Pursuing the career and lifestyle of a competitive, professional athlete does not always come with the glitz and glam we see portrayed on tv and social media. Not immediately, anyway. There are many obstacles to figure out and constraints to everyday life that can be burdening when you’re chasing your dreams. A lot of times, for individuals like those of the USA Cliff Diving team, the struggle is real. And while the members have proven to be successful, there are some barriers to overcome before getting to that point.
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Applied Skills. First and foremost, experience in diving is a must and you definitely need skills in takeoffs, air awareness, and entries to water. Takeoff skills are applied on the platform, perfecting your speed, direction, and mechanics before executing a dive. Air awareness is harnessing the takeoff and controlling the operation of a dive in midair. Once maneuvered, positioning the body for a perfect “rip” entry is key to ending a stellar (and safe) dive.
Facilities. During the off-season, when competitions are rare and training is at a peak, it’s difficult to find a 27-meter cliff, equipped with all the necessary safety regulations, to practice high dives. As a result, most cliff divers have to practice from 10 meter platforms (the highest olympic platform), performing the gymnastic part of the dive, while mentally rehearsing what it will be like adding another 17 meters on top of that.
"The biggest barrier in the sport is finding a place to train from full height. Cliff Diving has gotten to a very high level (no pun intended) but the only way to learn is by getting experience from 27 meters. Generally you need to work in a show to dive from that height on a regular basis." - Andy Jones.
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Time Commitment. To perform in a World Series cliff diving championship, the commitment is as expansive as you’d imagine. Committing several hours a day, five to six days a week is necessary to build the strength and competence to dive well in competition. Having a full time job is nearly impossible, due to the training commitment, as well as having to travel and compete over many weeks of the summer. Check out our previous entry about training routines for the USA Cliff Diving team.
Finances. In reality, to take up diving, the investment is little to none. If you own a bathing suit and can find a spot to jump, you’ve created your new hobby. When taken to a much larger scale, things become a bit more straining. While training in off-season, holding a nine-to-five can be nearly impossible. Traveling around the world to compete in events can be understandably costly. You don’t have to live on the street to follow your heart, but you may need to be conscious of budgeting and spending habits.
Fear. There's a lot of external elements that can be a hurdle for a professional cliff diver to face, as well as being a deterrent for future participants in the sport, but none more so than one of humans most primal emotions: fear.
"There are thousands of extremely talented platform divers all around the world that are more than capable of pursuing a career in cliff diving. Fear is the biggest factor that prevents most of them from making the transition, and honestly who can blame them? The hypothetical consequences and the potential injuries that are inherent in cliff diving are astronomical and terrifying. We’re still scared every time we step to the edge, but the ability to control and conquer that fear is an incredible thing, and a feeling only a handful of us can relate to." - David Colturi
Paulo Calisto / Red Bull Content Pool
If your dream job is widely rare and is constantly doubted by so many others, this article wasn’t written to continue determent. Everything in life comes with a few obstacles across the path; it’s up to you to cross them.
Only two more articles left with the men of the USA Cliff Diving team. Make sure to follow them on twitter (@usacliffdiving) as their journey around the world in the Red Bull World Series amps up on June 4th.
Joseph Miller is a freelance writer based in Richmond, VA. He received his BS in Creative Advertising from Virginia Commonwealth University. In between writing editorials and content pieces, Joseph is currently training for his first half marathon, though his love for snacks may stunt his performance. www.josephhuntermiller.com