Welcome, welcome, everyone! Are you feeling down? Are you feeling like you need a laugh? Well you’ve come to the right place! Raise your hands if you know the story I’m about to tell! I see you all of Highland High School! Howdy there all of the divers I’ve ever coached or interacted with! Hello there Landmark Americana; where I got drunk on my 21st birthday and had the bar laughing!
This is the story about how I inadvertently
became a local hero was asked not to lawyer up and sue The Gloucester County Institute of Technology. That’s right, you read this correctly.
So about that damn diving board. By now most people know that I was a diver in high school and in college. I started diving because I was
board (GET IT) bored and I wanted to do something with my time before baseball season. So why not hurl myself into the water at breakneck speed? I also had a good friend on the team who encouraged me to go out for it because we’d have a lot of fun (Hey there K-Mo!)
Fast forward to my senior year of high school. I was a pretty decent little diver but nothing spectacular. My coach, the incomparable Jim Smith, was pushing me to dive with the big boys and do some more difficult dives. We were in the process of learning the ultimate ball buster dive, the Front Double. I was scared. This was a dive where the chances of you face planting on the water are like 3 out of 4.
One night, during a swim meet, the divers were all practicing and Smitty made me do some front doubles. I went up to do one and in epic fashion I face-planted on the water. I hit the water so hard it blew my eyelids open and I got water behind my eyeballs. True story, that’s actually a thing that happens to divers. I was pissed (shocker). I told Smitty I wasn’t going back up there. I refused. Smitty, being the great coach that he is, told me where I could put that and made me get back up on the diving board immediately. This is a coaching technique used to get someone over their fears right away so you don’t lose any ground. I get why he did it (I’ve done it as a coach) but all I’m saying is someone else was about to hop on the board and go and I could have been spared the following misery!
I get back up there, do my hurdle, get to the end of the board and: BAM! I mean it was loud. Like REALLY loud. The board broke in half at the fulcrum.
Have you ever had one of those moments in life where time seems to slow down? Everything went into slow motion. I mean, I looked around the room and took everything in. The stands were packed with parents all of whom immediately looked in my direction in horror at what just happened. The slow turn of their faces was actually kind of funny. My thought was, “Huh. That’s odd.”
I locked eyes with one of my swim teammates who was cheering on one of the swimmers and she too took on a WTF look. At this point I registered what was happening and thought, “That’s not good.”
Then Coach Smitty, bless his heart, got up and ran to the side of the pool. Something he only does when there is an emergency and we need to pull someone out of the water. Knowing this, I immediately thought “OH SHIT.”
Then I hit the water. What was just described and what felt like an eternity apparently looked like me just hopping into the water after the board broke. I swear I could fly after that. That’s how long it felt.
I broke the surface and immediately scrambled up onto the pool deck. I was MORTIFIED. Everyone was staring at me and I decided I had had enough of diving that day. After Smitty made sure I was okay, I rushed into the locker room.
Now apparently some people from HHS were there and caught it on tape. I highly doubt that since it happened so quickly but if that footage exists, why isn’t it on YouTube yet?!?! Come on now people! This was internet gold! I could have been a meme! I could have been Bad Luck Brian! Ugh, missed opportunities!
So after I go to the locker room, I go back to the boards and talk to Smitty and the lifeguards who needed to fill out an incident report with me. The pool manager was livid. Not at me, but in general. Turns out the youth program that used the boards in the evenings and weekends never told anyone that there were fissures running up and down the board. I was just the lucky lottery winner that night and because I’m so strong (that’s what I’m telling myself) I applied enough pressure to break it. As I’m filling out this form the life guard and the pool manager say, “We’re so sorry this happened, please don’t sure us. Seriously. Please.” I mean I was sore but unhurt. I probably could have milked it but you know, Catholic: I have a guilt complex.
The next day I was straight up embarrassed. High school can be a vicious place. I didn’t think it was funny at first. I was slightly mortified. Then one of my teachers, in all of his wisdom, told me to get over it and embrace it. He told me to write my own story and to hell with everyone else. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m so freaking strong I broke a goddamn fiberglass diving board IN HALF. Have you seen the Olympics? That’s what I’m talking about! Eat your heart out Greg Louganis!
You’ve also stumbled upon this post’s lessons: 1.) Its okay to laugh at yourself. I was being dramatic about it at first and I needed to get over myself.
2.) Write your own damn story and to hell with everyone else. You are in control! I mean Carrie certainly did her darnedest with that pigs blood right? Amiright?! That season I kicked the crap out of everyone I competed against in the Tri-County Division. I beat EVERYONE at the Conference Championship meet. I qualified for states like 5 times over. I placed 8th in the entire state. I went to college to dive. I dove in Puerto Rico. I got coached by one of the best divers I know. I was mentored by that guy and I went on to coach with him and at my own pool club. I would say, that diving board was literally the launching point for my diving career. That’s how I tell the story.
Come on though, I BROKE A DIVING BOARD CLEAN IN HALF. That’s some funny stuff.