Coaching a sport at any level is difficult enough, and coaching for the same program for 35 years is even tougher. Despite this challenge, Springfield College Diving Head Coach Peter Avdoulos has taken advantage of his opportunities and has significantly contributed to the college’s high level of success in diving.
Being named the NEWMAC men’s diving coach of the year 14 times, winning seven National Championships, and coaching 111 All-Americans throughout his career, Avdoulos has secretly been one of the most successful coaches on campus.
Although his career has taken off significantly since graduating from Springfield College in 1985, he had a much different experience than most transitioning into becoming the legendary coach he is today.
Following his graduation, Avdoulos has stayed close to the college’s diving program. Growing up in East Longmeadow, he still had local access to Springfield College’s athletic facilities. Shortly after his graduation, the diving coach position was eliminated, leaving the team without one. Wanting to help out some of his former teammates, he agreed to coach the team part-time, which turned out to become the full-time job.
“It was a full-time position and so what happened was I live locally, and I had a job locally,” Avdoulos said. “I had teammates that were still here that didn’t have a coach. So, I would come by after work and help them out. It just turned into once in a while, it turned into every day, and then they were expecting me to help them out.”
Volunteering for the early part of his career, Avdoulos didn’t initially believe he would end up becoming the full-time diving head coach until Athletics Director Edward S. Steitz decided to pay him for his contributions. However, as time progressed, he grew to enjoy coaching at the college level.
“I just kind of wanted to give back and help the teammates who were still here. I never thought I’d be a coach,” he said. “At first I was kind of skeptical coaching because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. But then, as soon as you can help somebody get better, it’s kind of infectious. It’s like, ‘Okay maybe I’m okay at this.’”
Amidst all the success Avdoulos has found coaching diving over three decades, a lot of it can be connected to his ability to find talent.
Over the past two seasons, he’s coached eight All-American divers, including eight divers who earned Diver of the Year awards from the 2007-2015 seasons. With the consistent amount of talent he brings in every year, Avdoulos explained what he looks for out of high-school divers.
“Basically, just the love of the sport, potential, dedication. A lot of high school divers are worried that they don’t have the repertoire to come in and dive in college,” Avdoulos said. “ I just need someone that is motivated and coachable and has potential. If they buy into the program, they’re going to get better.”
Valuing the approach to the sport rather than physical talent, his technique to scouting shows his desire to work with divers who he views has the highest potential and hard-working mentality.
“I’m looking for kind of a mentality instead of already fantastic, already really good at diving. More potential then proven skills,” he said. “ I mean typically when somebody is already really good they’re going to go after D-I scholarships. I just try to develop from kind of the bottom up.”
With a desire to get the most out of his divers, Avdoulos’ teams stick to fundamentals within his practices. While his team spends a lot of time in the pool, they also spend some time on land. Directing dry-land activities and strength training, he has his athletes spend two days a week with strength and conditioning coaches to balance out their workouts.
Along with the strength training workouts, Avdoulos uses accessories to help his divers perfect their craft. Attaching a harness to the diving board, divers are given an opportunity to practice their tricks with a sense of security to avoid hitting the water.
Like in most sports, technology in diving has played a vital role in allowing athletes to watch their performances to fix their mistakes in practice and in meets. That’s no different with Springfield College diving, which also uses an instant replay system to see visually where their dives need correcting. Understanding people grasp new concepts differently, Avdoulos has made sure to give his divers feedback prior to viewing the film.
As more of a personal coach, Avdoulos is able to get the most out of athletes. Understanding the abilities of his divers, he’s been able to build relationships with them and help them execute dives with his vast knowledge of the sport. Seeing first-hand his command of his divers and of the sport, senior Valmore Stewart acknowledged his strong ability to help his divers perform at the highest level.
“Coach Pete is a great coach because he understands exactly what each individual diver needs in order to execute each dive perfectly,” Stewart said. Plus, he has a sense of humor that only divers can understand.”
Throughout his long and successful career, Avdoulos’ work with a number of talented divers has continued to fuel his love for coaching the sport. With a desire to see his athletes develop into better divers, coaching through the years has been a rewarding experience, which Avdoulos explains what has kept him motivated through the years.
“The success of the athletes. Making a difference in people’s lives. It’s again rewarding. It’s fun to see them develop. I think one of the main things here is development,” he said. “It’s not just getting kids in that are good already and managing them. I’ve had many divers come in and start diving in college, never dove before, and make it to the national level.”
While his coaching allows his divers to live up to their full potential, Avdoulos’ impact on his athletes stretches further than the diving board. Understanding his great influence on those around him, he pointed out Avdoulos not only taught him just diving skills, but more importantly life lessons along the way.
“From my freshman season to end of Junior year, Pete has been there to teach me not only about diving, but life in general,” Stewart said. “He’s taught me to go where your heart desires and not to waste time. To be aggressive and passionate with every endeavor I choose.”
Through his scouting, management of his divers, and developing the diving program from the ground up, Avdoulos’ historic career came full circle in 2014 where he was recognized for his many accomplishments as the head diving coach.
Being inducted into the Springfield College Hall of Fame, Avdoulos’ induction was a powerful moment—celebrating his successful career. Looking back at the induction that put him in the same category as many of the former Springfield College greats with his long list of accomplishments, being selected into the Hall of Fame was a humbling experience he got to share with his family.
“It’s nice to be recognized, but it’s humbling to be put in the same group as some of those amazing people in the Hall of Fame. You have that feeling like you don’t really belong,” Avdoulos said. “It was a little bit hard for me to accept that, look around, and see all the coaches around that were here and are here that have done amazing things.”
The greatness he’s instilled in Springfield College’s diving program has revealed many qualities that have contributed to his success as a coach and a person in general.
“He is understanding, caring, and stern when he needs to be. Great communication skills. Knows when to give you time. The whole nine yards,” Stewart said.
Finding success at a consistent level, Avdoulos has cemented himself as one of the best coaches in Springfield College history. As people look back at his career, his greatness will not only be connected to the success of his athletes, but his impact in their lives as well. Through all his accomplishments as the head diving coach, Avdoulos will always be remembered as a great teacher, leader, and life coach for his effect on those around him.
Featured photo courtesy Springfield College Athletics