YouTube a Go-To Source for Prep Diver
Thu. December 08, 2011 at 2:04 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
George Jenkins diver Zak Kerst, 15, uses YouTube videos to help him train. (Photo by SCOTT WHEELER | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS )
By SOLANGE REYNER
LAKELAND | Prior to starting his high school diving career, George Jenkins sophomore Zak Kerst studied the sport on the Internet intently.
He spent hours toiling over video footage on YouTube on his black laptop in his formal dining room three to four times a week, studying the basic (dive numbers) and the intricate (form, technique).
Mostly, he would pull up film of USA diving great Greg Louganis, a four-time Olympic Gold medalist and five time World Champion.
"When I saw a lot of his dives I was like ‘Whoa,'?" said Kerst, 15. "It was intimidating for sure."
Those videos helped guide him through his first year in the sport last season and at times again this year, even leading to the FHSAA state meet, where he was one of three Polk County divers to compete.
Kerst finished 22nd out of 24 divers at that 3A state meet in 1-meter diving with 317.40 points. He also won the Lakeland City meet in early October for the second consecutive year.
And YouTube is his go-to source for most of his diving training because he doesn't have an expert on-hand: Jenkins, like many teams in the county, doesn't have a dive coach.
Polk County gives each school two coaching supplemental payments for swimming: one for a female swim coach and one for a male swim coach. There's no talk of adding a supplemental payment for a diving coach any time soon, mainly because of budget constraints, Polk County athletic director Don Bridges said. But schools can divide the pay up so as to have a diving coach on staff.
That's what Lake Region and Frostproof do. Gene Moore, who on paper is one of the swim coaches for Lake Region, is certified to coach diving, said Brian Voisard, his co-head coach.
"He learned from another swim coach and dive coach, and he has taken classes and courses in diving and is also certified," Voisard said.
The situation is similar at Frostproof. Nancy Leatherland has no diving experience but is certified to coach the sport, said swim coach Rachel Nicholson. This year, freshman Robby Costine made it to the 1A state meet. He finished in 19th with 237.80 points.
"Once you get past the basics of diving, you really have to know what you're doing," Voisard said. "I've been around swimming all my life, and I can teach the basics of diving. But once the kids catch on, you have to be able to teach the more specific and complicated techniques."
There's also the concern for safety.
"Our swim coach is super, but she doesn't have any diving experience, and it's obviously too dangerous and too risky to have a swim coach who doesn't really have a diving experience and doesn't understand all the ins and outs of that," Lakeland Christian athletic director Mark Kirby said. "You can't just use a parent volunteer or someone who doesn't understand the sport and the safety of it. Obviously, if you want to develop divers and help them get as good as they can become, you want to have someone who is knowledgeable about the sport."
Colleen Riddle, a former diver at Lakeland Christian, is the full-time coach for the Vikings.
At Jenkins, swim coach Jenn Gosline said she has tried in earnest to find someone to help Zak progress.
But she said the supplemental payment hasn't enticed anyone to come on full time.
"I've looked around – especially at former divers who have been at Jenkins. But people don't want to do it because the pay is not enough," said Gosline, who noted that coaching supplements amount to $1,573 per semester before tax money is taken out.
"I definitely don't do this for the paycheck. I do it because it's my alma mater. I was the captain of my team, and this program is my baby now. I'd like for us to be able to build up the diving, too, but it's tough when you don't have a coach here full time."
So, despite frustration, Kerst and his family have taken it upon themselves to develop his skills.
Veronica Kerst videotapes her son's dive practices on her Android phone and posts them on YouTube so the two can go home and watch them later to see what needs to be fixed.
At one point last year, the family also was paying for private diving lessons for Zak in Orlando. Those sessions were $60 a piece. But Veronica said she pulled back on those because Zak also has to find time to practice with the Brandon All Stars, a cheerleading team that competes in national shows.
James Voisard, a sophomore from Winter Haven who made it to the state meet in Class 2A, practiced with a diving instructor in Orlando three times this season. The cost: $50 an hour.
"That's why we don't do a lot of it. You have to estimate cost of travel and the time it takes to get there, too," said James' father, Steve Voisard, who owns Florida Flips, a gymnastics facility in Winter Haven.
"But he's got the gymnastics background, and that helps. He's also very talented and he's got a lot of athletic ability."
James Voisard also plays soccer, runs cross country and water skis. He finished fifth at the state meet with 399.45 points.
Winter Haven also doesn't have a dive coach.
"It would be nice to have one, but in reality it probably won't happen because diving is considered only one event at swim meets," Winter Haven athletic director Steve Beasley, said.
Zak said making it to states solidified that he can probably go a lot farther if he had the help he needed.
"I just felt proud of myself and (what I) accomplished — to not even have a coach and go," Kerst said. "I was like ‘Youtube kid going to states' — say what?"
But he is contemplating not diving next season because he doesn't have a coach.
His mother is hopeful he doesn't give it up.
"He picked it up really quick because he had the background in tumbling and gymnastics," Veronica Kerst said.
"So it would be a shame for him to stop now. We're hoping he sticks with it."