July 21, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers diver brings gymnast experience to pool

Photo by Edwin Gano |

Sophomore diver Alyssa Black’s performance at the Frank Elm Invitational helped her qualify for the NCAA Zone Diving meet.

Three years ago, assistant coach Fred Woodruff received a call from a friend who coached a high school team in New York. The friend wanted to let him know that a girl who had just come in to dive on her first day of practice had blown him away. 

The girl’s name was Alyssa Black, who is now a sophomore on the Rutgers swimming and diving team. 

Diving and gymnastics are two completely different sports, but they have a connection for Black.

Black is in her second full season of diving competitively at Rutgers and third year in her life. She started her senior year in high school, when she was a Level 10 gymnast, which is the highest achievement a gymnast can attain.

She found a connection through the floor event in gymnastics and diving. Many things are very similar when it comes to diving like the motions each athlete must go through.

“Well, with gymnastics, I always liked floor and with floor — it requires a lot of power,” Black said. “There is a lot of flipping and twisting, and diving is very similar, so it made for an easy connection.”

The training required in diving and gymnastics is similar and has allowed her to excel in having such a good work ethic when it comes to diving. 

There are differences, though, like the major one of landing on your head in diving compared to that of landing on your feet in gymnastics, as well as the different boards used for each sport. 

Leaving gymnastics at first was not so easy. Black had spent 11 years building herself up to be a great competitor and gymnast, but as she spent more time diving, she too began to love it. 

While she loved both sports, she stuck with diving, a new chapter in her life. Black found diving as a sport of a chance, and it intrigued her.

“It’s very fun. You can mess up and sometimes it hurts, but you can just swim it off and get back on the board and try again,” Black said. 

Woodruff has been by her side to help her adjust and learn more about the techniques, how to approach a dive and the type of dive she will do.

He is the one that works with Black every practice, six days a week, to continually get the reps in that she needs to be consistently great. Having only three divers on the team allows him to focus on the girls much more and give them the help they need to improve.  

“The thing that is great about her [Black] is that she keeps a fairly even keel as she is training [and] competing,” Woodruff said. “She works really well that way and is very determined and dedicated to what she is doing. She does a good job of getting over the bad days and moving forward. If you can’t do that, you’re not going to cut it.”

With two-and-a-half years of experience under her belt, the progress she has made is impressive and has Woodruff pretty excited for what the next two years hold. 

“She has learned so much in such a short amount of time, and it’s pretty exciting,” Woodruff said. “I don’t think she realized what she is achieving until these past few meets when her scores jumped from last year. She is realizing she is going to do quite a bit. She’s having a lot of success this fall, which I’m excited to see.”

Two weekends ago at the Frank Elm Invite, Black was able to qualify for the NCAA Zone Diving meet in February, which was her goal coming into the season. She thinks she can only get better with more difficult dives and do well in the NCAA Championships by being consistent.

Black is still going through an adjustment period, being new to the sport. 

“Alyssa has really progressed into a really good diver. She has done that through a lot of hard work and dedication,” said head coach Phil Spiniello. “I don’t know what the ceiling is for Alyssa because she continues to get better every year, and it’s exciting to see where she is going to go.”

For updates on the Rutgers swimming and diving team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Ryan Moran

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