Monday, March 22, 2010

An Open Letter to My Diving Friends

Dear Divers,

Lately, the swimming community hasn’t been very nice to you. I feel bad. I have to admit, I used to scratch my head a little bit and wonder why swimming and diving are together in scholastic swim meets. Sometimes we seemed to gel, and being forced to hang out like step brothers wasn’t so bad… and other times, it was like we were serving on the same chain gang, with our ankles connected so that if one of us sunk, the other would surely drown too. Many meets are decided based on who has divers, or even whose facility has a diving board to offer diving. No one likes that… but now I am a high school coach and I can see the larger picture. I am one of those rare coaches who makes his swimmers go early to watch the divers, even if it means getting on the bus at 5:45am instead of 8:45am to head to the pool. On the other side of it, we are a small team, and my divers have never failed to step up and fill those empty relay spots when we needed them.

In college, I was a little uncomfortable around you guys at first. Swimmers dress for maximum comfort. We wear sweat pants. Divers wear slacks. Divers have highlights in their hair and go tanning. Swimmers don’t bother to shower after practice. Divers eat things like salads when they have paid for a meal plan that allows them to fulfill every gluttonous desire. Swimmers out-eat football players, and then hit subway for two more $5 foot-longs right before bed. The truth is, hanging out with you keeps me grounded in the real world. Your inspiration has helped me a little with the ladies, too. If it weren’t for you, I would have probably gone clubbing in sweat pants and no deodorant all those years and never noticed that I didn’t fit in. We sometimes meet in the middle and I want to say thanks for the gentle nudge to keep me within society’s standards.

You guys also held your ground in way swimmers were afraid to do… we moved on from briefs, to jammers, to full body plastic nightmares, and then back to briefs. You were man enough to just stick with the brief and even had the nuggets to ostracize the new kid on the team who showed up to his first practice in jammers. I have to admire that kind of macho attitude. Plus, I have seen several of you with broken noses, black eyes and concussions from hitting the board and even taking your own knee to the face without taking a day off. My hat is off to you. Your pain is different from ours, but no less impressive.

When I hear the diver-haters pleading their case, it does make sense on some level. I can see how swimmers could be swayed. The sports are entirely different even though they are on the same playing surface; but we also share something else. We share our status as Olympic sports, and Olympic sports are under attack in the modern era. Anyone who is angry when a swimming program gets cut at the high school or college level, should be ashamed of themselves for being so willing to throw another Olympic sport to the wolves.

I've got your back, my flippy, twisty friends. I won’t abandon you. We have been together for a long time, and I am proud to fight to keep it that way.

Never leave a man behind.



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