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A case for growth in lieu of elimination
Kevin Sage

Just my opinion and silly commentary about diving in my small corner of the world in Colorado, but this might be useful to coaches all over the United States...

First Miami. No one could believe it could happen. Then it is Nebraska, Kansas... now Iowa State. The Big 12 is down to the Big 3 (Missouri, Texas, and Texas A&M). Men's Swimming and Diving is being eliminated left and right. All these high profile programs dropping like flies, and many of our age-group divers are dreaming of, some day, diving at one of these schools. They have no idea what's going on. Is this simply an anomaly or is there something greater going on that should be addressed?

"Football and Basketball. 100 scholarships. At least 10 coaches between the two sports. Millions in revenue (gameday, TV, corporate sponsorship). Title IX. Have to even things out. Simple answer... eliminate men's swimming and diving." That's what these Athletic Directors are thinking. What if this bug hits the Mountain West Conference? Central States? Big Ten? What if it hits all Athletic Directors? It is a basic business decision, and when it really comes down to it... it makes a little sense. It isn't cheap to run a swimming and diving team at the college level. The obvious counter to that is... Hey, it is WAY more expensive to run a football or basketball program. Unfortunately for us, football and basketball bring in a boatload of dollars. Swimming and diving does not. And, even more unfortunate, A.D.'s are continually looking for ways to stay fiscally responsible. Will more jump on the bandwagon?

I don't know. At one level, I just want to strangle these A.D.'s, but can you blame them? What are WE doing to make our programs more popular? I mean, my God... is there a sexier sport than diving? Is there a riskier sport? The mix of pure athleticism, grace, balance, and guts. If I miss a free throw, can I put my body in harm's way? Probably not. Rarely in a game of basketball do you see a player put his/her body in harm's way. The same can be said about football (on most plays). But when the meet comes down to a 5337d, or a 207c off 10M... think about the thrill of a youngster watching and dreaming of becoming (...not like Mike, but) like Mark (referring to Mark Ruiz, or substitute Laura or any one of the Dumais kids, etc.). The risk of crashing and burning is REAL.

Is there an opportunity that we are missing from the age group programs on up to the senior/international level? How exciting will the Sr. Zone meets be this weekend? If you go, think about it while you are there. How can these high level meets be marketed differently? Why are we not filling up the bleachers with 1,000 young boys from local grade schools or middle schools, but when we go to a high school State Championships, the stands are filled with 1,600 crazy parents and students and others?

I'm going to take a different tact here. First and foremost, I am an age-group coach. Juniors. That's what I choose to do. Then there's the high school diving. But high school season is over for 97% of my J/O divers. Now, how glamorous was Monday's practice? Well, outside the fact that a couple of my kids learned new big dives, and one of my girls completed her 3M list of dives, and one of my young boys got his reverse dive in AGAIN... it was pretty flatline. The fun, excitement and glamour comes from meets. When was the last USD meet hosted in Colorado, or Wyoming, or Nebraska? For Colorado, it was February 24th in Denver (Rocky Mountain Diving Invite). Before that, it was the Sagebrush Diving Invite on November 11th (3 months ago). Did you know that since February 24th, California has had three meets: the Dive San Diego Invite, the SPA Winter Championships (what the heck is SPA?), and the Region 9 J/O Championships. Did you know that since February 24th, Florida has had only two USD meets (I say that with tongue in cheek)? The RMDA has 4 to 5 junior meets a year. Now, granted, that is WAY more than what we had a couple years ago, but how many meets does Florida and California have per year? A boatload. Y'know, while I am babbling on about this, think about this. With so few meets in a given year, let's say one of our divers has a REALLY CRAPPY day. The next meet for him/her is two or three months down the line. They have to sit on that performance for a LONG time. In California, you have a bad meet, and within a couple weekends, you get to erase the memory and beat that kid that beat you. Why don't we have more meets?

We think it is just a culture thing when it comes to the CA's and FL's compared to us. But, look what Mr. Hocking did in Nebraska!!! Lincoln, Nebraska? Are you serious? No offense, but Lincoln is no Orlando. It is no Los Angeles! Where is another one of the top programs? Anyone know where Jason Baumann is headed (should be there by now)? Bloomington, Indiana. Since I used to live just down the road from that campus, I can tell you that Bloomington is no "draw," either. So, why do programs flourish in places like Lincoln and Bloomington? A couple coaches got REAL serious, and didn't buy into the "We're not a California or Florida" mentality. Do we have an overabundance of aquatic facilities? No way, but we do have "decent" to "really nice" facilities stretched out from Colorado Springs to Denver to Aurora to Lakewood to Arvada to Brighton to Fort Collins to Laramie and on into Nebraska (Lincoln and Omaha). Utah as well.

I believe one way we can generate more excitement is to have more meets and rewards to the divers for their training. Novice Only. J/O only. Masters or Open events. Awards like Best Ripper, Highest DD list, Best Smack (of course, maybe we don't want to encourage pain and injury), Best Loading of the Board, and Least Amount of Hair Awards (I had to throw the last one in there). Colorado 13 and under Championships (7-U, 8/9, 10/11, 12/13). Dual meets: H20 vs. Mile High, Omaha vs. Sagebrush, etc. What about August-September-October-November? Why don't we have a dual meet schedule during this time of the year with the following teams competing: SLAP, Cowpoke, Ft.Collins, Brighton, Mile High, Hilltoppers, H20, Nebraska, Omaha, Sagebrush, Louisville, and others... and we could keep standings on-line. Or we could have divisions based on geography? Sure thing.

Do we need to resist a link between swimming and diving? I'd like to give Jim Hocking the floor on this one, and I will listen to his advice and editorial on the subject and will definitely respect that advice, but from my standpoint, high school diving (at least in this region) is where the excitement is, and while diving is only one event in the 12 event meet, it still provides the most excitement in a young diver's career. Why? They have meets every weekend. The swim coaches call the newspaper and post the results. The kids see their names in lights. They get recognition, and they experience the magic of TEAM UNITY and TEAM PRIDE. And, there IS unity and pride!!! It's pretty cool. But, in USD, there seems to be so much fighting and philosophical differences. Teammates don't sit and cheer the younger or older kids on. And, let's face it... there are no meets in this area. Hey, c'mon...let's go. In USD, there is no Athletic Director who can eliminate us or control us. Let's grow our programs. Let's have some meets. Let's celebrate, reward and GROW this sport. Let's party!!!
Can we get these A.D.'s fired? Nope. But, can we continue to grow this sport and increase the excitement around our sport. YOU HAD BETTER BELIEVE

The man of few words is off to practice,

Kevin Sage

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