Matt Foster: Dive coach molds athletes

Matt Foster: Dive coach molds athletes

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Matt Foster: Dive coach molds athletes

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There’s always someone using the pool at Washington High School.

Whether it’s a practice or a meet, you can almost guarantee someone will be there.

Often, there’s a good chance longtime diving coach Randy Sanderson is there working with athletes.

And just because Sanderson sets up shop at Washington doesn’t mean the former Auburn University diver isn’t invested in divers at other schools.

He coaches all of them.

Having just completed his 25th season, Sanderson is the sole springboard diving coach for all Escambia County schools — including Escambia, Tate, Pensacola High, Washington, Pine Forest, West Florida and Catholic.

“When you get all those kids from different schools and they all train together, they end up pushing each other,” Sanders said. “They’re all part of the same diving family. Yes, they all have to represent their individual schools, but it’s a diving family and it’s a close-knit family. It’s a very unique situation, but it’s the ideal situation. I wish more counties across the state would do it.

“Now that they moved the state meets to Stuart, that’s 600 miles away from Pensacola. If each school had to pay their own coach to coach one or two divers and go 600 miles, the cost would be ridiculous. Some schools wouldn’t have divers or dive coaches.”

Sanderson has advanced divers to state meets in each of his 25 years.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Sanderson also coaches all Escambia County middle school divers from late November until March, and then follows that by coaching elementary divers until school is out.

When the school year ends, he coaches summer swim leagues in the area.

To say that Sanderson is dedicated is an understatement.

“It’s pretty exciting to watch their growth and development,” Sanderson said. “They learn how to jump off the board — a basic skill that we teach is called a fall in. We have them stand on the edge of the board and literally fall in the water.

“To see them start from as basic as that and then go on all the way up to high school and possibly even dive in college is very rewarding.”

Sanderon’s passion for diving is being instilled in the youngest generation and can be seen crafted and refined in the likes of Escambia High’s Nic Martin, Tate High sisters Marissa and Mariah Constantakos, and divers from all of Escambia County schools.

“I heard a long time ago somebody say, ‘Find something that you really enjoy doing, and you’ll never work another day in your life,’ ” Sanderson said. “I’m that person. I can’t believe I get paid to do what I do.”

In a season that’s supposed to be about thankfulness, we can all be thankful for coaches like Sanderson and the work he puts in with our young athletes — and hope that there are many more out there like him.

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