By Kayla Boardman (@kaylarboardman):
Diving is like gymnastics, but without the strain, injuries or hard mat to land on.
It’s why diving attracts a lot of gymnasts like San Jose State diving senior Cari Reiswig, sophomore Natasha Sondeno and senior Kylie Fonseca.
Landing in a pool is a lot nicer on the body than landing on something like a beam. This was the common thought among the three athletes who started off in gymnastics but began to recognize the difference in physical toll.
“I love the fact that it doesn’t hurt my body nearly as much as gymnastics does,” Reiswig said. “So you can do a lot more under a lot less strain, and so you aren’t so fatigued to the point that it is crippling.”
After sustaining too many injuries from gymnastics, athletes want a low impact sport where they can still feel like they are flying through the air.
“I like that I can still flip and do stuff that I did in gymnastics without having the impact on your body overall,” Fonseca said. “Overall my body doesn’t hurt as much so I really like being able to flip and do all that stuff.”
Another part that Fonseca likes is how uncommon the sport actually is. She said that she often has to clarify with people that it is competitively diving into a pool, not scuba diving.
However, diving being a relatively uncommon sport leads to difficulties when it comes to finding judges. Since SJSU diving coach Mark Butcher is a certified judge, he ends up judging every meet his athletes compete in.
He said that since the community is much smaller than other sports, they do not have a pool of paid judges to come to the meets. Therefore, he is required to judge his own athletes, which can be difficult to do.
“Sometimes as a judge, when you are judging your own athletes you have this implicit bias that sometimes your score is a little higher [and] sometimes it is a little lower, but that’s the imperfections of our sport,” Butcher said.
This isn’t the only difficulty that the diving team faces.
Since the new aquatic center is under construction, the team does not have a home pool to practice at or hold meets. Instead of sitting around and complaining about it, the team has taken a positive approach. The Spartans use it to their advantage as a way to better prepare for meets at different pools.
“I think it has really taught us to persevere in ways that we didn’t really have to when we could come and have meets at home,” Reiswig said.
Along with not practicing at SJSU, the team also practices at an outdoor facility. This allows it to get adjusted to different conditions outdoors, rain or shine.
“Wherever you train 24/7 you are used to,” Fonseca said. “So going to different pools you just kind of have to be mentally tough going in and know the boards are going to be different [and] the spotting is going to be different whether you are indoor or outdoor.”
These speed bumps have just allowed the team of five athletes to get closer. They drive to practices together, share hotel rooms for meets and are close-knit since they were all on the team last year.
“Every single day we are cheering each other on,” Sondeno said. “There is not a single dive where I am absolutely terrified to get off the board and my teammates are not screaming at me telling me, ‘You have got this, we believe in you.’ You know that they have your back.”
Even though they are only halfway through their season, all three divers have already qualified for championships in the spring.
“We have five really strong athletes,” Butcher said. “I think that having our two seniors really stepping up right now is a bit of a shining light for the rest of our athletes. I think they are looking to that as an example and stepping up their game.”