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Divers gain new perspective in coach's absence

BY TORK MASON | FEBRUARY 09, 2012 7:20 AM

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Losing your coach is never a good thing. It's especially difficult for a team when the athletes are working to fine-tune their techniques.

But the Iowa diving team was recently forced to go without Bob Rydze for 10 days when the 37-year coach needed his tonsils removed.

UI English Ph.D. student Lisa Carlton — a two-time All-American diver at Indiana whose husband, Marc, runs Iowa's junior swimming club — was asked to step in, and she said she was a little intimidated when Rydze approached her about the job.

"Bob is a legend in the sport of diving," she said. "He's so well-known [in the diving community], and being asked to substitute for him is [difficult]. He casts a big shadow."

Carlton admitted she felt some added pressure coaching Veronica Rydze, Iowa's senior All-American and Bob Rydze's daughter.

"While I was coaching, I did think a lot, 'Oh boy, I hope I'm not saying anything wrong or doing anything bad, because Vern is going to home and tell her dad,' " she said and laughed.

But Bob Rydze said he was pleased with the work Carlton did and said her youth probably helped her to connect with the divers quickly. He said it was likely beneficial for his athletes to have someone who had performed many of the dives they were trying to work on.

Rydze said Carlton was only available for the team's afternoon practices, and so the divers had to coach themselves in their morning sessions. He said he thought that helped bring the group closer together, and gave the Hawkeyes something he can't.

"Divers helping each other are better, sometimes, than a diving coach," he said. "They're the ones doing the dives. I never did any of the dives they're doing; we're in a different age."

Carlton admitted that she lacked familiarity with the athletes and their capabilities. She said she asked redshirt freshman Joelle Christy to do a routine on the 10-meter platform, only to find out Christy had never worked from that height before.

But that different perspective was also something Carlton said was helpful for the team — especially when it came so close to the Big Ten championships, which start next week.

"I think what was beneficial about me being there was a fresh set of eyes," she said. "They're about to go into conference championships, and they're going to have a bunch of judges looking at them who have never seen them dive before. So maybe it was good for them to hear what a third party had to say."

Rydze said he was lucky his medical issues happened when they did, and his daughter agreed; she said that if her father's absence had come any later, things would have been "a lot worse." But Veronica Rydze said her father was able to make a seamless transition back into coaching about month ago.

Iowa's senior All-American said the experience is something the team can use going forward.

"We had to have a lot of mental toughness," she said. "There were a lot of emotions going on, but we still had to do what we needed to do. I can see that helping us at Big Tens, because it's going to be a little chaotic. I think we'll be more prepared."

Follow DI women's swimming reporter Tork Mason on Twitter.


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