it can be difficult when the needs of the many conflict with the needs of your kid. 

Occasionally of course, we encounter difficult parents who are motivated in unhealthy or dysfunctional ways. Hyper-competitive parents sometimes unknowingly use their children as a means to replay their own athletic past. Controlling parents may feel a need to demonstrate dominance over others. In these cases, it is extremely difficult to establish healthy boundaries. In our archery analogy, these parents want to be the arrow-head themselves.

Frequent and clear communication regarding roles and expectations is required, but sadly the result is often a situation where the child is robbed of the opportunity to hit the target of success themselves. Even if they succeed competitively they can suffer lasting emotional trauma.

And it’s not just the classic crazy parent that runs afoul of these boundaries. It’s easy for any parent to get swept up in the excitement of Gold Medals, Olympic Dreams and College Scholarships. Parental support is a critical ingredient in a diver’s long-term success, but there is a real danger in allowing your enthusiasm to exceed the enthusiasm of the actual athlete.

Athletes
Athletes are generally motivated by a wide variety of things - desire to belong to a social group, desire to master a skill, desire to please a parent or authority figure, and a pure love of the activity itself. The combination of these things typically translates to the athlete’s sense that diving is fun. When you ask a kid why they dive they will say “It’s fun.” When you ask them why they quit? “It wasn't fun anymore.”

So as a parent what can you do to help your child ht the target?

Perhaps you already help with team functions, assist in running meets, or even run the meets yourself. This is noble and appreciated work, and you are truly a saint. Unfortunately that is not the kind of thing that will directly affect your child’s performances. The way you talk to your child about diving does have such an effect, as does the way you interact with your child’s coach. 

Do you ask your son if he enjoys it? Do you go to your daughter’s meets? Do you talk to him about his training habits or drill her on her handstand technique? Be careful what you say “yes” to – some subjects should be off-limits between a diver and a parent. Sometimes parents want to get specific when discussing diving with their children; “When are you going to do an inward 2½?” “Why haven’t you made top ten yet?”

Parents can unknowingly create anxiety and even resentment in their children when they step outside of their role as a parent and take on the duties of the coach. Perhaps a preposterous example will help to illustrate my point….

Suppose for a moment that you were at work and your spouse (who knows nothing about your field) came in and said, 

“Hold it! I don’t want you working on those Johnson papers anymore. From now on I want you to pay more attention to these Smithson papers here.”

Now, do you disobey your boss and get to work on the Smithson papers, or do you tell your spouse to shove off? Either way you’re in pretty hot water, and it’s getting deep too. That’s the kind of no-win situation you put your child in when you start feeding them ideas on how to improve their diving. Perhaps the coach has completely different plans for your child, of which you are totally unaware. Perhaps he or she knows that attempting an inward 2½ would be absolutely disastrous at this point in your child’s development. Of course your son wants desperately to gain your approval, but he also wants to please his coach as well. It sounds like the Smithson papers all over again.

I will be blunt. I have heard this same sentiment expressed by just about every coach I have ever met, so I speak for them as well when I say this; if you are paying me to coach your child, then let me do it. I understand physiology, psychology, physics and fear. I’ve talked to the experts, and I have the experience. If you contradict what I have said, then you undermine my authority (or your own) and you certainly confuse your child. If you do these things, then we are much further from our goal than we would hope.

So what sort of relationship does the most for a world class athlete? If you accept the archery metaphor, it is apparent that we all have to work in careful coordination. Coaches have to communicate expectations clearly. Athletes have to engage the sport with honest effort and a willingness to challenge themselves. And parents have to play a critical supporting role. These kids need you as a steady source of emotional support. Diving is scary. Sometimes it really hurts. It can be terribly frustrating. They need you to listen to them. Allow them to vent. Share in their victories, but don't steal their glory. This is his moment to shine; it is her chance for glory. It is not yours to take. 

Remember that divers are trying to do something physically and mentally extraordinary. As you can imagine, this is a lot easier if they know they have a stable support team to catch them when they fall. 

Treat the coach-diver-parent relationship like a marriage. Cultivate an atmosphere of open communication and be supportive of one another. Let your coach know when a child is under stress or feeling overwhelmed. Expect that there will be struggles. When things get strained, as they surely will, model functional adult behavior for your kids.  Talk through issues calmly and with the intent to work it out. Don’t disparage a coach in front of athletes or other parents. Deal openly and directly with your concerns.

When this relationship is healthy and functional, it empowers the athlete to surprising accomplishments. Your contribution as a parent will have a huge impact on your child’s diving career. As coaches we will work with you to guide them on a path toward success. We will feed them the concepts necessary, we will train their bodies and their minds, and together we will take a shot at the bulls-eye.

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One Goofball at a Time

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One Goofball at a Time

Kali Becker, photo by Michael Becker

By Doug Beavers

In the fall of 1993, I was coaching an age-group diving team just a outside of St. Louis when I met a little girl who had just moved into town from Dallas, Texas. A little blond stick of a kid, she was a ball of pure energy. She was at her first practice with us - a new club and a new coach. She was there to impress. After an hour of “showing me her stuff" on 1-meter, I asked her if she knew any 3-meter dives. 

“YEP!" she blurted, and without another word she was heading up the ladder to prove it.

After a few basic dives, I wondered aloud if she had any more difficult dives up there. 

“Oh yeah, I can do a front 2 1/2!” 

I was impressed, and settled back into my chair to have a look. She popped up into the air in her hurdle, spun up off the board, and sprang out of her tuck at two somersaults.

POW!  She landed flat on her belly at 2 1/4 flips.

I covered my face with my hands, realizing in a flash that I would never see this little goofball again. Surely she would quit diving immediately and take up soccer. But through my fingers I could see a hand poking up through the surface of the water, and I realize this little kid is shaking her index finger in a "WAIT-WAIT-WAIT" gesture. 

Her face pops up and she is already talking “No no no! I can do it - Really!" 

She was out of the water now. There were no tears, there was no hesitation, not even a moment to acknowledge the welts forming on the front half of her body. Before I could pick my jaw up off the floor, she was back on the board and absolutely determined to show me that she REALLY DID know how to do a 2 1/2. As it turns out, she could.

Seven years later that wonderfully odd little girl headed off to a new program in a new town. She had grown into a high school senior, driving a car, preparing for college. During our time together, she developed into an exceptional diver - a 3-meter national champion, in fact. And all the hours of training never dampened that kid’s supremely silly spirit. Seven years of dedication and sacrifice, including the agony of landing flat on a reverse 2 3/4 from 10-meter and the glory of doing the same dive for 10’s in a meet, had left her older, more mature, and yet still the same glorious goofball at heart.  In spite of those ups and downs, she could still crack everyone up with a patented full-body interpretive gesture that expressed just exactly how she felt. 

It broke my heart to see her go.

As coaches we become deeply invested in the success and failure of someone else’s child. We feel the defeats and disappointment. But the frustration of difficult times is precisely what makes those moments of triumph so darn triumphant.

We all have moments of self-doubt when we wonder why we do this crazy job. Saying goodbye to a kid you really care about is just one of the heartbreaks inherent in coaching.

As age-group coaches it’s bittersweet to watch our divers graduate. We are proud, but we can also feel a little abandoned. We watch other coaches pick up where we left off with “our” kids. If I catch myself feeling hurt or resentful at the loss of an athlete, I remind myself that there is a reason why I do this job. It’s not the money or the glory, and the more I think about it, it’s not even the diving that matters. Diving is just a means to an end - a vehicle that facilitates the journey. The journey really IS the thing. 

That journey is to take an 11-year-old fruit-loop and help her navigate the pitfalls of adolescence. It’s to help her learn how to become great at something, and realize that she can apply that process to anything. It’s to show her how to overcome fear, self-doubt, and failure. The pay-off is in watching kids grow, graduate and move on, knowing that your role in their lives has been a positive one.

I’m convinced that diving in a positive environment molds the very character of its participants. I believe that the true value of what we do in our training will not entirely reveal itself to our athletes until after they have moved on and grown up. The perseverance, dedication and sacrifice required to succeed at any level of our sport is a benefit that will stay with our athletes for the rest of their lives.

My mission is to keep making small, positive contributions to young kids. If kids choose to leave, that’s their decision - I’ll work my tail off for the one’s who stay.  l’ll keep on offering them new tools to add to their tool box - tools like mental toughness, self-mastery, and (when self-mastery falls short) forgiveness and self-improvement. As our organization matures and grows, better tools and benefits will be passed on to more and more kids by other like-minded coaches. I like to imagine that perhaps those grown-up kids will also feel compelled to pass some of those benefits on to others; to spread the word, so to speak. When I look at it that way, I am encouraged. We can make a positive contribution to society. In our own small way, even us diving coaches can make the world a better place — one goofball at a time.

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