Life of a Brave: An Inside Look in the Mind of a Trinity League Champion Diver

by Ethan Gibbs

Being a competitor in an individual sport presents me with a unique experience. Win or lose, there is no one to blame but myself.

When I am climbing up the ladder to the diving board, my brain is racing a million miles per hour. I am thinking about all the possibilities, positive or negative. “Am I gonna smack,” “What if I lose my spot” and “If I squeeze my shoulders I could rip.” 

The second I take my first step on the board, my mind is clear. I am 100% focused on my dive and think about nothing else. It is as if every thought and emotion leaves my body.

After I hit the water, everything comes back to me, all the emotions and thoughts. I start thinking about how good my dive was, and if I am going to get good scores. 

My name is Ethan Gibbs, and I am a springboard diver for St. John Bosco and for my club team, Crown Valley Divers. I will continue to dive for Bosco my senior year, as I did my sophomore year.

When I am on the board, I appear completely calm to those watching me. It is like I don’t have a care in the world. All I am thinking about is doing the best dive I possibly can. I look like I am at peace, but in reality, that is not the case. I am doing my best to seem that way because diving is all about how you present yourself on the board, as well as off the board. 

There are little things divers do to try and increase their score. For example, smiling at the judges and looking prepared will sometimes increase your score by a point. A lot of divers will talk to the judges after a competition and be friendly toward them so that next time the judge sees them in competition, he could potentially favor them over another diver. 

My team and I practice tirelessly before I compete. In the practice session, there are divers on every single board, and they are diving left and right. However, when the time comes for the meet to start, everything changes. When it is my turn, I am alone. None of my teammates are with me. It is silent, and I have every single person’s eyes on me. Everything is on me, and I can’t rely on my teammates for anything. After I complete my dive, I get to be with my teammates and other divers until it is my turn again.

When I was six years old, I started diving at McCormick Divers in Long Beach at the Belmont Plaza Pool. I participated in a diving summer camp. One practice, while I was trying a new dive, I over-rotated and smacked on my back. It hurt a lot and I still can remember the pain from that incident. When I was six I became scared of diving and decided that I did not want to participate in the class any longer. A year later, my parents and I moved to Paris, France, where I started playing tennis. After staying in Paris for five years, we moved to Orlando, Florida, where I started diving again for a team called YCF Divers. This was the beginning of my diving career. 

When I was in sixth grade, my father had told me about a prestigious diving team close by and asked if I wanted to try out. Thus, I went to the evaluation practice and made the team. I started diving two days a week at with an Olympian coach.

I enjoyed diving again, as I could not wait for practice every day, waiting to get in the water and on the boards. I started on the lowest level and eventually worked my way up to the top. Fortunately, I dove with people who got a lot of full-ride scholarships. 

Training for diving involves a lot of conditioning and dryland. Dryland is a place where you work out and train, and it can also help you work on dives you are afraid of, or not ready for. Dryland is made up of springboards into foam pits and mats. There are also trampolines and boxes to do flips and handstands on.

Dryland helps me prepare for dives mentally that I would be too afraid to do in the water for fear of smacking. Smacking and hitting the diving board is what every diver is afraid of. Diving is different from team sports because everyone from all diving teams is experiencing the same fear, and it creates a bond between all divers.

In diving, there is no conflict between teams. Everyone is friendly to one another no matter what team they’re on. Everyone pushes each other to do better and accomplish their goals. In competition, after a diver has gone, people from all teams cheer. 

Diving is different from a “team sport” because in a competition divers are competing against their own teammates as well as other teams. Everyone has their own individual score, and they are judged only on their dive, not the team as a whole.

Judging in diving is extremely hard. The judges begin their assessment even when the diver is not on the board. They are looking at how the diver acts, how they present themselves and if they’re respectful to the other divers. All of that will affect how the judge scores the diver. Although the judge might only score a diver down half a point, half a point can determine first or second place.

Going up to do my eleven dives in competition is extremely stressful. When I’m doing my dive, I have everyone’s attention. The announcer states my name and dives for everyone to hear. Knowing that everyone is watching me doesn’t make it any easier to do my dive, but knowing that every diver has to go through the same brings me comfort.

In the end, hearing everyone cheer for me is worth it. Knowing that so many people were impressed by my dive makes all the stress go away. 

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