When Clemson closed the book on the swimming component of its swimming and diving program last season, a decision had already been made to retain diving as a women’s sport, and to give long-tenured Tiger diving coach Leslie Hasselbach Adams the head coaching position.
And while some schools over the past few years have streamlined to a swimming-only format, the diving-specific model which Adams is launching at Clemson is unique among NCAA aquatics programs.
“Our women’s diving program here at Clemson is one-of-a-kind,” said Adams, who’s coached diving at Clemson for the past 12 years, most recently under former head swimming and diving coach Chris Ip. “The only other program that is somewhat similar is at the University of Miami. They dropped their men’s swimming program that had their men’s diving program. However, they’re different, numbers-wise. Our minimum number of participants that the NCAA needs us to have in competitions is eleven. The University of Miami typically only has anywhere from one to three divers on the team.
“So they’re not counted as a sport at (Miami). Here at Clemson, we’re counted as a sport. We have 12 women on the team, and the scholarship resources that we can provide them is a very unique situation that we’re really excited about.”
In fact, the eight diving scholarships that Adams has at her disposal, exceed what can be offered by any other program in the country.
“The way the program used to be, Chris was the head coach, and we shared scholarships,” said Adams. “So we had 14 scholarships on the women’s side, and the majority of those scholarships went to the swimming side of the program. We had one scholarship on the women’s side, and less than one on the men’s side to recruit with for diving. So we had very limited resources.
“We have eight scholarships now. That’s huge, and it’s more diving scholarships than any program in the country, just for diving. We’re not only able to reach out to talented divers in the United States, we’re also now able to reach out internationally.”
While the new diving team will continue to compete in dual-meets and the ACC Championships, a greater scheduling emphasis will be placed on participation in select swimming and diving invitationals. A smaller team incurs fewer traveling expenses, and Adams says that the invitational competitions will provide her divers with experience that’s more expressly tailored to their sport.
“We’re traveling to several swimming and diving invitationals, but we’re just competing in the diving portions,” she explained. “We’re traveling to the University of Missouri, and the University of Houston, just so that we can get different exposure on a competitive level.
“And in those invitationals, we’ll also be able to compete platform. When we go to just dual-meets, we only get to compete on one-meter and three-meter springboard. At the invitationals they get to compete on one-meter, three-meter, and platform. So that’s very crucial to get as many platform competitions in as we can during our competitive season, before we go to ACC Championships and then to our qualifying meet for NCAAs.”
Another plus is that the diving-only concept will afford the entire team the opportunity to travel.
“Another nice thing, is that all the girls get to travel,” said Adams. “Whereas before, when we were combined with the swimming program, divers counted as a half of a person when we traveled. Swimmers could compete in six events, and divers only three. Half as many events meant you were counted as half of a person. You had roster restrictions and could only travel with a certain amount of people. Now, all the divers get to travel.”
Adams is excited by the prospect of pioneering a new competitive model at Clemson, and is anticipating a great deal of interest and scrutiny.
“With this model of program, we’re able to sponsor the sport of swimming and diving just by using the diving portion of it,” said Adams. “Other schools have chosen to focus on just swimming. So a lot of my diving colleagues are extremely excited about the opportunity here at Clemson. They’re very supportive, and want our program to thrive and be successful, as it will be. All eyes are watching us. They’re wanting to see how everything works, because it’s never been done before. Every day, since this program started on July 1, we’re making history.”