Ex-Olympian Donie lends his expertise to Greenwich YMCA Marlins

With the Greenwich YMCA Marlins Diving Club gearing up for its national championship meet next week, it’s only fitting that a former Olympic diver stopped by practice to hand out some valuable pointers.

Scott Donie, the New York University women’s diving coach since 2000 and a two-time Olympic diver, met up with the Marlins divers last week for a two-day clinic.

“It’s a big motivator and the kids get a big boost in confidence to see his reaction to their diving,” Marlins co-head coach Lindsay Weigle said. “He has such a great name in the sport and he’s such an awesome coach that it really helps the kids a lot.”

Donie was a three-time NCAA Division I champion at Southern Methodist University, winning the 10-meter dives in 1989 and 1990 and also taking home the 3-meter dive championship in 1990. In addition to his stellar collegiate career, Donie was also a member of the USA diving team during the 1992 Barcelona, Spain Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, winning the silver medal in 1992 during the 10-meter dive event and fourth in the 3-meter diving event during the 1996 Games.

He currently is the head diving coach for the New York University women’s diving team.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Marlins diver Maddy Kenney said. “He’s a great coach and he’s teaching us a lot of new techniques and stuff to improve our diving. I learned more about the distance from the board, more height off the board and head positioning. This is a great opportunity and we’re really happy he’s able to come here for a couple of days.”

With the YMCA Marlins competing in the Speedo Junior Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. starting Wednesday and finishing up Aug. 10, having Donie share his knowledge about the sport couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We’re getting ready for Nationals, so to have someone that’s gone through similar meets and has gone though the Olympics, medaled and has gone through that kind of pressure talking to the kids and give them that extra boost is great,” Marlins co-head coach Dylan Korn said. “They did a lot of basic stuff like drills and worked on takeoffs and entries. Today they did some of their competition dives and he’s given them pointers on them. He also has been working on what it takes, both mentally and physically, to be successful.”

While the Marlins will be taking to the pool in North Carolina, the top divers in the world will converge on London and will all battle for Olympic gold. Donie said that there’s no better inspiration for the young divers at the Junior Nationals than to see the people they hope to be one day compete on the biggest stage in the world.

“It is an exciting time,” Donie said. “While we are watching the Olympics and are glued to the television, at the same time the Marlins will be competing in their national championship. They are all fans and will be watching it, but they will be watching it in their hotel rooms at nationals championships. It’s a pretty special time. They’re going to be with their diving friends, crowded together in the hotel rooms, watching the best in the world. There’s nothing more inspiring than that.”

Donie was able to get through to all the kids in the Greenwich YMCA pool because his path to success started out the same way as the divers on the Marlins.

“I started in a local program and I was someone who really loved to dive,” Donie said. “I want to make them understand that they could do it. Anybody that has the passion and the desire to do it, can do it. I’m an example of that. I also like to teach them all the secrets and tricks that I’ve learned along the way. I give them open access to everything I know.”

“Scott is amazing and is like one of the best speakers ever,” Weigle said. “We talked a lot about getting over fears, how to get over every hurdle and how to get the most out of every practice. It’s definitely helped the kids and they’ve really turned it on while Scott was here. It’s always great to have another coach around.”

Donie said that when it comes to being a top-level diver, there’s a plethora of divers around the country who possess the physical elements needed to be successful. However, it’s the divers who truly love the sport and are mentally strong that will take it to the next level.

“It takes hundreds of thousands of dives to get to that next level and you’ve got to enjoy that process along the way,” Donie said. “Starting with the younger girls that are out here just to have fun. You want that type of attitude every day to come into the pool and to enjoy your time while you’re here. You can feel that in the air here. All the kids love it. I try to remind them to work hard, but to enjoy all the little things and have fun.”

“He talked to them and made a list saying what they hate about the sport and then what they love about the sport,” Korn said. “He then talked about while he was diving, he learned to love the things he originally hated about it. Eventually everything he hated, he loved and that helped him go above and beyond.”

In 1988, Donie had the meet of his life during the United States trials, but still didn’t qualify for the Olympic team. While heartbroken, Donie worked harder than ever to get to the Olympic games four years later. When he found out that he qualified for the Barcelona Olympic games in 1992, it was a moment Donie will never forget.

“There’s really no feeling like it,” Donie said. “I dreamed of that moment since I was eight-years-old and was watching the Olympics on TV. When you get to that moment and you know that you made it, it literally feels like you’re living your dream. It’s surreal and feels like the first time man landed on the moon. Going back to a second Olympics, you have a greater appreciation for it and know everything that goes on a little better.”

Donie’s first Olympic experience during the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games couldn’t have gone better. After qualifying, Donie had his best meet of his life and came home with the silver medal in the 10-meter dive. Although four years later in Atlanta Donie came away with a fourth place finish in the 3-meter diving event, the whole Olympic experience was just as memorable.

“The second time around I had the best meet that I had, but there was a different element,” Donie said. “I was more mature and I was able to appreciate all the little things. The first time I was there was a blur.”

While the highlights of Donie’s career were when he was a proud member of the USA diving team competing in both Barcelona and Atlanta, it was his time in the Olympic Village that will always bring a smile to his face.

“I always say that the Olympics are two weeks long, but it’s the world as it should be,” Donie said. “You have almost every country in the world living together in a small village and everybody gets along and has a good time. All the different cultures live peacefully and happily, side-by-side. That’s the most inspiring things about the Olympics.”

Donie has seen his fair share of top-level divers and knows what it takes to be successful in big meets. To say that Donie was impressed with the YMCA of Greenwich Marlins is an understatement and thinks their chances at Junior Nationals are good.

“This is a great opportunity because this is a great program,” Donie said. “The two head coaches here are amazing and they’ve got everything that you need here to develop young divers for the top level. They are doing it. They’ve got some national champions here and they have divers here that I expect to see in the Olympics one day. That’s how talented they are.”

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