July 2, 2012
When Rick Schavone landed a summer job for the Wayland Park and Recreation department, they asked him to teach diving at the town beach on Lake Cochituate. “Diving was becoming popular at the time,” he says.
Schavone said he’d do it. He didn’t tell them he knew nothing about diving. “I bought and read a book on diving and liked it, then went out and taught it.”
That was over 40 years ago. “I still can’t dive,” he says.
Which makes it all the more curious, maybe even strange, where life has taken Schavone. For the past 35 years he’s been the diving coach at Stanford. Three times he’s been named NCAA diving coach of the year and seven times copped Pac-10 coach of the year laurels.
Schavone will be the assistant women’s and men’s diving coach of the U.S. team at the London Olympics. So how did the non-diver get this far?
Schavone played traditional sports baseball, football and basketball at Wayland High. “Those are sports you coach,” he says. “Diving you teach.
“Because I didn’t dive, I learned the mechanics. I’m not just a coach, I’m a teacher. I teach really well.
I’m a sports psychologist. I have a rapport with the divers.”
Schavone obtained a physical education degree from New Hampshire, got his master’s at Maryland before heading west where he earned a Ph.D. in sports psychology at Stanford.
He coached tennis there for a while. “I got bored,” he says. “One day I went to the pool and talked to the diving coach. He didn’t want to coach women. I finished my Ph.D. and went to Princeton for a year. Then Stanford called me back to be the full-time diving coach, in 1979.”
Schavone grew up in Natick in the 1960s when kids did little else besides head for the playing fields. Schavone says “it was the best time, a great time to grow up in Natick and play ball. There were great athletes like Patsy Teti, Bobby Parker, David Ignacio, Kenny Sinclair, Kevin Horton,” Schavone played second base for the Natick Legion team. “Great memories,” he says.
By his junior year the family had moved to Wayland where Schavone played basketball and football for legendary coaches Buzz Bowers and Norm Walker.
With Stanford’s unprecedented diving success, Schavone concedes that “recruiting the top divers in the country is easy. The hard part is getting the athletes in, like Harvard. You don’t get any breaks. But once you get them in, they’re no trouble. They’re great student-athletes. It’s a smaller pool of athletes that you need. You only need one (exceptional diver) to win a championship.
“But there are great expectations here.”
Schavone lives on campus. “I like it a lot. It’s heaven. It’s paradise.” He is 67 and has never been married. He’s known as Dr. Richard Schavone around campus.
Schavone coached the U.S. diving team in the World Cup in February. This is his first Olympics. “It’s really surreal. I’ve been to every Olympic Trials since 1988. There’s a lot of pressure. Everything is magnified. It almost makes you numb.” And he wouldn’t miss it for the world, which he has seen much of China, Austria, Italy, Germany to name a few stops he’s made through swimming. The U.S. team will train at Maryland before leaving for London July 15.
“I still miss Massachusetts,” he says. “I recently bought a house on Lake Winnipesaukee.”
It’s been a remarkable, fulfilling career for Dr. Schavone, and after all these years he can still say he never took a dive.