Eleven years is enough time for something to go missing and be gone forever, but for the UCSB swimming and diving program, that missing element has finally been found. Both the men’s and women’s teams recently expanded to include a diving program, giving full meaning to their “swimming and diving” titles.
A new sport called for a new coach, which was found in recent UCSB graduate Wil Haynes. Haynes has coached diving teams on the club and high school level, and spent a majority of his free time diving at the Rec Cen pool while attending UCSB. With no formal coach or training during his time at UCSB, Haynes relied on his own work ethic to perfect his technique, which he now shares with the newest members of the diving program, including senior Missy Burley.
Burley began her diving career just five weeks ago and is the lone competitor for Gaucho women’s diving.
“I was so excited [to start diving],” Burley said. “It’s all new, so every day I’m learning new things.”
Because of the absence of a diving program, previous meets have ended with the Gauchos scoring zero points in diving competitions, which Burley hopes to change this year.
Burley has been an athlete since childhood. She won state competitions in gymnastics at a young age and became a level-nine gymnast before leaving the sport behind at age 12. Burley also played volleyball and soccer competitively in her hometown of Fullerton up until high school, when she joined the track team as a pole vaulter, eventually winning the Trinity League pole vault championship.
“Track and field was my big sport [in high school],” Burley said.
After graduating from Rosary High School, Burley took her talents to Santa Barbara where she competed in the pole vault for the UCSB track and field team for three years. This past October, Burley decided to switch sports and began the transition from the track to the pool.
The decision to switch from pole vaulting to diving was influenced by a need for change and the allure of a new sport. After competing in the pole vault throughout high school and three years of college, Burley felt that she had accomplished much of what she has set out to do since first starting the sport. Diving offered a new challenge, and she was quick to take the opportunity.
“I heard they were looking for divers,” Burley said. “I’d always thought it would be fun.”
When she first stepped up to the diving board, Coach Haynes recognized her skills immediately. “She’s got that natural ability to know where she is on the board and in the air,” Haynes said. “Her potential is huge, and we’re just beginning to tap it.”
Her impact can be felt not only in the water, but on the overall team atmosphere as well. A recent meet against visiting Cal Poly was proof that Burley’s talents are inspiration for the women’s team, which is very welcoming of its newest member. Each time Burley stepped up to the board, cheers and screams of encouragement from on-looking swimmers could be heard from both the men’s and women’s sides.
“[The women swimmers] are all really nice to me and have been so welcoming,” Burley said. “We all get along together.”
Junior Miranda Schneider knows the addition of a diving program has a positive impact both on meet outcomes and team atmosphere.
“It gives our program a sense of completion,” Schneider said. “Missy [is] an incredible addition to our team.”
The past two months have shown dramatic improvement in Burley’s form and execution. While she is usually outnumbered by her competition, Burley’s work on the board is beginning to yield results. As the only Gaucho diver competing against three Cal Poly divers in a recent meet, Burley placed third in the three-meter dive. Beating one of the three Mustang divers was a small victory for the team during the meet, but a huge success for Burley, her coaches and the future of the UCSB diving program.
“What we see is significant improvements week to week,” Wilson said. “She’s going to have a great impact on the team.”
More than a decade later, Burley is helping revamp a diving program within UCSB athletics. Her success is already bringing more attention to the swimming and diving teams, including interest from future high school recruits.
“[Diving] creates more pull for the UCSB athletic department,” Haynes said. “Now, [UCSB athletics] can show off the diving team and facilities.”
Each week of practice means new dives learned, adding up to multiple routines and techniques that must be memorized and perfected prior to each meet.
“I like the twisting dives,” Burley said. “It’s fun, it’s nerve-wracking at times, but when you finally get it, it’s so rewarding.”