February 7, 2008

New Coach, New Methods

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Imagine Joe Paterno leaving Penn State. Think how drastically that would change the Nittany Lions’ image. Men’s and women’s diving coach Rick Gilbert had only been coaching for three less years than JoePa’s 42 when he retired at the end of last season. A drastic change was inevitable. For­tunately for Cornell, the Red thinks it has struck gold with Veronica Ribot-Canales, a four-time Olympian.
Ribot-Canales, in her first collegiate coaching job, has already raised the level of Cornell’s diving program by introducing and teaching harder dives, as well as focusing on theory and training out of the pool.
“We’re trying to get the level of the program higher, and to be competitive you have to have higher level of dives if you want to be able to compete with the rest of the Ivies,” Ribot-Canales said. “You have to be strong enough to do these dives.”[img_assist|nid=27433|title=Geronimo!|desc=Veronica Ribot-Canales has taken over for Rick Gilbert as the diving head coach. She has brought new dives and a new conditioning program to the Red.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
This season, the team has been focusing on training out of the pool and conditioning as well, incorporating lots of abdominal and plyometrics work. The divers spend at least an hour on conditioning four days a week, including a few nights a week alongside another varsity sport that is very closely related to diving — gymnastics. Two girls even left the varsity gymnastics team to join the diving squad this year.
“I have two Cornell divers who started on the gymnastics team here, [senior] Kate Goldberg and [sophomore] Katie Aden,” Ribot-Canales said. “They were previously Cornell gymnasts … and diving is a great avenue to continue their very similar sport except they have to learn to land on their head instead of their feet like they do in gymnastics.”
Ribot-Canales cited the high level of discipline and conditioning required in gymnastics as part of the reason gymnasts are likely to excel in the sport of diving. Since they can transfer many of their gymnast skills to the diving board, gymnasts are also able to progress very quickly.
“That’s like a coach’s dream, when they come to me with these things already,” Ribot-Canales said. “I’m looking for the diamond in the rough kind of thing. Someone who doesn’t have any diving experience, but has a high level of gymnastic ability. I can teach them that, and that’s kind of what’s happened with these two girls.”
Being stronger has allowed the team to tackle newer and harder dives. Already, Ribot-Canales has introduced five new dives this year in hopes of eventually becoming more competitive within the conference. In particular, the team has been practicing optional dives in practice, which involve falling, twisting and somersaulting. These types of dives are easier than voluntary dives. Although it takes a while to perfect these harder dives, the team realizes that in the long run it will be able to be more competitive.
The coaching Ribot-Canales has instilled this year has already started to pay off for many of the divers.
“The kids have really worked hard and embraced the new philosophy,” she said. “It’s gone really well, I think. They’ve all personally improved and their points are going to be higher.”
With the last dual meet this weekend and the Ivy League championships quickly approaching, the divers have been focusing less on dry land training lately and pulling back from gymnastic training to be rested. For most of them, the biggest challenge will be staying focused and diving under the pressure.
“That’s the hardest thing for any diver, putting it all together on that one day,” Ribot-Canales said.