Alice Clarke seeks to be a guiding light for Cambridge Dive Team
Diving development officer and senior coach looks to the future
Parkside Pools has been like a home from home for Alice Clarke for as long as she can remember.
From swimming at the venue to an apprenticeship during a gap year to now being the diving development officer and senior coach at Cambridge Dive Team, the 22-year-old probably knows the Cambridge glass-fronted building inside out.
It was the introduction to diving that has made the most significant impact on Clarke’s life though.
“I was about 10 or 11 when I started diving,” she said. “I was watching them while swimming.
“It was the standard thing where you’re swimming, you’re bored, you’re watching diving and think ‘I want to do that instead, it’s a bit more exciting’.”
However, her path was to lie away from competition.
“I was just so injured and quite lazy so I didn’t get on with the actual athlete role,” said Clarke. “I decided very early that I would rather be watching it than doing it.
“I went on a course at 16 and just carried on coaching from there.”
Having finished her A-levels, Clarke took a year out to do an apprenticeship with the ASA at Cambridge Dive Team, teaching all the different aspects of the job.
Clarke went on to study a sport science degree at Anglia Ruskin University and, with other coaches leaving Cambridge Dive Team, the opportunities opened for her to pursue personal ambitions, leading to being appointed to the new role earlier this year.
It has been a position that Clarke has embraced, and she is relishing the opportunity provided to not just nurture young diving talent but also help harness some broader life skills in the youngsters.
“It’s more than just the technical aspect of what you’re teaching them,” said Clarke.
“You’re teaching them life skills. You start with kids that don’t want to speak, that don’t even want to ask you to go to the toilet and then two years later, they are people and little humans who want to have conversations and want to have debates so that’s really rewarding.
“It’s also about helping people accomplish their goals. It’s just really exciting to watch the kids grow up and go on to different things.
“They go into all different walks of life but they’ve all got this one thing in common; they will be determined because they’ve done a sport like this and been in the environment that we’ve produced and set up which is really good to see.
“They will be able to go ahead and get into a job, do their GCSEs and do their A-levels because they have built up things from sport.
“I think it’s really important for young kids to do some kind of activity, even if it’s not sporting, just something that teaches them how to work to something they want.
“You can’t just read a textbook, there’s got to be dedication to all sorts of parts of life, you’ve got to work on psychology, nutrition, flexibility, you’ve got to work on all sorts of things, your attitude; it’s a tough thing to do.”
It is no secret that there are certain limitations at Cambridge Dive Team.
It is only a five-metre diving board facility and the dry-land training facilities are at Cherry Hinton, rather than by the side of the pool.
That is why the club has earned a reputation in taking divers to a certain point before they have to move to the next level, and Clarke is eager to maintain that success.
“It’s difficult in a club like this,” she said, “but we keep producing little kids that rock up, are fantastic, move away and that’s what we aim to do as a five-metre facility – look for those special athletes we can produce to a certain degree and then they can move on to another club.”