Lizzie Bourque has led two programs with Girls Inc., is the Junior League of Indianapolis Co-Chair of the Girls Inc. Committee, and works for Angie’s List.

Pool rat. A term the average person might not find endearing, but one that I hold close to my heart. A name that brings back memories of Speedo tan lines, my blonde hair crunchy and tinted green from chlorine, and spending every waking moment of my childhood summers at Racquet Club. Each summer revolved around Summer Swim & Dive team. From the time I was eight, I dreamed of someday becoming the coaches that I admired most. The summer after I graduated high school, I got that chance. It was my job to make summer as fun and memorable for my 65 divers as all of my summers had been before.

I took an immediate liking to a group of 9-10 year-old girls. They were fun and reminded me of myself at that age. Despite only a little diving experience, most of them were extremely talented and it became obvious that they would have a real shot at placing at the Championship meet. Tess, Georgia and Celia were rock stars. I’d tell them what to do and they’d get out on the board and do it.

Girls at Diving Competition

And then there was Sophie. Sophie had all the heart and none of the guts. She tried so hard to compete with the other girls, but her nerves got in the way. In diving, she was what we call a “total head case.” We finally got her to learn an inward dive- where the diver stands at the end of the board and dives directly towards it (terrifying, right?). This was a huge breakthrough and I was so proud of her progress.

At the end of July, it was time for Championships. All 72 of the 9-10 year-old girls in the league began to warm up for the meet. All my girls were looking great. And then it happened.

Sophie got up to practice her inward dive – and hit the board. There were no cuts, just lots of tears. Her confidence was shattered. I did my best to console her and tell her that the hardest, but best thing to do was get up there and try it again. She wasn’t having it. She begged me to change her dive list and let her do a different dive. This was something I could easily do, but I knew she had it in her and wanted her to give it one more shot.

When it came time to do her inward dive in the meet, she stood on the board for what felt like an hour. Shaking, she looked back at me with desperation. “You can do it,” I mouthed. This time it worked. Her inward wasn’t perfect, but the smile on her face when she came out of the water was. As a coach, there is no better feeling then a soaking wet hug from a little girl you helped to conquer her fears.

Girl preparing to dive

Sophie got 15th place. And although the other girls on our team outscored her by 30 points and won us the 9-10 Girls Championship title, it was Sophie who was my real champion that day.