As a 12-time All-American with three individual national championships to his name, Georgia diving head coach Chris Colwill approaches coaching at his alma mater with the same one-track mind that landed him in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Following the summer 2018 retirement of diving head coach Dan Laak, Colwill returned to Athens for the job with a desire to institute his own culture of success.
“I know what it takes to get there as a coach because I watched Dan [Laak] go through that with me,” Colwill said. “We actually talk every day and discuss how to make that happen.”
Included among the challenges that the second-year head coach has faced is managing his divers’ athletic focus. Four members of the Georgia diving team — sophomores Ellie Crump, Ambria D’Alonzo, Addison Kelly and senior McKensi Austin — are members of various sororities on campus.
To make sure his divers keep up with their obligations, Colwill maintains a watchful eye over the divers’ performance in both the classroom and the diving well.
Following Georgia’s disappointing doubleheader against UNC and Duke in late October, Colwill changed up the practice regimen, D’Alonzo said. In two subsequent meets, the Georgia men have outscored their opponents from Florida and Tennessee 153-115, while the women have trailed 212-227.
According to Claude Felton, senior associate athletic director for Georgia sports communications, no “across-the-board” policy exists regarding student athlete participation in Greek Life.
“The extent of participation is left to individual sport head coaches,” Felton said in an email.
Having reached the peak of the sport back in 2008, Colwill understands the routines necessary to succeed in diving. The coach said his concern about sorority involvement stems from the difficulty he sees in juggling two commitments that fill up a student athlete’s slate of obligations.
“Balance is the most important part about school,” Crump said. “School’s always first, then diving, then social life. So, if you can get those first two things done, you can have time for other things outside the pool.”
Crump likes the compartmentalization that Greek Life offers a student-athlete. While she embraces Colwill’s demand to focus on her craft, she enjoys having friends apart from the competition of athletics.
“I think if you think you can handle it, it’s very doable and reasonable — and not a problem,” Crump said.
D’Alonzo, who is relatively new to diving after transitioning from gymnastics her junior year of high school, was encouraged to seek a diving scholarship by Georgia diving club coach Jonathan Fennelly.
Her desire to join Greek Life came after her freshman diving season in 2018-19 when she saw high school friends enjoying it.
“I asked Chris [Colwill], and he wasn’t very happy with it,” D’Alonzo said. “He told me I could do it, but he said if he noticed me being tired in the pool or things not going well, then I would have to withdraw from the sorority.”
D’Alonzo sends in an exemption note each Monday to attend tutoring in place of weekly sorority chapter meetings and knows she’ll miss events such as her sorority’s semi-formal to compete with the diving team.
Other members of her sorority also participate in athletic organizations like the Spirit Squad and the Georgettes dance team, but the divers’ year-long schedule of training and competition adds an additional layer of commitment.
“I understand that students need to have a social life, but they also have to understand they’re in a DI program, and they need to perform when I need them to,” Colwill said.