From the moment Jamie Sweeney wakes up to the moment he goes back to sleep, there is only one thing on his mind: diving.
“I don’t think about anything else,” Sweeney said. “Some people may think that’s lame, but this sport is my life.”
Sweeney, who is Missouri’s interim diving coach, said he isn’t here solely to correct technique. He said he thinks the sport is more mentally than physically challenging and that it is his job is to get his athletes prepared for it.
That’s why he spends so much time thinking about different ways he can run practice and how he can communicate with his athletes to make them better.
That latter part is relatively easy because he was in their shoes two years ago.
Sweeney was a top diver for the Tigers from 1999-2003 and set a few school diving records that have since been broken. He was named team MVP in 2001.
After he graduated he was a volunteer assistant for the Tigers. While volunteering, he created the Missouri Diving Club with then-MU diving coach Greg Triefenbach.
The club helps teach those ages 4 to 18 how to dive. Within the first year of the club’s creation, four divers advanced to the national level, where one finished as high as sixth.
As a volunteer, Sweeney had what he calls his “opportunity of a lifetime” midway through last season.
Triefenbach left the team to take another coaching job, and Sweeney was promoted to interim diving coach.
He hasn’t let the opportunity go to waste.
Since the change, he has helped the divers improve week by week. His passion and enthusiasm have helped the Tigers build confidence.
“He’s just very positive,” freshman diver Jeff Wolpert said. “He picks out our good points, which helps us improve.”
Head coach Brian Hoffer has seen the divers go to a new level and believes there is a good reason for it.
“Jamie has a very good understanding for diving,” Hoffer said. “He understands where people are at in their career and maximizes it. Some coaches coach a level above their athletes, but he coaches to where they are and then challenges them to improve and rise above that.”
The team’s improvement was on display at the Big 12 Championships on Feb. 23-26. Missouri had five men and two women finish in the top 10.
“It was amazing,” Sweeney said. “We have been working hard every day building toward that ultimate goal. Then that day comes and the divers perform the way you hoped they would, and it’s just the most amazing feeling ever.”
Sweeney said the most impressive part was the fact that the team performed so well on platform diving. The team never practices this event because it doesn’t have a platform, yet it still was able to have two divers, Evan Watters and Aaron Wionzek, place in the top five.
These performances are important to Sweeney because he is not guaranteed the diving coach job next season.
Hoffer says because Sweeney is the interim coach, he will have to reapply for the job and compete with other candidates.