Scott Smith has won 17 master's national titles and three world titles, and he holds two world records. After more than 20 years of coaching, he started Bounce Diving Club in the Twin Cities two years ago.
POOL RAT "When I was growing up, we lived around the block from a local pool in La Crosse, Wis. We had a season pass every summer, and every day we'd get up and hound my mom until we could go to the pool. She'd come get us for lunch, and we'd eat and go back to the pool."
DIVING IN "When I was about 10, a lifeguard at the pool said I should join the team at the Y. I got a scholarship there, so I swam from age 10 until 12 -- but that whole time I was noticing the diving going on. One day, they let us all go off the diving board and goof off. The coach saw me and asked me to try a couple things, and from then on I started diving. I think what he saw was that I just learned really quickly, and when he asked me to make a correction I was able to do that. You can make a diver out of anyone. What you look for is athleticism."
SMITTEN "I instantly fell in love with it. I loved that feeling of flying through the air and trying to control your body and not get hurt. It's my life."
UNFINISHED BUSINESS "I dove for my high school; I climbed the ladder at the state meet from 19th to 12th to second to state champion in 1983. I got a scholarship to the University of Iowa, and I dived there for three years. I actually wanted to be a curator in a museum and work in the art field; that was my collegiate expectation. Unfortunately, the athletic department and the art department didn't seem to see eye to eye, so after three years I was no closer to a degree. I didn't finish college, which is a huge regret, and it's one reason I coach. I think it's important for kids to find the right fit with the right coach in the right atmosphere."
KITCHEN TO COACHING "After I left college, I started working as a cook. Then I read in the newspaper about the Star of the North Games, and I decided to enter. I was probably 20, and I was just having fun diving. A man I met there asked me if I would be interested in helping him coach [a club]. I started coaching kids then -- it was the early '90s or '89 -- and I've been coaching ever since."
ROLE MODEL "I do weights three to four days a week. I schedule trampoline time -- bouncing for aerobic fitness and strength, and you can practice the flip action many times without getting out and drying off -- and I try to dive as often as I can. When I'm diving I have no real coach -- just the kids watching me. I usually ask something like, 'Was that over or under?' And they'll say, 'Looks good to me!' Part of the reason I have the respect of my divers is that I walk the walk. If I say, go do this, and they say, 'Why don't you?' I say, 'OK. If I do it, you do it.'"
ENJOYMENT: 10.0 "Competing for me has become more enjoyable since college. As a kid, it was always fun, but now I get pure enjoyment from competing. If someone else gets enjoyment from seeing me dive, I feel like I've kind of achieved my goal. I don't spend a lot of time or effort worrying about score or placement. I do it because I enjoy it."