Count to Three, Focus, and Dive
First-year Becky Schmidt steps onto the diving board. She adjusts the fulcrum with her foot until the board is just springy enough. She counts to one, two, three, and focuses—not on the screaming fans who expect a perfect dive, but on an arbitrary place on the wall. She takes several fast-paced steps down the board, then jumps, whirls in midair, and plunges into the water.
To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell what separates a good dive from a bad one. But experienced divers know it’s all in the details. Diving officials look for a purposeful approach to the edge of the board; a strong, high jump; neatly executed spins in the air; and a smooth vertical entry into the water.
Attention to these details has propelled Schmidt through her first season with the University’s diving team. In just a few short months, Schmidt has broken school records on both the one- and three-meter boards, been named UAA’s Female Diver of the year, and garnered All-America honors at the NCAA Division III championship after beating her personal best by 24 points.
“It was the greatest feeling—hitting the water and knowing my last six dives of the season were best six dives I had ever competed,” Schmidt says of her performance in the three-meter finals. “It was the perfect way to finish off such an incredible season!”
Experience and Technique
Schmidt’s success has its roots in elementary school gym class. She was practicing some gymnastics routines with her friends when her teacher, spotting Schmidt’s gifts, pulled her aside and recommended she try diving.
Schmidt says her first dive was “perfect,” but, she explains, “nothing has been that way since!” Soon after, she joined a diving club. Currently, Schmidt is one of the few divers on the Chicago team who has the year-round experience and technique that club team experience provides.
However, it is not just her experience that makes her such an incredible diver. “She’s a great influence,” says her coach, Cathy Poor. “She is positive [and] works hard. [T]hat is even more important than that she is a great diver.”
Of course, Schmidt’s natural talent hasn’t hurt either. And after her remarkable freshman season, many believe the best is yet to come.
“She hasn’t lost this year and she has competed against Division I teams,” Poor said. “She beat girls that have gone to nationals before.”
Young Program, Bright Future
Schmidt’s performance, and the success of fellow first-year John Gallagher, are strong evidence of the growing diving program at the University of Chicago. It’s hard to imagine that the diving program is only six years old.
The current coaches, Cathy Poor and Paul Accardi are working to strengthen the diving program. Their changes began with training. “In the past, diving hasn’t been as intense as a varsity sport should be,” explained Poor. They have introduced weight-room training in addition to pool practices. Poor also plans to install a trampoline system on the pool deck that will increase the intensity of training.
Fellow coach Paul Accardi added, “This change has also been possible because we have a different caliber of divers.” And, he added, there is another promising recruit joining the team next year.
Although less than a week has passed since the championships, Schmidt is already thinking ahead to next season. She said she hopes to introduce harder dives to her list. “It's really a shame that the season has to end now that I've been inspired by such great competition,” she said. “I can't wait until next year!”
Susie Allen contributed reporting.
Posted on: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 2:15pm