Appreciation for the Athletes At the Other End of the Pool– Divers

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Zoltowskiw

By Kennedy Cutler, Swimming World College Intern

With the start of the Olympics next week, something else is looming on the horizon: the start of a new season for many high school and college level teams. This season, let’s make an effort to remember our friends competing with us from the other end of the pool– the divers.

I had the opportunity to speak to several young ladies about their opinions on the unity and relationships of swimmers and divers when on the same team versus when on club teams competing solely as either diving or swimming. Kenzie Smith, a high school senior, and Madeline Sewell, a senior at Michigan State University, gave their perspectives from experience as members of both club diving teams and combined swimming and diving teams.

“For club we’re all really good friends too, as well as being teammates, so being friends with the people you practice with makes it like ten times more fun. We practice together all the time, compete together, hang out together. It’s like one big family,” Smith said about her fellow club diving teammates.

“Divers are usually closer with other divers for the same reason that swimmers are closer with other swimmers. We work, sweat, cry, bleed, and laugh together! There are obvious exceptions to this but I would relate the relationship of divers and swimmers to a friend you like but don’t see very often, or a distant cousin you love but don’t always understand or get along with,” Sewell said about both her diving and swimming teammates. “In high school, I had a pretty large team so I didn’t really need to go out of my comfort zone to make friends with the swimmers. In college I was to only female freshman diver. It was wither make friends with girls my age or be lonely.”

“With high school it differs cause you’re not with the same people, as you are with club. I don’t think that the divers are a close to the swimmers a the swimmers are to other swimmers. I wish that during practice that we got to talk to the swimmers more, but being at opposite sides of the pool makes that hard to do,” Smith went on. “I wish that we were closer, but the only time we ever get to talk is briefly before or after [practice]. It’s like we’re close, but not close-close.”

What it often to come down to is the fact that there really isn’t a whole lot of time spent training together, at either the high school or college levels, even though swimmers and divers are members of the same team. Being at opposing ends of the pool, even when sharing pool time, causes interactions to be few and far between.

“I wish that we could all do something together during practice just so we could be together like communicating with one another,” Smith said.

“The problem is, as divers, we don’t spend much time with the swimmers. Our practice times may sometimes overlap but we’re at different ends of the pool, so it’s hard to create strong or lasting bonds with swimmers,” Sewell added.

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Photo Courtesy: Carrie Pilarski

Claire Pilarski, a senior swimmer from Michigan State, offered a perspective from the swimming end of the pool.

“I think it was easier to be friends with divers in high school because not only was the team smaller and the competition lower, but also high school meets force the two [sports] to merge – all swimming ceased to let the divers compete,” Pilarski said. “That hasn’t stopped me from becoming close friends with divers in college. It just takes more effort to run into each other at the pool.”

“As for the relationship between swimmers and divers, I’ve always said it is how you want it to be. I’m close with the swimmers in my grade because I wanted to be. Our younger girls aren’t because they don’t feel that need. In the end, we both share the pool and are honestly pretty weird. When the effort is there, friendships are easily made,” Sewell said about putting in the effort to be friends with those on the opposing side of the pool.

“I’ve always observed dive teams to be more close-knit than entire swim teams just by sheer size, but I can’t speak for all teams because I’ve never actually been a diver and interacted in their specific environment,” Pilarski added.

“I love the dynamic between myself and the other divers and I value it much more than my dynamic with the swim team. Not because I don’t like swimmers, but without my divers I would be pretty alone. It’s nice to have someone who fully understands you and what you’re going through,” Sewell said.

Swimmers and divers are less likely to form close relationships simply because one type of athlete cannot quite understanding what the other does to get to the level of performance that they are at.

Sewell posed a very interesting question herself about another reason swimmers and divers don’t always intermingle: where do the negative feelings between swimmers and divers come from?

I personally believe it comes from a misconception of the level of work swimmers tend to think divers put in, or, again, not quite understanding the amount of work put in.

“I give them props for the work they put in,” Smith said about her swimming teammates. She and other divers on her high school team have a chance to understand a little bit what the swimmers go through each year when they do ‘diver relays,’ joining in on the last event of a meet each season to race a relay for fun. Not much preparation goes into it, but they still have an opportunity to share that experience.

Swimmers don’t have that same opportunity – as Sewell says: “[not everyone] can flip and so they stay away from diving.” And she is right – the things that divers can do with their bodies midair are feats that tends to be overlooked and underestimated. It takes a lot of work to train your body to do diving, and that work is vastly different from what swimmers do.

Perhaps there is something we could do to change this – to get our swimming and diving comrades more onto our side, such as full team activities and even out-of-water practices. This upcoming season, try not to forget about your teammates at the other end of the pool. To both groups: try to include your teammates from the other end of the pool. After all, you’re competing side-by-side and all striving to bank points for your team.

2 comments

  1. Kara Ballard

    Jazlyn Benson and Julie Crystal Benson

  2. Julie Crystal Benson

    Awwww I love this. Thankfully Jaz has the best of both world’s. I can’t wait for the season to start. I get to see her do what she enjoys, and I get to cheer her on with the amazing swim mommas