Junior divers shine as coaches to celebrities on Splash

SplashJuniorsTwelve-year-old Michelle Lee has a new appreciation for her SoCal Divers coach, Scott Reich.

Lee was one of five junior divers selected to pair with a celebrity diver on ABC’s Splash.

Each junior diver – joining Lee were SoCal teammate Daria Lenz (13) and Rose Bowl Diving’s Luca Ayazi (12), Jake Fielding (12) and Sophie McAfee (10) – coached a celebrity diver and then perform a synchronized dive with the celeb.

“I still don’t know how Scott does it. I had one diver. He’s got 15 of us. I’m really thankful for what he does for me, and now I know how hard coaching can be,” said Lee, who was paired with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Ayazi, who teamed up with Drake Bell, echoed those sentiments.

“Coaching diving is difficult. I was constantly telling Drake he had to do this or do that if he didn’t want to lose. My coach always has to repeat the same thing to me about three times, and now I know what she goes through when I don’t listen,” Ayazi said.

Reich said the insight may help the junior athletes become better divers.

“As a coach, when you’re working with someone, you’d like to believe that every word you say is going to be heard, but the more you coach, the more you realize what comes out of your mouth may only be heard 20 percent of the time,” Reich said. “Now that these kids have experienced it themselves, they may be more willing to make a change the first time now.”

McAfee, who worked with Nicole Eggert, said the biggest challenge was learning to have patience.

“It was tough. I’ve had years of practice. I’m used to diving, but this is new for them and you have to be patient,” McAfee said.  “Nicole was always scared. I had to keep saying, ‘Don’t be scared. You can do this. The more you worry, the harder it gets. The dive isn’t going to come by itself, so just do it.’ When they finally get it, you’re so proud of them.”

Lee agreed and said seeing the celebrities master new skills was one of the best parts of the experience.

“Kareem’s a really nice guy and he works really hard. You don’t see a 7-2 person diving every day. I think it’s really cool that he’s trying it,” Lee said. “I was so excited when Kareem learned my dive. I don’t want to take all the credit because Scott helped me, but I’m so proud of myself that I could actually help someone.”

Fielding also helped his celebrity partner, albeit in a somewhat different way. He was paired with Rory Bushfield, who has been hampered with an ear injury and couldn’t do the dive originally planned. Jake stepped up as Rory taught him the ‘barani backflip.’

“The coolest part for me was learning something new on 10-meter. I helped Rory so he wouldn’t have to do another dive, and he helped me learn a new trick,” Fielding said. “I had a lot of fun working with him. Our personalities go well together.  I think I taught him persistence, to keep doing things over and over until you get it right.”

Lenz and Brandi Chastain stuck with their originally planned dive, and their practice paid off on competition day with 10 from judge David Boudia.

“It was a little stressful, but doing synchro with Brandi was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about her. She’s really competitive, so she got frustrated really easily and I had to give her a lot of corrections. She definitely learned it hurts to smack,” Lenz said. “(Competition day) was nerve-wracking at first. The crowd was cheering really loud. We just wanted to do our best and said the score didn’t matter. Brandi did the best dive she’s ever done, and got the highest score she’s gotten, so it was a really fun experience.”

Lenz’s older sister Annika was a part of the opening act in the first two episodes. Although what big sister did was fun, Daria said her role was better.

“(Annika) got to be painted all silver, which was pretty cool, but I’d rather have my job. It was really fun to interact with the celebrities and coach them,” Lenz said.

While the junior divers learned how difficult coaching can be, it wasn’t always all business on the set.

One of Ayazi’s favorite moments with Bell came during a practice day when the two took a break from the boards to have some fun.

“We were doing great, so we decided to stop and have a little race to see who could get to the other side of the pool first. Drake didn’t specifically say swimming, so once we started, I jumped out of the pool and ran to the other side and won,” Ayazi said.

With the experiences the five junior divers had working with their celebrities, it seems they all won.


One thought on “Junior divers shine as coaches to celebrities on Splash

  1. What a fantastic experience it was to have coached the celebrities on Splash. The California kids in the show were great! They were so confident, a great example of what young American athletes can be. My hope is that our sport will benefit from the publicity this great spirited show has offered. I hope you all enjoyed it and see the greatness our sport offers to both participants and enthusiasts alike. Proud to be a DIVER! Thank you SPLASH!

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