Michael Mosca, long-time USA Diving member and senior at Harvard, was a finalist at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for diving. Now he is a 2014 Rhodes Scholar finalist. This weekend he will vie for one of the most coveted spots in academia to study at the University of Oxford in England for two years before he begins medical school. The rare double feat is most notable not for what he accomplished on the road to the finals but rather for the obstacles he overcame to get there.
Mosca, who started his USA Diving career with a last-place finish in the 11 and under age group at regionals, also had a rough academic start. After multiple setbacks and repeating the third grade, he was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD and an expressive language disorder. In a speech he gave at the inaugural USA Diving Rings of Honor induction ceremony at the conclusion of the 2012 Olympic Trials, Mosca credited the sport of diving with helping him to develop the resolve and resiliency needed to overcome many of the challenges associated with having learning disabilities.
“As divers, we show up every day and face our fears. We learn to fail and get right back up on the board. We learn to believe in ourselves and trust our coach and mentors,” Mosca said. “The life skills we gain from diving are invaluable and prepare us for our future career path, wherever it may lead us.”
Mosca thinks it is critical that divers give back to the sport and share the benefits with the next generation. He has volunteered as a coach for inner city children in Boston and participated in diving demonstrations to raise funds for scholarships and inspire children in New York City to try diving. Despite the time demands of a student-athlete, Mosca co-directs the Harvard Emerging Literacy Program (HELP) and reads weekly to preschool children at Head Start Schools in low-income areas of Boston.
“Reading out loud was always a challenge for me, even worse than diving off the 10-meter platform,” he said. “Getting over the fear of reading was no different than getting over the fear of learning a new dive. It’s all about being present: showing up and pushing through the moment knowing that it will be a long time before it will all come together, and trusting that if you persevere long enough you will succeed. I share with the children in our HELP program that if I can face my fear of diving and my fear of reading, and make it all the way to the finals of Olympic Trials and to Harvard, they can too.”
Mosca will face a panel of judges with varying perspectives at the Rhodes scholarship finals. The experience will be a familiar one. He faced a panel of judges at the Olympic Trials who scored him against the best of the best in a pressure-packed competition. Instead of critiquing every physical movement he makes, the Rhodes panel will evaluate his scholarly achievement, character, commitment to others and the common good, and potential for leadership. Mosca’s long-term goal is to be an academic orthopedic surgeon and a U.S. Olympic Team physician.
“Diving prepared me well for many things in my life, and the final round of Rhodes is chief among them. I’ve visualized the moment and when it happens I am going to tell myself the same thing I did before the finals of the Olympic Trials. Believe in yourself and in your preparation. You can’t control anything but your own performance. Be thankful to have the moment and realize that the true reward of being there is being there itself,” Mosca said. “The main thing I’ll tell myself is that I’m just wearing a different kind of suit.”
DIVE IN: The lessons learned from diving go much further than the pool. Diving helps build character, heart, discipline, patience and much more. Diving can build a foundation for success in life, and Michael Mosca is proof of that. If you are inspired by his story, please consider a donation to USA Diving’s ‘Dive In’ campaign. Funds raised will benefit athlete development, training opportunities/facilities and education and innovation to support all levels from grassroots and novice and beyond! Your donation is a tax-deductible charitable contribution to the extent allowed by law.