College Diving: Makin’ it look easy

Nathan Myers pops up to the surface after competeling a dive during practice at De Anza College in Cupertino June 11.

Nathan Myers jumped off the diving board at Christopher High, thinking the only impact it would have would be his body hitting the water. The then-junior was just fooling around, enjoying the honor luau as a result of his good grades. But from the instant his feet left the board, Cougars diving coach Paul Wells was watching—and his trained eyes realizing natural talent.
Wells asked Myers to join the diving team and he accepted, adding the sport to his already full plate. He now had to juggle diving, wrestling and cheerleading all while maintaining good grades. But what Myers didn’t know was in that moment the course of his future changed.
That was a year and a half ago.
Fast forward to May 2014 and Myers is now a collegiate diver, representing De Anza at the California Community College Athletic Association state championships and he’s turning heads. He’s squaring off against divers with at least five years more experience than he has. He has opposing coaches asking each other who he is and where he came from as he earns a fifth place finish in the 3-meter dive competition, takes seventh in the 1-meter portion and earned All-American honors. For Myers, this moment is surreal.
“I couldn’t even imagine it. I didn’t even think I was going to enjoy diving all that much honestly,” he said. “I just thought it would be a cool skill to have. By my senior year I realized I love it; it was my passion. I was actually planning to take wrestling to college, just go to a community college and wrestle. I dropped wrestling at the end of the season (senior year) and just focused everything on diving.”
Though he was late to the diving game, Wells said Myers already had the raw components of a great diver. The focus, the drive and the courage to try something new was all there—and he was in great shape, too.
“He had a great physicality coming in; diving is very physical,” Wells said. “It’s supposed to look easy—that’s the trick—but it takes a huge amount of strength. He came in with enormous core strength. Boy, that’s something that just catapulted him right to the top.”
Though he had the natural talent, Myers knew it would only get him so far. The responsibility of school and the commitment to three sports kept him busy his senior year. He would spend 13 hours on the campus, practicing diving during his morning P.E. period and focusing on wrestling and cheerleading after school. Though he was perpetually tired and sore, continuing wrestling and cheerleading made him a better diver and helped him take ninth in the Central Coast Section tournament his senior year—the highest finish of any CHS diver to date.
“Cheerleading was big on flexibility and stretched me every day—that really helped my flexibility,” Myers said. “Wrestling really helped my coordination if anything and my leg strength which is really important to me. Both went hand-in-hand with helping out with diving.”
All the hard work, Myers said, would’ve been wasted if he didn’t have a coach like Wells. Even though CHS is in his rearview mirror, he still hears the voice of his high school coach in his head each time he steps on the diving board.
“(I’ll hear) ‘Point your toes, Nate! Just leave it in the pool’,” Myers said “If I mess up a dive, (I’ll hear Wells say) ‘Just suck it up, move on—no point dwelling on it.’ That’s honestly, really helped me a lot. It’s saved my butt a few times.”
It’s a lesson that Wells knows all too well. Though he was favored to win the CCS in his prep days, he blew his first dive and remembers wanting to go home right then and there. But he stuck it out, crawled back and took third.
Controlling your emotions is crucial, Wells said, as is knowing that it’s next to impossible to achieve a perfect dive list. Messing up is part of the game, but so is remaining confident in the face of adversity.
“What coach does is that he takes the fear out of them a little bit because he’s like ‘Yeah, you can do it’,” Mattie Scariot-Myers, Nathan’s mother said. “Nathan wouldn’t be the diver he is today if it wasn’t for him. …He’s always pushing him to that next level and that’s why he got so ahead and did so well.”
Nathan is in constant pursuit of the next level and has set his sights on first place finishes at state in both the 1 and 3-meter competitions. He’ll redshirt next season, but hopes that all his hard work will translate into a diving scholarship at a Division I university.
Wells has no doubt that Nathan will achieve his dreams and more, but lightheartedly told him to expect a little pain a long the way:
“No one gets out of this sport without stinging and your eyes watering and you wish you could go home.”