Feature Story on Rachel Eckert
Stepping out on a board 10 feet above the glistening waters of a turbulent pool may be a bit unnerving to most. For some it may be the time to turn around and step down off of the board and for others it is the time to adjust, take a deep breath and relax. The timing, grace and actual flipping from the board are just a few aspects of what a diver has to be conscious of while up on the board. Rachel Eckert on the other hand, loves the feeling of what she does, diving. From early morning and evening practices Monday through Friday, to evening weight lifting sessions periodically throughout the week, Rachel is one busy person but that doesn’t upset her.
“Between that [practice] and class diving takes up a lot of time but it’s worth it and it keeps me in shape,” Eckert said.
Most may be unaware but Eckert originally started her career through gymnastics at the age of six. After about six or seven years, she tried swimming but wasn’t really into it. However, she became curious in the seventh grade and tried it again. Despite doing gymnastics and then swimming, the two sports are very different.
“The two sports are completely different,” Eckert said. “Comparing swimming and diving is almost like comparing track and field with gymnastics; they are two different sports with very different judgment categories.”
In the beginning stages of her career, Rachel started diving with her high school team but eventually evolved to year-round diving with a club team. She attended the University of Buffalo for two years prior to her transfer to Old Dominion University. Transitioning into a different school, team, and overall lifestyle would have been hard for Rachel if it weren’t for the warm welcome she received upon her arrival. Her teammates made sure to let her know they would show her around and help her with anything she needed.
“I really like my coach here a lot. He knows how to push me and I feel like that’s a great aspect for me diving wise.” Having a good coach and teammates to back her up alongside her own drive allows Rachel to prosper. She set school records this season in the 1-meter and 3-meter dives and was announced the Conference USA Diver of the week in October, but that doesn’t deter Rachel from wanting more.
“That was exciting but there are still two more records that I want to break—there’s the pool record for both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives. Right now I have the school record but I don’t have the pool record.”
Diving is a very technical sport. Obviously there are triumphs Eckert faces daily but she managed to point out two of the hardest things about diving—making changes and trying new dives. The challenges to making changes is many divers, including herself, have muscle memory when they have completed the same dive a numerous amount of times. The challenge is to break the habit and force a change. Along with changes comes trying new dives and Rachel says the hardest thing about new dives is getting the courage to walk out on the board despite the fact that she may hurt herself.
“I would say I’m a hard worker and I really try to give it my all. I’m a team player and I’m very encouraging,” Eckert said. “I really try to help my teammates when they have a problem, if they are upset, or if they are trying a new dive.