By Chris Gionta
For a lot of athletes, their careers start with their parents having them join a team and start practicing. For 2020 Springfield College Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Mike Shaw, it started while messing around on a diving board with his friends.
“To be honest with you, what was really the catalyst for me to start diving was during sophomore year of high school, when we had a swim section of physical education class,” said Shaw. “At the end of the swim lesson, we were allowed to jump off the diving board — you know, just kind of mess around a little bit — and my physical educator was also the swim coach. And so he saw me flip and was like ‘What?’ Then he encouraged me to join the swim team to dive.”
Not long after Shaw began diving, he made a connection to Springfield College. One of his high school teammates was already involved in a club sport that was coached by legendary Springfield diving coach Pete Avdoulos.
“Through Pete’s club team, I obviously built a great rapport with him,” Shaw said. “I wanted to be either a PT or a PA, and Springfield College had both, so it just kind of naturally rolled into me going to Springfield.”
As Shaw was still relatively new to the sport heading into his collegiate career, his diving expectations were rather low.
“I had no idea,” said Shaw, referring to how he initially thought his college athletic career would pan out. “I knew I would be in good hands with Pete. I knew that much.”
It turns out that he was in good hands with Avdoulos and Springfield College. He lept into success as soon as 2004, where he won the Division III national title in the three-meter dive. He followed that up in 2005 by claiming both the one-meter and three-meter titles.
All of his national titles are something that Shaw will never forget, for various reasons. Every champion reflects on their first one differently. Shaw does because of who he saw in the stands.
“There are moments that are highlighted in my mind as far as my diving career goes,” Shaw said. “Winning nationals for the first time — it was surreal. And looking up and seeing my parents’ faces after I won for that first time my sophomore year, that’s something I’ll never forget.”
Another special moment for Shaw was shared with a teammate the very next year, when the duo finished first and second at the national championships.
“Another highlight would certainly be my junior year, going first and second with Ben Casavant, my teammate,” Shaw said. “We went number one and number two on three-meter when I was a junior.”
Even when Shaw did not finish in first place, he was awfully close to it. Along with three national titles, he was also national runner-up three times.
However, for Shaw, his experience at Springfield College was about much more than just his accomplishments in the sport of diving. In fact, his career at the pool is not the first thing he thinks of when thinking about Springfield.
“I reflect more on the relationships that I had,” said Shaw. “I met my best, best friends in the whole world on that team. And so when I think about diving — and I know I did really well, and I have a nice record — but I really reflect more so on hanging out with the people on the swim team, my comradery with them, and just the moments shared going through college than I did specifically thinking about ‘diving’ as the specific act of diving.”
Shaw is joining five other inductees in the Springfield College Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 — Mike Delong, Nikki Hay, Howard Hinds, Donna Masterson and Cathie Ann Schweitzer.
Shaw currently resides in California, where he works as a physical therapist, so he has not reflected on his career at Springfield College for a long time. But, 14 years after his career concluded, he was notified that his alma mater was awarding its ultimate honor to him.
“I got a call from the athletic department saying, ‘We want to let you know you have this great honor of being inducted,’” Shaw said. “It’s an honor and I really feel so grateful.”
The induction ceremony for all the honorees will take place at the Cleveland E. Phyllis B. Dodge Room at Flynn Campus Union at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2021.