Flip or Flop

Dive Team Faces Mental Strain In Preparation For Districts

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Photo by Kassidy Wilkinson

Leaping into the air, bending towards the water to complete his dive, sophomore Rustin Wilkinson competes in the first dive competition of the season, Mavwood invitational. Wilkinson has been diving for a year and a half and is seeded second for districts. “Diving is hard because it requires you to know where you are in the air,” Rustin said. “You have to know which rotation you are in when you are spinning. [I dive] because I want to get in the top ten at state. Last year [at state] I got second to last, but this year I want to get in the top ten so I can see all my hard work and perseverance pay off.”

Kassidy Wilkinson, Reporter

It’s a mind game. Sophomore Kyndall Wilkinson eyes the blue water in front of her, the wheels in her head spinning as she prepares for her turn. The announcer calls her name and she steps onto the board. Taking a deep breath, she glides forward, careful not to mess up a single step. In this sport, something as small as a simple mistake can destroy an entire competition. Then she jumps. Then she flips. Then she descends with her arms stretched out to greet the water, her body creating a perfect vertical line.

In the past, the Cedar Park dive team has consisted of senior Pierce Brooks and alumni Dylan Sullivan. This year the number of athletes on this team has exceeded every year before with a total of 10 divers: seven boys and three girls. As both the new athletes and the old ones prepare for districts, they face the mental strain of competitive diving.

“Diving is a lot about what’s going through your head,” Kyndall said. “You can’t redo a dive. If you were supposed to do well on a dive, and then you didn’t, in your head you’re thinking about it the whole time. If you’re not ready for [your next dive] and you have already failed one, you can’t fail one more dive.” 

In a diving competition, you can only fail, or get zero points, on one dive. If you fail more than one dive you’re disqualified from the meet. Athletes who are worried about a difficult dive, such as one they’ve not yet been able to pull off, often put their hardest dives at the end of their competition so it doesn’t mess with their head and affect their other dives, according to Kyndall.

“Failing a dive is miserable,” sophomore Rustin Wilkinson said. “If you over rotate, do an extra half rotation, do one less half rotation, if you twist too much, twist too little, or if you fall off the board, then you fail. When I fail a dive I’m good at, it’s disappointing because when I started the dive I didn’t think anything about it but then I messed it up cause I wasn’t paying enough attention.”

According to Rustin, over-rotating is a common mistake made by athletes attempting a new dive because they usually haven’t perfected the timing of it. He said newer divers must push past their fear and throw themselves into the new dive in order to practice it.

Diving is hard because it requires you to know where you are in the air. You have to know which rotation you are in when you are spinning. [I dive] because I want to get in the top ten at state. Last year [at state] I got second to last, but this year I want to get in the top ten so I can see all my hard work and perseverance pay off.”

— Rustin Wilkinson

“Trying a new dive is very difficult because the fear of flopping or hitting the board makes it very nerve-racking to attempt,” sophomore Noah Martienz said. “It’s a lot to put on your mind at once, but you can’t let the fear get to your head because it limits your ability to dive well.”

Divers flop often when practicing their dives, according to Martinez. The thought of the searing pain, red backs and the loud sound their body makes when it crashes into the water is enough to make an athlete step away from the diving board. Despite flopping multiple times, and once slamming his hands into the board during a competition, junior Noah Luttrell doesn’t let this stop him.

“The thought of the flop is worse than the flop itself,” Luttrell said “The hardest part about diving is getting over the fear of hurting myself. But it’s worth it for the feeling you get when you finally get a new dive that you’ve been trying.”

The reason Luttrell started diving in the first place is because of his admiration for other divers.

“[At first] I thought it was really cool,” Luttrell said. “I’ve always been a part of the swim team and one of my best friends did it, so I decided to try it out. I dive because, when I see those really good divers, I want to try and become like them someday.” 

The district meet is set to take place on Jan. 26 at the Round Rock ISD swim center. Based on the number of divers in Cedar Park’s district, it is likely many divers will continue forward to compete in the regional competition.

“Diving is hard because it requires you to know where you are in the air,” Rustin said. “You have to know which rotation you are in when you are spinning. [I dive] because I want to get in the top ten at state. Last year [at state] I got second to last, but this year I want to get in the top ten so I can see all my hard work and perseverance pay off.”