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Diving career of Iowa’s Deidre Freeman springs ahead

BY EVELYN LAU | MARCH 12, 2009 7:27 AM

Deidre Freeman didn’t know where her future stood in diving four years ago.

Growing up in Grinnell, she displayed all the poise and agility needed to become a diver, but she didn’t start the sport until her freshman year in high school. Even then, it was difficult for her to grow as an athlete because lack of competition throughout Iowa.

“I didn’t really have a coach [in high school],” Freeman said. “I had the swim coaches coaching me and the other divers.”

Despite that, she still managed to be successful in high school; she set numerous school diving records and finished runner-up in the state meet her senior year.

However, when it came time to choose a college, she wasn’t sure if she would continue with the sport because of her belief that she wasn’t a good enough diver to compete at a Division-I college.

Iowa diving coach Bob Rydze felt otherwise.

After watching Freeman compete against his daughter, Veronica, he was convinced that she would be a good fit for Iowa.

“I watched her dive against my daughter all the years in high school, so I got to know her diving really well,” Rydze said. “It was mainly that she was a great athlete, she had power and strength, she didn’t train year-round, and you just knew that she was going to be a very, very good diver.

“With all those things put together, she was going to get a lot better.”

His investment in her paid off.

As a freshman, Freeman had an impressive season by placing 14th on the 1 meter at the NCAA qualifying meet while recording eight top-five finishes that season. The next season, she showed more improvement, leading the team in both the 1-meter and 3- diving events.

Now nearing the end of her junior season, Freeman has high aspirations for the upcoming NCAA diving qualifier meet in Minneapolis. Improvement with her diving has allowed her confidence to build, but she admits to sometimes feeling as though she isn’t progressing fast enough.

“I feel like I’m stuck in this rut,” she said. “Before in high school, I was like, ‘Oh, O.K., I’m good for high school, I guess I’ll go and try college diving.’ Then when I started college, I was like ‘Oh well, I’m O.K., but I don’t think I’m ever going to advance to be as good as the girls in the Big Ten.’

“Now I’m like, ‘O.K., I’m pretty good at the Big Tens, so now, it’s nationals and the bigger picture.’ ”

One major change this season for Freeman has been her mindset. She has learned how to become less distracted by things she can’t change and focuses on the ones she can.

“At meets, it’s really changed a lot since last year,” she said. “I just psyched myself out and I’d over-think everything and overanalyze everything. Then I would dwell on the bad things I did in the last dive and not move on.”

Rydze could often see the struggles within her while competing. He has tried to remind all his divers not only to focus on the task at hand, but to remember that sports aren’t everything in life.

“I can always tell in her face when she’s getting down on herself,” he said. “It’s the idea that if you miss a dive, you’ve got to forget about it and got to come back and try to hit the next dive.

Sometimes when she’s not diving well, she gets down on herself. And then you get down on yourself, you lose self-confidence. You’ve got to stay mentally focused and take one dive at a time.

“My philosophy after coaching for 34 years is, athletics — I don’t care if it’s football, wrestling, diving, swimming — I don’t care what it is, it’s not life and death. It’s a sport, and it’s something that should be enjoyed by the athletes and enjoyed by the coaches. It’s an athletics competition, that’s all it is.”


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