ONE of Scottish sport’s most promising partnerships has just been revived with the return to Edinburgh of Jenny Leeming.
The diving coach, who has come back to the capital from Leeds, has a wide-ranging job description which includes finding new talent. But, with the 2014 Commonwealth Games very much in mind, she will also work with the country’s leading divers, foremost among them being Grace Reid.
Now 16, Reid was the youngest member of the Scotland team at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi two years ago, and has since continued her progress with a gold and silver at the European junior championships in July, and three top-ten finishes at the world juniors last month. She has a team of coaches, and maintained her relationship with Leeming over the past four years with regular trips to Leeds.
But now, while she will still travel to Yorkshire to work with the best divers in the UK, she will be able to work more closely with Leeming, who has supervised her progress since her earliest years in the sport. And, with the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh being the venue for the diving competition at Glasgow 2014, athlete and coach will have home advantage as they prepare over the next two years.
“Part of my job is to work with the elite athletes such as Grace, and others who are in with a shout of Commonwealth Games selection, and also to do schools testing and try to find some new talent there,” said Leeming, whose job as the city’s first Performance Development Diving Coach is being jointly funded by Scottish Swimming and Edinburgh Leisure. “There is a greater number of elite-level divers down in Leeds compared to here. That is a big advantage, and I’m keen to create that environment here. The idea is to have that elite training environment and create a pedestal for everyone else to aim for, and to really push the Commonwealth Games potential athletes forward.”
Reid, a pupil at George Watson’s College, certainly has that potential, but as her school studies become more demanding she also has more pressure on her than before. Being able to make fewer trips to England will be one way of lessening that pressure, and helping give her the best possible chance of winning a medal in 2014. “I’m a bit of a geek, but I really enjoy school, particularly English and science subjects,” she said. “It’s busy, and it’s hard sometimes to fit everything in, but it’s good when everything comes together and school and diving benefit each other. Sometimes you’d catch me revising English quotes for my exam at the back of the board, but apart from that the two things are usually pretty separated.
“With schoolwork and everything else it’s a lot to deal with. But when you have a really good team around you it’s so much easier, because they help you out. And my school are really understanding about me missing work and helping me catch up. Everyone pulls together.
“There’s a long way to go before the Commonwealth Games. I’ve got new dives to learn, and hopefully get up to a really good standard so I can make an impact on the senior stage. It’s really just training them so they’re the best they can be. That might not be straight away, so it’s something I’ve got to keep working on for my long-term goals.
“I don’t go down to Leeds as much as I used to, but I will still go down every month or so, because they’re like a second family to me and I miss them a lot. But now that Jenny’s here there aren’t so many reasons for going there.”
Some divers achieve excellence when no-one is watching, then crumble in front of a crowd. Reid, as Leeming explained, thrives on the atmosphere of big competitions.
“Grace is always very good at competing. That’s one of her big strengths. On the day she’ll turn up ready to have a go at it. There’s a ridiculously fine line between a great dive and one which gets a low score. Nerves come in there, and the ability to compete and maintain that concentration for five dives.
“But also it’s having done that skill so many times before that you know on that day that you could do it with your eyes shut and you’d be fine. If you haven’t put the numbers in before, then you’re going to rock up on the day and be like, ‘Is it going to be a good one today or a bad one?’”
Having already achieved a lot in her short career, Reid knows that the key to further success is hard work. She added: “The repetition of dives is just so you’re in a place where you’ve removed the doubt and think: ‘I’ve been doing this for the past six months. Today isn’t any different’.
“That’s much easier to say than do, because you have a massive crowd. But for some people that works, and I definitely feed off having a competition environment.
“You get nervous. You get butterflies. You joke about it, but I genuinely am quite scared. But it is a great feeling when you’re out there on the board and are diving to your best, because it’s something that I’ve always loved to do. When it goes right it’s the best feeling.”