FORT WAYNE – The Indiana International School of Diving is this kid here, standing on the board like a feather on an outstretched palm. She’s no bigger than a minute, up there above the blue water. And she looks absolutely unperturbed at what she’s about to do next.
Which, of course, is fling herself off the board, twist in the air, hit the water with a nice little splash.
Welcome to the humid biosphere of the Southwest Natatorium on a cool October afternoon, and more specifically to the diving well tucked back in one corner. There are kids of all ages over here, plunging off diving boards and using the trampoline at poolside to practice their moves.
That’s where you’ll find the Indiana International School of Diving’s coach, Jill Eakright, who’s been coaching diving at Homestead for a while and who readily admits that, just as the school physically has its own niche, so, too, does the sport itself at this level.
It is unique, Eakright says. We get a unique bunch of kids. Most of them are pretty fearless. And a lot of them come, especially the girls, come with a gymnastics background.
Which makes sense, considering gymnastics and diving both are about orienting yourself in midair. It also makes sense that, while the club itself has been around for a long time, according to Eakright, its existence has not been generally known in any sort of hey, look at us way.
It is a small niche in Fort Wayne, admits Eakright, who’s been running the program for four years. It’s hard to come by good coaches, you know, where with some of the bigger sports there’s a wide variety. And there’s not a lot of youth programs.
Fort Wayne does have a phenomenal summer program that the city leagues run, and that’s one feeder system into this sport of swimming and diving. But a lot of those coaches are young and might be in college so in the school year they’re gone.
That’s where the Indiana International School of Diving (This is our first year under that entity, Eakright says) comes in.
Right now there are 35 or so kids in the program, which entails both a lesson program and travel teams that compete nationally – again, similar to gymnastics – in a season that runs from September through July. This year Eakright has eight or nine divers in the latter, and it did well: Six divers qualified for the nationals in Minneapolis, and one medaled.
We take anybody that can swim, for the most part, says Eakright, noting that her youngest student this year is 5 years old and her oldest is a high school junior. I have a couple of kids here that dive for a couple different high schools in Fort Wayne. So this is one avenue for them to be ready to represent their high schools.
And the new entity only enhances that.
There are, Eakright says, 13 or so other programs under the Indiana International School of Diving umbrella, scattered throughout the state. Each has their own coaches who train around the state.
It’s a pretty big program, Eakright says.
It’s a really strong program. And it’s brought great results to Fort Wayne. I get the opportunity to work with some of the best coaches in the state, so I feel very fortunate.