Happy divers is the motivation for Cambridge Dive Team president Sharyn Bord
“Success for me is just seeing so many happy faces all the time.”
In many ways, it is a very simple response to the highlights of Dr Sharyn Bord’s 43 years with what is now the Cambridge Dive Team.
The work started when it was Granta Swimming Club in 1967, and last week was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, when Bord was awarded the British Empire Medal for voluntary service to diving in the county.
While the name of the club and facilities have changed markedly down the years, Bord has been a constant to keep pushing the young divers forward.
There have been county, regional and national champions, but arguably the biggest achievement was seeing Dan Goodfellow graduate from the Cambridge Dive Team to earn a bronze medal with Tom Daley in the 10m synchro at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
However, Bord feels that it is not just about individual medals and titles for the divers.
“Kids love to dive – well maybe it is a bit Marmite, they love it or hate it,” she says.
“But those that love it, just to see their expressions on faces, they don’t necessarily have to be good, they just have to get the thrill of going in the way they want to go in.
“You know whether you have done it well, or done it badly – and if you’ve done it well, that’s a big smile on the face.”
It would be fair to say that the success is probably disproportionate to the facilities available – that is not to knock anything at Parkside Pools, it is just that it is only a 5m facility, where most leading diving clubs have a 10m board.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” says Bord. “We have a very different set-up to most swimming and diving clubs because we are pretty independent and we act in an independent way.”
Developing not just the athletes but the coaches as well is a key ingredient of the club.
The Cambridge Dive Team has been a learning ground for coaches as well, with their first professional full-time coach, James Etherington, being appointed in 2003.
“The philosophy we’ve always had is to make sure the professional coaches we’ve had are developing at the same time as the club is, so they have been given a little bit of a free rein to make the best of what they can,” she says.
“I think it actually inspires them to do a lot of good. We’ve had really good coaches, and that’s helped the club immensely.
“All our older divers are encouraged to do helpers courses, then carry on to do assistant coach and coach courses.
“Alice (Clark) was a diver and now she is our head coach, Dan Murphy is the professional coach and he came through our Learn To Dive scheme.
“It’s good and I think they therefore have a big loyalty to the club, as well, to keep within the Dive Team.”
Loyalty is something that Bord knows so much about.
Having initially been a swimmer, Bord switched to become a diver when the original Parkside Pool opened in Cambridge in 1963.
She started coaching and in 1967 became volunteer head coach of the diving section of Granta Swimming Club, which amalgamated to become City of Cambridge Swimming Club in 1985.
The new Parkside Pools opened in May 1999, and with 10 club divers the priority became to rebuild the diving section. Membership swelled, with record numbers competing in national championships
Bord founded the Cambridge Diving Development Centre in 2001, providing community Learn to Dive lessons, and in 2003, after a fundraising programme, a professional diving programme was facilitated and the club’s first professional full-time coach appointed.
In 2004, the Cambridge Dive Team was founded.
The centre continued to grow with the appointment of more professional coaches plus a development programme for divers to become junior coaches.
Bord was administrator and treasurer for 10 years before becoming president, and is a judge, referee, county diving secretary and a member of the East Region Technical Diving committee.
It begs the question, why stay involved so long?
“Madness probably! I would say I’m addicted to it,” says Bord.
“I’ve been going to leave in the background so many times.
“My big aim was to get a professional centre here with paid coaches, because it was all volunteer until 2003, and then we had our first full-time professional coach.
“I said once that happens it’s great because then I can just walk away and I know it’s going to survive.
“But then there is always a little thing that has cropped up that’s kept me there, and I probably haven’t really wanted to run which is probably the bottom line.
“There is always something coming on.
“Most of my time now is in the background. I don’t get to do very much coaching now which is the bit I really loved, but I still get a big kick out of just seeing the club do well and expanding still. We have ambitious plans further down the line. I’m trying to do less!”
The BEM recognises all the hard work to build Cambridge Dive Team to what it is today, but Bord remains extremely self-deprecating about the honour.
“I’m very proud,” she says.
“I feel a bit embarrassed by it to be honest because there are so many people that do such a lot of hard work.
“I know I’ve been around a long time, but on the way there have been lots and lots of people that have helped me immensely so in a way it’s not me, it’s a collection of people.”