Springboard and Platform Diving
‘When I were a lad,’ I wasn't much of an athlete - a scrawny runt, by all accounts. Nevertheless, my parents put me in a diving class at the YMCA. I failed the class ( … I don’t quite know how that worked – I honestly can’t imagine ‘failing’ someone in a diving class). Some years later, however, as a high-school kid, I went out for the diving team… and six weeks after my first competition, I won the championship meet (we are talking ‘big’ fish in an very small pond, here, so don’t read too much into this). I was so excited to have achieved something in such a short time, that I went on to dive in college, eventually transferring to Indiana University, which had the top collegiate diving program in the nation at that time.
While at Indiana, I had the privilege to be coached by Hobie Billingsley, one of the truly great legends of the sport. His influence has shaped my life in countless ways, from my diving and coaching to my sense of humor and my sense of honor; my relationship with him as an athlete taught me what it means to trust someone without reserve. His example in my life has given me a model of integrity and human dignity I continue to strive to emulate in my own life.
Diving has taught me a great deal about discipline. Even more significantly, it has taught me that courage isn’t the absence of fear – it is the ability to face what may feel like crippling fear, and move forward toward the goal despite it. I have learned that joy and determination are a great antidote to timidity – when I am nervous or afraid, I find they help me in the process of ‘stepping up to the plate’ and doing what I need to do.
Having said that, I am truly not a very courageous diver (I was humbled and moved to discover that one of our Olympic platform divers feels the same way about her diving, yet you would never know it watching her train). Diving constantly faces me with my fears – fears of injury, fears of failure, even fears of achieving my dreams and goals.
Diving challenges me to combine strength and precision with grace and elegance, and to do so in a way that inspires others. It is a 'laboratory' for what I aspire to in the rest of my life.
I didn’t accomplish a great deal as a collegiate diver – perhaps starting at the age of 17 was part of the problem – but since then I have had a certain amount of success in the sport. In 1989, I set the Scottish National 1m Springboard record (465.85 for 11 dives), which has never been broken. I have won more than 20 international diving events (most of these have been Masters’ events, competing against others in my age-group), with that many more silver- and bronze-medal finishes. At a recent Masters’ competition in Canada I scored seven perfect 10s, and more than twenty 9s and 9½s, on a total of 30 dives. (The dives shown on this page are from that competition - below is a back dive performed with Gilles Desganges in the 3m Synchro event.)
It is a thrill for me to do an excellent dive in front of a crowd – they appreciate it, and show their appreciation - there is a communication between the diver and audience which is exciting. But for me, the great delight of diving is the sense of physical connectedness that comes with training, and the feeling that I am adding beauty to the world around me (which is a key motivator for me in everything).
In coaching, and in competition, I enjoy encouraging others to trust themselves, and to project what they love about the sport to those who are watching; I feel truly honored – whether coaching, or simply cheering on fellow competitors from the sidelines – to participate in others’ successes and self-discoveries.