Mastering the Dive

How Two NHBP Cousins Are Pushing Each Other to New Heights

“Kevin inspires me. I’ve always loved to watch him dive, and he’s really the reason why I started diving,” said NHBP Tribal youth Eli TenBrink, 16, Battle Creek, Michigan.

TenBrink, a sophomore at Pennfield High School in Battle Creek, Michigan, has been diving for five years. He began swimming in elementary school, and in fourth grade, he tried his hand at diving.

“I started club diving in fourth grade. I enjoyed watching Kevin dive, and I wanted to start diving with him, so I joined the I-94 Diving Club,” said TenBrink.

Much like his younger cousin, NHBP Tribal Member Kevin Tiles, aka “Coach Kevin,” 20, also from Battle Creek, shares a love for diving too.

The swimming pool was where their shared passion for diving ignited, creating a bond between two cousins that was as deep as the pool and as strong as its concrete walls.

Tiles, a 2022 graduate of Harper Creek High School located in Battle Creek, also began swimming while in elementary school. After trying diving for the first time around the age of 10, he was hooked and never went back to swimming.

Together, the two spent time honing their diving skills in the local I-94 Diving Club (a competitive and developmental diving program open to boys and girls 5-19 years of age) under the direction of Head Coach Willie English.

Photo courtesy of Nick TenBrink: Eli TenBrink, Coach Kevin Tiles,
Coach Willie English and fellow I-94 Diving Club teammates.  

New to his coaching career, Coach Kevin began as a volunteer for the Harper Creek High School diving team. He was then recommended to Battle Creek Central High School Swimming and Diving’s Head Coach Sequoia Farrell-Williams by the Harper Creek High School Head Diving Coach Samantha Aldrich.

In his current role as High School Diving Coach at Battle Creek Central High School, Tiles now has the opportunity to coach his younger cousin, Eli TenBrink.

Together, the two are once again making waves as TenBrink battles his way to the top of the leaderboard during high school diving competitions.

The Sport of Diving

Divers possess many characteristics, including strength, flexibility, kinesthetic judgment and air awareness.

During a competition, divers must perform a set number of dives according to established requirements. They are judged on whether and how well they completed all aspects of the dive, the conformance of their body to the requirements of the dive, and the amount of splash created by their entry into the water.

A possible score out of ten is broken down into three points for the takeoff (meaning the hurdle), three for the flight (the actual dive), and three for the entry (how the diver hits the water), with one more available to give the judges flexibility.

Before the meet, divers create a dive list. After a sequence of dives, the diver with the highest total score is declared the winner.

Coach Kevin has played an integral role in helping TenBrink and his teammates build their diving list and practicing with them to ensure their form is impeccable so that when they show up to a meet, they are prepared and ready to take the dive.

Eli TenBrink executes a dive during the SMAC Swim and Diving Championship at Lakeview High School.

“Together, the two are doing pretty amazing things,” said NHBP Tribal Member Nick TenBrink (father of Eli TenBrink).

The Balancing Act

Balancing the demands of being a coach when it comes to personal relationships with an athlete can sometimes be challenging. “I told Eli at the start of the season, at practice or during swim meets, I am “Coach Kevin” and I will probably not be very nice. I am going to push you. Outside the pool – we are family, and it’s all good.”

Outside the pool, TenBrink’s chill demeanor speaks volumes of the standards this young man holds himself to and how he chooses to navigate his life.

TenBrink says the thing that separates good divers from great ones is: “A good diver just worries about getting the dive done and focuses on just the dive. A great diver focuses on the mechanics of the dive and the dive approach.”

Coach Kevin says TenBrink’s experience and talent set him apart from other divers.

TenBrink’s pre-competition routine consists of listening to music and, “focusing on myself and my dives while also trying to hype myself up and my team.”

Just Send It!

Diving is very much a mental sport. Among other valuable learning lessons, diving teaches athletes to control their fear.

“You can’t let the fear control you. It’s okay to be scared, but you can’t let that stop you from actually doing a dive or from practicing it, let alone giving up on it,” said Coach Kevin.

TenBrink echoed this sentiment by saying that the most important lesson he has learned from diving is “not worrying about the other divers’ dives or how “good” they are.”

His approach is to just worry about himself and remain focused on the task at hand, which is nailing his next dive.

Coach Kevin’s approach to helping divers overcome fear is a motto often heard echoing from the pool walls during practice: “Send it!”

“There is this saying that my buddy and I had when diving at Harper Creek, which is ‘two tears in a bucket and chuck it- full send all the way.’”

This means you have to take the two tears from you crying in fear, throw them in a bucket, get up on the board, chuck the dive, and just send it.

Fear is inevitable, according to Coach Kevin, who spoke of a time when he attended a dive camp where David Boudia, a USA gold-medalist in the 10-meter platform, spoke about his fear and explained how he is still scared every single time he gets on the platform.

It’s all about getting back up and trying again. As with many things in life, over time, as you continue to practice and master your craft, certain dives eventually become more effortless, while in others, the fear never goes away because, once you’ve mastered one dive, you move on to more challenging dives.

It’s about remaining dedicated, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and being consistent. That’s how many are able to evolve in this sport.

The Power of Progression

Diving is built off the framework of mastering the basics first. You begin with learning the fundamentals and mechanics. You move on to practicing beginner-level dives, and as your talent evolves, the dives’ complexity also evolves.

Remaining faithful to optimizing your game through progression is essential. “This was instilled in me by Coach Willie English. You have to slowly work through the progression, understand the fundamentals, master those and build up from there,” said Coach Kevin.

With this philosophy of remaining committed to the progression, Coach Kevin is able to see the importance of thinking and planning seven years ahead, a slice of wisdom that remains a pillar throughout many Indigenous Communities. It’s all about what you do today that will have an impact years down the road.

“If you don’t master the basics early on in your diving career, then as you progress, you may be able to do more advanced dives, but they won’t be very polished and good.”

TenBrink remains motivated and focused during training and competitions by listening to music while modeling his dives and trying to visualize the perfect dive.

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned; setbacks happen, and losses are taken. These situations can be challenging and throw an athlete off their game. TenBrink deals with disappointment or setbacks by, “trying not to let anything negative or disappointing ruin the meet; I try to remain positive.”

Outside the pool, TenBrink balances his diving commitments with other aspects of his life by “trying not to worry about diving in practice, and I also try not to let school stress me out while I dive.”

When it comes to “game time,” TenBrink handles the pressure of a big competition by trying not to worry about how many people are watching and focusing on himself.

“I don’t worry about the other divers I’m competing against.”

“A coach of mine once said, ‘Hard work will always beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard,’” said Coach Kevin. “That has always stuck with me, so I like to remind athletes of that.”

Exploring the Depths of Potential

As a young man in a world full of individuals who can shape and model you, TenBrink says that Coach Kevin inspires him.

“I’ve always loved to watch Kevin dive, and he’s really the reason why I started.”

The future of this dynamic duo is still unknown, but one thing is for sure: If they continue with the momentum they are building right now, there is no limit to what they can accomplish together.

One piece of advice Coach Kevin hopes that TenBrink will carry with him as he moves through life is: “Send it!”  

As for TenBrink, after high school he plans on attending Olivet College, with the hope of securing a spot on the diving team.

His message for other Tribal youth when it comes to remaining dedicated to sports: “Don’t stress about it too much. You’ll have bad and good practices; let the bad ones teach you and the good ones motivate you!”

The NHBP Tribal Community would like to congratulate Coach Kevin and TenBrink on the strides they are making. We are proud of their accomplishments thus far. May you both remember that sometimes, the best way to reach your bright future is to take a step back, gather your breath, and dive in with renewed energy.

And we hope you never stop exploring the true depths of your own potential!

Coach Kevin and TenBrink would like to acknowledge Coach Sequoia Farrell-Williams, Coach Samantha Aldrich and Coach Willie English for their continued guidance and support. English was Tiles’ mentor as a diver and now plays an even more critical role in mentoring him as a coach to TenBrink. 

They would also like to thank Battle Creek Central, Lakeview and Harper Creek High Schools for allowing them to use their pool facilities.

Battle Creek Central High School Swimming and Diving Head Coach Sequoia Farrell-Williams, NHBP Tribal Member and High School Diving Coach at Battle Creek Central High School Kevin Tiles, NHBP Tribal Member Eli TenBrink and Coach Willie English.


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