After a disappointing performance at the Ivy League Championships last month, junior diver Jack Williams used the experience as fuel to propel him to a much-improved performance at the NCAA Diving Zone A Championships two weeks later.
One thing Williams credited this improvement to is his mental performance. In diving, success is often based on individual achievement, mental preparation is crucial but sometimes last-minute nerves the just or minutes before competition can impact performance.
“My weaknesses [during Ivy Championships] were that I wasn’t able to shut off," Williams said when recalling his performance at Ivies. "I was just constantly thinking about how am I doing. I don't look at my scores [in the middle of a set of dives] because I don't really want to know what threshold I need to hit or be thinking about specific point values. I don't know why, but at [Ivies], I was concerned with that stuff. I think it's because of the expectations and pressure I put on myself. Last year, I just went in and was like ‘Okay, let's see what happens.'"
The Chicago native finished 16th this year at Ivies, not far off his 13th place finish in 2022. However, Williams was left disappointed with the performance.
Williams’ season was not over though. During spring break while other students flocked home or to vacation spots, Williams attended the NCAA Zone A Championship meet in West Virginia, where the top 5 finishers qualify for NCAA Championships.
“I wanted to make [the NCAA Zone A Meet] worth it to go because obviously, all my friends are elsewhere traveling and having fun, and I'm here, so let me make the most of it," Williams said. "I talked to some of my friends who also didn't have as good meets as they were expecting leading up to this meet, and I was like okay, this is where we bounce back. ... Once we got to the pool, I ... wasn’t really worried about the [outcome] and focused on what I actually can control.”
After his experience at Ivies, Williams used a new preparation method: concentrating on himself and things in his control and not focusing on expectations.
“I kept myself in check," he said. "It's like a long time in between dives, like forty-five minutes. I ended up sitting there, talking to my teammates, stretching, and massaging myself if I could, and then I'd go up and do it again. I think having that discipline to be able to do all that in over the course of a set of multiple dives.”
Williams finished in ninth in the 3-meter dive — four places shy of a trip to NCAA Championships. The performance was a notable improvement from a 35th finish in the 1-meter at last year’s Zone meet.
“I'm really happy with how close I was to qualifying for NCAA Championships. I was much closer than I thought I was going to be, and I think I got my foot in the door, and I just have to like do that again next season. I'm really happy with how it went.” Williams said.
With his season officially over, Williams is looking forward to a break and his next and final season as a Quaker next winter.
“Next season, I want to break at least one of the school records before I go," he said. "Maybe not [in the 1-meter and 3-meter], but at least, definitely one of them. I know I can do it. I just need one good shot at it.”