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Pirates overcome fear of failure

Published Sep. 4, 2005

Pirate divers Courtney Chandler and Aaron Washington look relaxed on the 1-meter board.

But the fear factor is just one of the obstacles the two have overcome in qualifying for the Class A state meet.

"At least twice a week you smack really hard," said Washington, a junior. "It's not necessarily a chance, it's an absolute. It's just you're afraid when it's going to happen."

"It could always be the next dive," Chandler said. "You just never know."

About a half-hour after she said those words during Monday's practice, Chandler proved her point while attempting a reverse dive. As her feet flipped over her head, the sophomore hit the board and scraped skin off the bottom of her ankles and feet. After cleaning up the blood and drying off, she got right back up and did the same dive.

Coach Vicki Browning applauded Chandler's guts, which a diver must possess.

"You've got the chance of eating the board or eating the water and neither one of them feel very good," Browning said. "People have a new respect once they get up there on that board. It looks so easy until you get up there and go "Whoa, this thing is springy and I'm going to fall off."

The Pirates are alone in the area in having not only a competitive diving team, but even a board on which to practice. Other than Pirates Sayward Rutledge, Melissa Head and Eric Alford, the only diver to compete at the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship was Hernando's Jessica Lufsey. She won the conference title and has qualified for state.

Because Hernando County lacks facilities, Lufsey dives at the Brandon Swim and Tennis Club, east of Tampa.

That lack of competition makes it tougher once districts roll around and the Pirates go against divers from Jacksonville Bolles, which has one girl and two boys holding the top three scores going into state. Last year at districts, an intimidated Chandler told Browning that she did not want to dive. Then Browning pointed out Bolles' coach was an ex-Olympian.

"We just have to realize we only have to be the best we can be and move on," Browning said.

A few Pirates are talking about going to dive camp next summer. After Washington went to a camp at the Brandon club, the improvement was obvious to coach Tim Holme.

"When he came back all kinds of rough edges were kind of polished off and filed down," Holme said. "There's a limit to what we can do here because we don't have the facilities. We don't have overhead support with harnesses and we don't have dry land diving boards where they can dive with a harness and land on a mat."

With his fourth-place finish at Friday's district meet, Washington has the 15th highest score going in with a 327.55, and Chandler was 28th among state qualifiers with a 346.60. Both are looking to improve those scores and possibly break the school record for points, which is 388 for the boys and 389.65 for the girls at an 11-dive meet.

"I'd like to have fun, but I don't think that's a must," Washington said. "I'm not worried about it because I have it anyways. I want to break the school record at state, that's my goal."

Chandler at first took up the sport for fun and is surprised how much she has gained from the sport.

"Personally I don't really care how well or how bad I do at state because I don't work out all year long, I just have the three months the season is," said Chandler, who did gymnastics for eight years before beginning diving as a freshman. "I don't expect to be the greatest out there, but I'm not that bad, and I know it."