For diver Andrew Hastings ’02, mental toughness trumps brute strength.
By Adam Levin, Sports Information Director
On the rosters of most sports, a few positions stand out from the rest. Football has kickers and punters. Baseball has relief pitchers. Field hockey, lacrosse, and soccer have goalkeepers. And a swim team has its divers.
Perhaps what connects these positions is their emphasis on mental toughness over brute strength. In the case of divers, Andrew Hastings ’02 of Weston, Mass., is All-America proof.
A 5-foot 8-inch philosophy major, Hastings is the most decorated athlete in Bobcat history with six All-America awards and has a chance to add two more this winter. He’s set Bates records in one- and three-meter diving numerous times in both dual and championship meets during his career.
Last year, Hastings had to come back from an accident that might’ve broken the spirit of a lesser athlete. During a dive at the NESCAC championship meet, he hit his head on the board. Hastings still finished third at the meet, but the fear stayed with him long afterwards. He admits he’s “still kind of getting back through that. I was definitely proud to overcome it and continue to do well, but now I just want it to go away.”
Overcoming such an injury is one way the mental aspect of diving dominates the sport. “Diving is 80 percent or more mental,” says Hastings’ coach, Mike Bartley. “If you don’t believe that you can do it, you will not do it.”
Amazingly, adds Bartley, the 1999 New England and 2001 NESCAC Diving Coach of the Year, Hastings’ best could come this winter. “Everyone who’s seen Andrew is impressed with what he has done so far,” Bartley said. “But because of some of the bad breaks he’s had, he’s not there yet.”
Besides the head injury, Hastings has persevered through other physical injuries in each of the past three years. He was limping around his first year because of irritation caused by an extra bone in his foot. After surgery to remove the bone, he only competed in a handful of dual meets his sophomore year. Then he rolled his other ankle just before his junior year. “When you’re hurting, you know you’re hurting,” says Bartley. “It’s a psychological thing. You can’t be 100 percent confident.”
Besides believing and visualizing, repetition is a large part of the mental aspect of diving. Hastings practices his dives over and over again. “You don’t do the dives a thousand times to simply improve,” he says. Like a golfer who practices endlessly to ensure he can repeat his swing under pressure, over and over, Hastings practices “so that you know exactly what is going to happen every time.”
Repetition is also part of executing during the meet. Here, Hastings takes a page from Nomar Garciaparra, who’s famous for his tics and rituals during every at-bat. Before each dive, Hastings climbs the ladder, towel in hand, and approaches the middle of the board. He dries himself off, ties the towel in a knot and slams it to the floor below. It is an especially noisy and jarring effect from the three-meter board. “It’s just a routine,” Hastings said. “When I get up there for a hard dive, especially in a meet when I’m nervous, it just helps to have a little routine to do.
“Plus it’s reeeeally good for scaring the competition,” he adds with a grin.
Psyching out opponents is another piece of the mental game. Hastings tells a story about his first trip to the NCAA championships at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. “I said, ‘Coach, I’ve been to big meets before, but I’ve never been to NCAA nationals. How should I warm up?’ He said, ‘Get on the one-meter, do a couple of bounces, and throw all of your hardest dives.’ So I ran through them, one after the other. By the time I was done, everyone’s jaw was on the floor.”
Bartley adds, “The coaches all said, ‘Who was that? Wasn’t that a back two-and-a-half? Wait a second, did he just do an inward two-and-a-half?’ It can provide a great psychological advantage. It’s big and you use it. And it works.”
Well enough to earn six All-America awards.