The Iowa divers are thriving under first-year diving coach Todd Waikel.
Feb. 4, 2013
Editor's Note: The first appeared in the February issue of the UI Athletics Department's Hawk Talk Monthly... click HERE to access the complete online magazine.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The six divers on the University of Iowa swimming and diving team have bought into first-year head coach Todd Waikel's message, and the Hawkeyes are thriving as a result.
Waikel began his duties as Iowa's diving coach in July 2012, replacing 37-year veteran Bob Rydze. Waikel previously served as an assistant diving coach for the past seven seasons at Indiana University.
"We all came in with an open mind," said junior Abby Grilli, one of five women's divers. "We were all pretty open to the new style, and we have tried our best to do what he tells us and listen to what he says.
"We were all really excited for Todd to come in because it's a new set of eyes. In the beginning we did a lot of different things. As the first semester has come along, it has all come together for us, which is cool because I have seen improvement in everybody."
Four Hawkeyes -- Grilli, junior Lauren Kelba, redshirt sophomore Joelle Christy and freshman Addison Boschult -- have posted scores to qualify for the NCAA Zone D Diving meet that will take place in Houston, Texas, on March 11-13.
"As a team, he pushes us to raise our standard at practice. He tells us that we need to train like Big Ten's are tomorrow. He encourages us to train at a high standard and not just go through the motions of every day practice."
All four Iowa divers posted collegiate bests Jan. 19. Christy won the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards in the dual meet at Illinois, finishing with scores of 313.35 and 322.20, respectively, en route to earning Big Ten Co-Diver of the Week honors -- her second career award. Kelba posted a score of 295.95 and Grilli a 289.35. All three scores rank in the top 10 in Iowa history.
Boschult posted collegiate bests in both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard in the double dual against No. 6 Indiana and No. 10 Ohio State, finishing with scores of 325.13 and 341.78.
"Technically, he has helped me with different parts of my dives and mentally as well," said Christy. "I think about diving in a different way after working with Todd. He has helped me think of diving in a new light."
Waikel places extra emphasis on the team's daily practice. His messages have hit home.
"He always says that every day is a challenge and to have the heart of a champion," said Grilli. "That helps because there are days when we're down on ourselves or getting frustrated, but we need to remember that for people who are champions, every day is a challenge and we need to work through that."
"As a team, he pushes us to raise our standard at practice," said Christy. "He tells us that we need to train like Big Ten's are tomorrow. He encourages us to train at a high standard and not just go through the motions of every day practice."
For Boschult, the addition of Waikel to the UI coaching staff was one of the key reasons he decided to walk on to the Hawkeye program.
"I knew he had really good credentials from working at Indiana," said Boschult, the lone diver on the men's roster. "I knew he was a good coach from what I researched and knew he would be a good fit based on coaching styles."
Prior to coming to Iowa City, Boschult had never competed in the platform. Fast forward three months and he has nearly a complete 10-meter dive list and is a NCAA Zone qualifier.
"I kept saying, 'I don't really want to dive tower because it's going to be scary'," said Boschult, who finished third in his platform debut with 315 points at the Hawkeye Invitational. "Todd has really helped me with the transition. He helped me get past the nerves and with my overall technique."
With a month remaining until the 2013 Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis and a month and a half left until the NCAA Zone Diving, Grilli believes the divers are on the right track.
"We're progressing really well," she said. "In the beginning, it's harder to see improvement with so many new things happening, but now I think we're seeing improvement pretty fast."
Waikel has been a big part of the progress.
"Todd has helped everyone on the team dive at a higher level," said Christy. "We're diving at a higher level every day in practice and in competitions."