The majority of people don’t have the talent to simply pick up a sport and be fantastic. But that is the majority, and the majority is not all. Sierra Skaza is a senior at Springfield College and has been on the diving team all four of her years.
She is not part of the majority.
Skaza competes in the one meter and three meter board competitions for the Pride and she is incredible at what she does. The senior produces unbelievable marks nearly every meet and has already qualified for NCAA regionals after making it to the national tournament last season.
Skaza was a gymnast who joined the swim team in high school but was never big on diving. When her high school coach suggested that she use her gymnast background to try to become a diver, Skaza didn’t think anything would come of it.
“It was like a last minute high school thing,” explained Springfield’s star diver. “I didn’t come here intending to dive I just thought, ‘oh I might as well try diving.’”
Diving coach Peter Avdoulos is currently in his 34th year at the helm for Springfield College. Avdoulos had a massive influence in convincing Sierra to become a diver at the school he coached for.
“I’d practice once a week because we didn’t have boards at our home school,” Skaza said. “I was at Springfield College and Peter Avdoulos said, ‘Hey, you got talent. You could think about diving in college.’”
It was clear to Skaza that Avdoulos saw something in her that he could not pass up and Avdoulos himself agrees.
“When you’ve done this as long as I have you can pick out natural talent pretty quick,” he said. “When I first saw her dive I said that girl could be really good and she definitely hasn’t disappointed.”
Sierra’s transition into diving wasn’t the easiest despite her background in gymnastics. Skaza faces a tough challenge for any diver.
She is afraid of heights.
“Getting into it was terrifying because I’m really afraid of heights” said the senior. “Now I can do flips off it though.”
Although, Skaza still faced troubles with nerves when facing the boards. This led to a different approach by Avdoulos in practice that would see Skaza simulate meet situations including the intensity of a meet, which“definitely helped a lot” according to Skaza.
“It’s been a process,” said Avdoulos.. “The more competitions you’re in the better you can handle it. It’s a maturation.”
Skaza qualified for regionals her first two years as a Springfield diver, which was as impressive as anything she had done on the boards. She repeated junior year, but this time advanced to Nationals. Already having punched her ticket to regionals this year, Skaza continues to work hard to try to stay in top condition to achieve her personal goals of returning to the national stage.
“She is doing a difficult list of dives, as difficult as anybody in the country,” said Avdoulos. “She knows she can hang with anybody.”
Skaza has developed into a star at Springfield College over her four years on the boards and now feeds off the intensity of the best competition. Her biggest competition personally is the divers from rival MIT who always challenge Skaza in the meets when they face off.
“I live for [MIT meets],” she claimed.
Springfield has met the Engineers once this season on November 10. Despite the team taking a loss, Skaza delivered an impressive performance once again when she beat the MIT divers on the three meter boards, notching a score of 290.55. Although she did not win, she was also stellar on the one meter, claiming a score of 221.47.
These scores are no longer abnormal for Skaza. In the Ithaca Invitational, a massive meet in New York that is attended by 11 teams from across the region, Skaza continued to impress with her performances. She came in third place on the three-meter board with a score of 417.10 and came in sixth on the one-meter board notching a score of 432.75.
These scores and her repeated success have shown just how far Skaza has come as a diver since the first time she flipped into the Springfield College pool. Despite her unorthodox way of becoming the top female diver the Pride have to offer, Skaza has no complaints.
“I’m kind of glad that it happened the way it did,” said a smiling Skaza. “Everyone was always there for me and super supportive and pushing for me to be better each day.”
The help of the older divers helped Skaza become the diver she is today and she has assumed a similar role as she has become a leader on the diving team for the last two years.
With the support of her teammates and Avdoulos, Skaza is hoping to achieve all of her personal goals the rest of the year. For Avdoulos though, it’s all about the experience she leaves with.
“All I care about is that she had a great experience while she was doing it and she’s gonna remember it forever,” he said. “If she doesn’t make Nationals or final at Nationals, that doesn’t define her,”
The process of overcoming obstacles has grown Skaza as a person according to Avdoulos. Having watched her grow first hand for four years, he spoke to the person that Skaza has become today.
“It’s just very evident in her work ethic and her confidence. This four year process its typical that someone comes in as a first year and they’re kind of feeling they’re way. I’ve seen the maturity over the four years,”
One of the biggest differences in Skaza over the four years is her attitude towards the sport. From not even wanting to be on the team to hoping her diving career isn’t over, there is no doubt that she has developed a passion for her sport..
“I’m really hoping I can stay into it because I love it this is the most I’ve ever loved diving” said Skaza.
With such an amazing career as a diver coming to an end this year, it is important that Skaza’s accomplishments have the proper light shed on them. She has came a long way from the diver and the person she once was thanks to an incredible work ethic, refusal of fear and her support system she calls the Springfield diving team.
Photo courtesy of Springfield Athletics