Diving into a new season with coach Mikaela Thompson

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Alexander Schowtka

Coach Mikaela Thompson smiles with the diving team of the 2019-2020 season. (Left to right, top: Senior Andrew Aggouras, sophomore Mark Pettinato, junior Phoebe Phol, sophomore Emma Scully-Power, freshman Ell Sumsion, sophomore Charlotte Martinkus. Left to right, bottom: Coach Mikaela Thompson, freshman Nate Gold, sophomore Kendal Parker, freshman Ell Sweeney.)

Graziella Vezza, Social Media and Photo Editor

The Red Tide is diving into the season with a new yet familiar coach. Taking a gap year before attending medical school, Mikaela Thompson is returning to WHS as a decorated collegiate diver to coach the next generation.

“Coming into my first year coaching at Weston, my goal for the season is to support my divers to the best of my ability and to help motivate and develop them to be better divers, athletes, and teammates,” Thompson said. “Although our practice times don’t always line up with the swimmers, I  want to be as involved with the swimmers as possible, cheering them on at meets and getting to know them, so that they can look to me as an additional resource.”

With the encouragement of co-head coach Claude Valle, Thompson began diving her freshman year of high school with an extensive gymnastics background. 

“All throughout middle school, I would run into [Valle] in the hallways. He knew that I was a competitive gymnast, so each time he would encourage me to try diving,” Thompson said. “When I stopped gymnastics at the end of 8th grade, I was looking for new sports to try, and decided to give diving a shot.”

Part of what makes Thompson an appropriate fit for coaching high school divers is how recently she experienced the life of a high school athlete.

“She is different because she is so young and just came out of Harvard diving,” freshman Elle Sumsion said. “She understands the struggles of learning new skills and the pressure of school.”

Having graduated from WHS in 2015, Thompson is well acquainted with the ways of the diving team. 

“It is nice to have a coach who dove for the same program because she understands the environment and expectations of the team,” junior Phoebe Phol said. “I really like having Mikeala as a coach.”

With diving being both a test of physical and mental strength, Thompson recognized the challenges and lessons that student-athletes face.

“I think one of the most important things being a student-athlete has taught me is how to fail and be resilient. In diving you fail every day, whether it’s a bad meet, or smacking on a dive,” Thompson said. “You have to be able to get back up on the board after that and say ‘let’s try that again, and this time I’m going to get it right’  regardless of whether or not you believe that to be true.”

Bringing a supportive and sunny disposition to the pool deck,  Thompson stands out compared to the other coaches. 

“Mikaela is different from other coaches because her coaching style is based on encouragement and not only telling us what we are doing wrong, but how to fix it,” Phol said. 

Looking ahead, senior Andrew Aggouras anticipates this ability to achieve his goals with the help of Thompson. 

“I hope I can be able to learn how to better my dives and be able to keep them and not get a mental block. I also hope to go to states this year. I have yet to get that far,” Aggouras said. “I know this is possible because I have Mikaela right by my side coaching me.”