Franklin College diving coach Dee Woods had stayed away from competitive diving circles for more than 10 years.
A two-time IHSAA state diving champion at Franklin Community High School in the early 1980s, Woods was at peace with her place as a mom and as a teacher, and then a yoga instructor. She had previously coached at her high school alma mater but stopped when she began having children.
Although she occasionally dove for fun in the family’s backyard pool, she had resisted the overtures of her friend, Andy Hendricks, coach of Franklin College men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, to coach the Grizzlies’ divers.
Then one day two years ago, she took her daughter, Anna, to swim practice at the high school. As Woods walked onto the pool deck, one of the college divers made a horrendous splash upon entering the water, just the thing divers don’t want to do.
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Instinctively, Anna turned to her mom and said, “Mom, he needs you. Help him.”
Woods agreed the diver needed instruction and told Hendricks she would stay for just 15 minutes to help out.
Two years later, she is still instructing Franklin’s divers.
Woods, whose maiden was Boice, won IHSAA state championships in 1980 and 1981. Her winning score of 467.55 in 1981 was a state meet record at the time.
She went on to become a standout at Miami (Ohio) University, winning a Mid-American Conference championship in the one-meter event and qualifying for the NCAA Championships. She narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S Olympic Trials in 1984 and later won the USA Diving Masters national championship in 1994.
Woods coached at Franklin high school after college and also worked as an elementary teacher at Greenwood Christian School and Needham Elementary in Franklin.
Woods’ former high school coach, Kurt Hass, had previously tried to recruit her to coach diving at Franklin College — just as he had worked to recruit a reluctant Hendricks six years ago to coach new swim, which has rapidly become an NCAA Division III power. Woods resisted Hass’s overtures to focus on her family responsibilities.
But two years ago, she gave in to Hendrick’s invitation.
“I think Dee has gotten back in love with the sport,” Hendricks said. “A key for both of us, but being away has made us better coaches. That’s not taking away from the career coach who has done it right out of school, but I think it helps you see other things that you can apply to coaching, and it also makes you miss your sport.
“It’s nice to come back here and be able to share.”
Woods had become a yoga enthusiast while she was away from the sport and even started a business instructing others. As she began teaching the discipline, she realized that the mental aspect of diving was closely related to what goes on in yoga, with features like controlling breathing being important in both.
“I realize now that my first yoga training was in diving. I learned to control my breathing, calm myself and perform the dive,” she said. “You have to calm yourself in the moment, breathe and really be present.
“This is what I try to teach divers, to take a nice deep breath and then dive.”
Woods is now working with the swim team with yoga sessions at least twice a week. She also works with other Franklin College teams during the year, as well as with individual athletes. The added flexibility, as well as the mental strength, are both good reasons for athletes to take up the art.
She still applies her considerable diving knowledge as well, teaching one woman and three men on this year’s team both the physical and mental side of the sport.
“I was a good diver and had a natural ability, but I wasn’t the best diver in the state. But mentally I was the strongest,” Woods said. “That has been the biggest thing to carry over, the mental training I do with my divers.”
That training involves visualizing the dives, and going through their entire list of dives mentally prior to meets.
The biggest change for Woods since coaching at the high school level 25 years ago is the ease with which coaches can use video technology to help divers see what they are doing right and wrong.
Another new aspect involved in coaching college diving is recruiting. Woods cringes when asked about it, but turns the subject into a positive as she speaks about it.
“Recruiting for me is a weakness in that you are selling, and selling is not who I am,” she said. “But I am improving, and we have several recruits coming. I’ve been picky because it’s important to get the right team in. I want us to be cohesive so we can all work together.
“I’m not as concerned with how they dive, I can tech them the dives, but with who they are. That part you can’t really change.”
Woods said she loves working with the age group as the student-athletes are contemplating their life’s direction and career goals. She is working to build the program as well as the relationships she’s always enjoyed from the swimming and diving world.
Name: Dee Woods
Job: Coach of Franklin College men’s and women’s diving teams
Family: Husband, Andrew Woods; children, Nicholas (12) and Anna (16)
High school: Franklin Community High School (1981)
College: Miami University (Ohio)
Athletic highlightst: Two-time IHSAA State Diving champion; Mid-American Conference diving champion and NCAA Qualifier; USA Diving Masters (over 30) national champion.
Other Interests: Yoga