Vanderzwaag finds success at University of Michigan

Jessica Dubeau

the view is blue💙🌀

A video posted by Dani VanderZwaag (@danivanderzwaag) on Jun 20, 2015 at 7:34am PDT

During an afternoon practice at the Canham Natatorium, University of Michigan Soph. Dani Vanderzwaag anxiously makes her way up the ladder to the 33-foot platform from which she will dive from. Her heart is pounding as she maneuvers herself through the air, all the while completing a series of flips and twists, finally landing on her hands in the water. She looks to the side of the pool to see her teammates and coach, screaming her name, cheering her on. Hard work and a positive attitude helped Vanderzwaag overcome the fear that is part of competitive diving.

“One strength that I have now is a positive attitude. Having a positive attitude can get you a long way in all aspects of life, but especially with athletics. After accidentally messing up a dive in competition, I can easily come back and keep a positive attitude for the next dive. Positive thoughts make positive outcomes,” Vanderzwaag said.

Vanderzwaag’s diving career started a bit later than you would think. Indecisive between gymnastics and diving, she didn’t fully commit to the sport until her sophomore year in high school.“I chose to dive because it is a true passion of mine. All the time and hard work I have put into this sport makes me fall in love with it more and more every day. Through high school and now, I have had the best teammates I could ever ask for. They are constantly supportive in everything I do, both in and out of the water,” Vanderzwaag said. “I am also very thankful for the coaches I’ve had over the years. They push me to do new things even when I am scared out of my mind. They have always been very supportive and motivating. With the support of my teammates and coach, my mental strength has improved greatly, and I can do the dives that scare me most.”

  This year, the Michigan Diving team traveled to Los Angeles for an invitational at the University of Southern California. “It was my first time ever competing platform. I didn’t really have much of an expectation of how well I’d do, mostly because of the fact that I had never competed in the event before. After prelims, I came to the realization that I could actually do really well in this event. I made it through prelims and had a pretty good idea of what I had to do in finals to receive my zone cut. Zones is a meet that divers go to and the top so many get to go to nationals. It’s crazy for me to think that in middle school I was so terrified of doing a reverse dive off 1m and now I’m competing off 10m, which is 33 feet. On my 4th out of 5th dive, I twisted a little too much resulting in low scores. I kept a positive attitude the whole time and smiled and laughed to the judges.” Because of Vanderzwaag’s positive attitude and ability to put the bad dive behind her, she was able to do something she never thought possible.Vanderzwaag encourages high school athletes aiming at competing in college with a piece of advice. “Advice that I would give to all high school athletes who want to continue their athletic career in college is to always believe in yourself. It is so intimidating walking into your first college practice and seeing all the upperclassmen who, for the most part, are all going to be better than you. You may feel small and unimportant, but know that you are going to have a huge impact on the team. They started in the same place as you and look where they ended up. You belong on that team,” Vanderzwaag said.

The Michigan women’s swim and dive team won every meet this season except for one, which was against Virginia. They also won the Big Ten Championship for the first time time in 12 years.