Diving Into A New Coaching Style
Murdock Begins Building Process With North Texas Divers
DENTON — When the North Texas swimming and diving team officially opened practice on Aug. 31, it marked not only the beginning of a new season, but also a new era with Mark Murdock as diving coach. The Flower Mound, Texas, native, joined the program after spending the previous three seasons as the diving coach at Northern Colorado.
“It brings a new challenge,” Murdock said. “It’s a whole concept, and you have this whole new team and you have to figure out how they think about dives, how they react when they get off the board and when they’re thinking about a harder dive. It’s a lot of getting to know them and figuring out how they think about the aspects and smaller things of diving. It brings a whole new challenge, but it’s a lot of fun and I have a had great time working with the girls so far.”
And it’s not only a new face at the helm of the diving program but also a different learning style for the Mean Green diving five-some of senior Jasmine Abercrombie, junior Samantha Scheck, sophomores Allison Crites and Cecilia Hernandez and freshman Averie Ruiz.
Under previous diving coach Jim Pyrch, now at Brown, the focus was on optional dives, the more difficult of the two categories of dives. With Murdock, through the first two weeks of practice, it’s been a lot more basics-oriented and skills-oriented.
“Last year, it was more, ‘Now going to do this, now we’re going to do this,’” Scheck said. “And it’s always the big dives. We started right away with our optionals, which are the hard dives that we compete with. Our first week first here with Mark, all we did was skills, so line-ups, drills, line-ups, drills, and it’s a lot more structured.”
Prior to his time at Northern Colorado, Murdock dove at the collegiate level at Wyoming, earning honorable mention All-American honors and becoming a two-time Mountain West Conference champion, as well as competed at the national and international level. As a coach, he brings that same competitive spirit to practice to help his team physically and mentally prepare for upcoming meets.
“My core concept of diving and coaching is to treat it as something that is fun,” Murdock said. “If you don’t love the sport, it’s hard to continue through four years. I like being competitive a lot. I try to bring that aspect to practice and show them that competition can be fun.
“If we’re doing competitions all the time, they can get into a competition like a conference meet and all that nervous energy kind of dissipates and goes away and it makes it easier for them to have a better meet, even if their first dive isn’t the way they wanted to start.”
The team’s top performer on the one-meter board this past season, who also posted the fifth-best score in school history on the platform board, Scheck admitted that it’s difficult to not just dive in with more difficult dives, but she sees the benefits in the long run.
“They respect me as a coach, and I respect them as the athlete, so it’s really easy to say this is what we’re doing and this is what we’re going to focus on,” Murdock said. “They understand what I’m doing, which is essentially breaking them down to build them up.”
Moving forward, the Mean Green opens the 2015-16 season with the North Texas Relays on Friday, Oct. 2 in Southlake, Texas, before hosting Incarnate Word and Liberty in their first regular season home meet on Saturday, Oct. 10. Beyond that, Murdock wants to build toward the Texas Diving Invitational (Nov. 19-21), winter training in California, and ultimately the C-USA Championships (Feb. 24-27) in Atlanta.
“I expect to see more ambition to become better divers,” Murdock said. “It does take some time to really accept a new coach. I think they’re doing a great job of walking in the door and accepting what I’m teaching them. I think they’re going to do great.
“As long as they keep buying into what I’m selling, they’re going to take off and they’re going to get better. It’s going to take at least another month to put it all together and say that they’re ready. Right now, they really are doing great. Line-ups have improved, take-offs are improving, and so it’s gradually getting there.”