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When Not To Stop

It was the day. The day where I would get the last dive I needed to compete three meter at the 2017 regional dive meet in Columbus, Ohio. It was just a back one and a half flip with a half twist, a 5231D.

That’s all I needed to do.

“You can do it Ava; I believe in you, just pike it in, do it like one meter,” my coach cheered to me with his sophisticated, coaching voice.

And I believed him. I thought it was just like one meter and I just had to get into a pike and throw my hands down to the water. Do it just like my coach told me and then I would do it just like everyone else that did it perfectly. As I thought this to myself I realized how silly it sounded. All those people who said I wasn’t good at sports, especially diving, maybe they were right.

 I saw other people do it and they made it look easy.

Like Lily Witte, my best friend, who was also the fourth best dive in the Americas, made it look like a jump, effortless and like it was a piece of cake. Or like Vivian, another good friend of mine who could probably do it in her sleep she was so good.  

“So why couldn’t I do it” I thought aloud to myself.  I could do it on the ground and pretend I was in  the pool doing it, I could do it on one meter.

And I did what my coach told me to do.

So I willingly went up to stand in line for the three meter diving board. I worked on my technique while I waited, too.

It was only a short while before I found myself standing with my feet planted on the three meter board, looking down at the water. The glassy surface seemed closer than usual. Strangely, it looked darker,cloudier, and gloomier

As all the thoughts of what could happen and what was happening brewed in my head I imagined what would happen, and it wasn’t good.

If I don't do the one key move, then I will smack flat on my stomach, not diving smoothly in. All I have to do to avoid it is move my hands toward the water and hope for the best.

But all of this didn’t matter. All of the thoughts evaporated in my head as soon as I heard the numbers I didn’t want to hear.

“Three!!! Two !!! One!!!” my coach called me a bubble and he turned the bubble machine on that produced a gigantic bubble, which was essentially air blown through pipes that produce a bubble, like when you blow water through a straw into water or soda. But it looked weird today, it looked like black, like a weird unknown substance that would eat me alive.

I wasn’t ready. The water distracted me, the gloomy pit of darkness seemed to drain my knowledge. Yet, I began the sequence for making the dive off the board anyways. Feet going up and down until I bent my knees and then extended them, pushing me off the board into the air.

But I didn’t know what to do.

When to do what.

Or even if I was doing the dive.

But as soon as I hit the icy cold water I knew I’d done it all wrong. I was lying stomach down in the pool, my whole body aching, my heart pounding, the wind just knocked out of me. At least I didn’t have to swim that far to the surface.  A belly flop like the one I just did keeps a diver pretty shallow in the water.

I managed to breast stroke to the side of the pool deck and looked at my team.  Ready for their laughter.    But, everyone was cheering for me. I guess because they felt bad for me and had probably had a similar experience too.   It made me laugh, since I knew what a mess I’d made of it.

But it hurt to laugh. Since I basically just landed flat on my stomach from three meters in the air. I was in so much pain from laughing that I could barely hold back the tears.

But I still trudged on.

I guess people are right when they tell me I just don’t know when to stop.

So I refused to end that way even though my practice had been done for 20 minutes, I had failed at least 10 dives, but I guess I just never know when to stop. So I went back up to the three meter board, determined to get this dive and not mess up again, like the last time.

So I AGAIN completely blacked out in my dive until I hit the water.

Of course.

And maybe it didn’t hurt as much that time but I never knew since I didn’t really pay attention to it.

I just wanted to do the dive.

And over and over I kept failing.

And failing.

And failing.

Until my body was maraschino cherry red and covered in black and blue bruises and blood bruises.

I had to go home.

No way around it.

My coach worriedly called me over and I knew it was over.

“You have to go home Ava, look at yourself, you look like you have been living in the desert for forty days. Go home Ava” As my coach said that those words rung in my head, but I wouldn’t take that for an answer

“NO” I shouted at my coach.  “I am going to do it right now.” I said abruptly.

“ Okay.” he said as he slowly rubbed his head in disbelief as I ran back over to the ladder, climbed up it as fast as I could, and called for a bubble.


As my coach doubtingly walked over to the lever and pulled it down, the bubble came shooting up out of the water.

I knew what I had to do.

I just had to do it.

So I jumped as high as I could, leaned back just a little bit, twisted faster that I had twisted before and made sure that I had threw my arms down at the water.

And it felt glorious.

I made it.

I had just done a 5231d. A back one and a half flip with a half twist. When I swam to the surface I noticed that the water  was crystal clear and shimmering. I jumped out of the pool ran over to my coach and whispered to him,”Told you so.”

He reached out and gave me the biggest hug I had ever experienced. Even though it was rough getting to the dive, sticking with it made my coach so proud he could barely fit his smile on his face. And neither could I.


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