The Sports Center Recap

For those of you who followed Alex’s dive meet live, you know the results. This is the full story. And for that, you’re going to need a little education, so bear with me.

About USA Diving

USA Diving is basically the premier national diving association. It is “the pipeline of the Olympics.” Each year they hold a series of dive meets to determine the best divers in the country. Here’s how it works:

  1. A diver has to qualify by scoring high enough at a USA-sanctioned local dive meet
  2. That diver goes to Regionals, where they compete with all the other divers who qualified in that region
  3. The best divers from Regionals then move on to Zones. There are 6 Zones held around the country. 
  4. The best divers from Zones make it to Nationals. That’s the best of the best from the entire country.

So we’re going to start at Regionals in North Carolina. Shani took Alex down. And at this point, we were basically saying: “He might get to Zones, but probably not. And then there’s no WAY he’ll make it through Zones to get to Nationals in Atlanta.”

At this point, Alex had one and only one believer. To quote Jack Nuckols: “He’ll make it. I know he will.” [Note, this wasn’t spoken in breathy, dramatic voice. This was stated as dry fact.]

But the boy did well enough in NC and made it through to Zones. Alex was among 25 divers competing, and he needed to be in the top 10 to make it through to Nationals. For this, you’ll need a little more education.

About scoring for dive meets

When you dive, you get a score from five judges on a scale of 1-10. Those 5 scores are added up. So let’s say the judges give you: 4.5, 5, 5, 5.5, 5 — you add those all up and get 25 points.

But you’re not done yet. They then take the DD (Degree of Difficulty) of your dive and they multiply the points by your DD.

So let’s say your DD was 2.0:

25 points from the judges x 2.0 DD = 50 total points. 

In other words, harder dives = more points. But harder dives are harder, so you generally get lower scores.

OK, so that’s scoring. With that in mind, we’ve got 25 boys, 8 dives, top 10 kids go to Nationals. After 2 days of practice and sitting around a hotel room, it was time for the meet. It broke down into three distinct phases.

Phase 1: Voluntaries (dives 1-3)

The first three rounds the kids all do “voluntaries.” These are the mandatory dives that they all have to do (and should be called “mandatories”). These dives are all at a DD of 1.9. And for these rounds, most of the kids stay pretty close together in points. Everyone looks pretty good here.

Phase 2: Separation (dives 4-5)

Now kids move into their “optionals.” This means the kids can pick whatever dives they want. And in this phase, the kids break into 3 distinct groups:

  • A List
    • These kids are unreal (and have often hit puberty). Their DD is crazy high and they dive gorgeously. These kids very quickly separate themselves as the top divers.
    • It also becomes clear that Alex isn’t touching these kids. These kids are battling for 1st-7th place and Alex doesn’t have a prayer at beating them.
    • So…I don’t have to pay attention to them too closely.
  • C List
    • These kids are at the bottom and I think came in through weak divisions. They either do dives with a very low DD (1.4-1.7), which makes it impossible for them to get enough points to compete. Or they attempt harder dives (2.1-2.4), but can barely do the dive, so they either get really low scores or default entirely.
    • I don’t have to pay attention to these kids either.
  • B List
    • These are the kids in the middle. These are the kids who will come in 8th – 14th. They do harder dives, but not reliably.
    • Alex is solidly in this group.
    • I have to pay very close attention to these kids, and with all my heart, root for them to fail.

As Phase 2 went on, I sorted through all of this. And with dread, I watched Alex slowly slip lower and lower down the standings. By the end of Round 5, he was in 13th place.

Phase 3: Soul-crushing, wet-your-pants-with-nerves (dives 6-8)

These are the final three dives and this is where the stakes are the highest. The pressure and intensity is incredible. At the start of Round 6, I watched a B-List diver who was ahead of Alex crumble under the pressure. He flubbed the dive and got 2s and 3s from the judges.

This phase is about execution. And our boy threw this:

I call that dive, “I AM HERE.” His DD was over 2 and he got solid 6s from the judges. That dive (along with a few stumbles from fellow B-listers) set Alex in 10th place.

But then dive #7, he slipped back and only got 3.5’s and 4’s. A boy named Luke H had a solid dive to move ahead of Alex. So as we entered the 8th and final round, Alex was in 11th place by 4 points.

And I call this dive, “GAME OVER.”

I recommend watching that video more than once; we sure did. At one point later that day, Shani, Alex, and Shani’s mom were all in our hotel room, separately watching it over and over. I could hear the recognizable cheer from Shani’s mom.

The instant Alex did that dive, I started getting texts from the other dive parents. Luke H’s final dive was still to come, but his DD was too low to make it even possible. It was over.

Impossibly, our boy made it to Nationals.



I will close with this…it occurred to me that Luke H had probably worked just as hard as Alex to get there. His parents were probably just as wrapped up and hopeful as we were. But Luke H went to dinner that evening with a very different mood hanging over the table.

Well, two days later was the 1 meter event. Same phases played out. I watched Luke H from the start, but his first four dives were pretty poor, so I counted him out.

Alex, on the other hand, was solid the whole way through. He was in 9th place as he headed into the final dive.

But Alex flubbed his last dive and got 2’s and 3’s. Meanwhile, Luke H had been slowly coming back, and he nailed his final dive. When the dust settled, Luke’s score was 248.06. Alex’s was 248.04. Luke H beat Alex by .02 to take 10th places. Alex was 11th and out.


But actually…it turned out that in both 3 meter and 1 meter, one of the kids in the top 3 had actually pre-qualified. Which meant that 11th place got you through to Nationals. So both Alex and Luke H got through in both events. Crazy, right?

Many thanks for all the texts and messages we got through the meet and afterwards. Here are some photos of our very happy diver getting well-deserved congratulations.

Alex Divers hugs his mom.Alex Diver hugs grandmaAlex Diver hugs his Pop PopVictory.




4 thoughts on “The Sports Center Recap

  1. I am so impressed! Thanks, Mike, for the explanation. And congratulations, Alex. Totally amazing.😘

  2. Hi Mike. Alex’s dives were amazing. I’m trying to get my second grader into diving. She did it last summer and has potential but I don’t know where to go from there. Would love to talk to you about. Would love some insight and guidance. Thanks,

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