Sydney Newman, a senior
women's diver, has earned all-conference honors each of her first three years
during her Pepperdine career. She describes her experiences and what diving
means to her, and she shares how she deals with the mental and physical
challenges of the sport:
Q: How did you get into diving?
A: I got into diving in high school. Growing up, I was always doing gymnastics. In elementary school, I was into trampoline and tumbling, and, at my gym, they had indoor diving practices there. I knew that I would do much more with diving than trampoline, so I switched over to diving in my sophomore year of high school.
Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?
A: I knew that I wanted to go to a college in southern California. I was in contact with a few different coaches, and Pepperdine was too beautiful to say no to. I loved the coach here, the team and everything about this school. It was a pretty easy choice when it came down to at the end.
Q: What is it like to be coached by Nick Rodionoff, who is a renowned diving coach?
A: It's great. I honestly could not imagine having a different coach for the past four years. Having a coach that wants us to work further to achieve our full potential in all aspects of our lives really helps when you're a full-time student and also involved in many other obligations on campus. He's so great with understanding our struggles and how to balance everything. He is our number one fan in and outside the pool.
Q: What does it take to become a good diver?
A: It takes practice. It requires toughness both mentally and physically. In diving, it's a mental sport. So that's not something you can practice. If you practice and have skills, then you may be the best aerialist in the world. If you get a mental block, then it's not going to help that you are the best aerialist. I think it is critical to know what your potential is, and to work through those mental blocks. Know that you're good at what you do.
Q: As you mentioned, mental blocks are something divers have to overcome. What helps you overcome those?
A: Having the support of your teammates helps, because they can all relate to those mental blocks. Though you might not get over them completely, having that support can help to make you feel less stressed and easier to overcome. Having a coach like Nick definitely helps as well. He never gets mad at us, never punishes us. When we are struggling, he works with us to get through it. Keep persevering and don't get discouraged.
Q: You've earned all-conference honors in diving each of your three years. What made it possible?
A: I would say my whole team. We all work for the success of each other. Also my coach, who has been there in and outside for all of us, makes us feel like he's always there for us. I would go to him for life talks, because he is so wise. Also just finding the balance in everything helped. Knowing that I am stressed, but also recognizing that diving is what I am supposed to be doing right now. After I graduate, I most likely will not be going on a diving board regularly, so I recognize that I need to enjoy while it lasts.
Q: Your sister, Samantha, is also a diver on the team. What is having her as a teammate like?
A: I love it. We have a funny dynamic. If my teammate, who is not my sister, is doing something wrong, then I try to be supportive and caring. But if my sister were to goof off, then I'd go "Samantha! Stop!" I could not imagine these past two years without her. It's been the most amazing addition to the team. We always do everything together, and it's been so much fun.
Q: How do our swimmers and divers get along? Is it a close-knit community?
A: Our practices are different. Coming into a freshman year, the coach made one group message as a whole, and we live together. My roommate, who I have roomed with since freshman year, is a swimmer, and my best friends are also swimmers. I have been with them all four years, and we get to bond during the meet so we tend to be really close. The only difference is that we have different practices, but everything else we do together.
Q: How do you plan to end your Pepperdine career?
A: The big splash. I know that I've enjoyed diving the entire time I've been at Pepperdine, so I want to enjoy my last semester with a competitive mindset. I want to still put in the hard work, but I've recognized that there are more important things in life than getting first place. I don't want to get discouraged by how I perform, but want to be able to finish strong.