Coach Feature Girls Swimming Sports Winter Sports

To Head Coach Belinda Wolf, Diving Season “Feels Like Disney World”

T.Wei/The Phillipian

Prior to her almost 30-year coaching career at Andover, Head Coach Belinda Wolf earned a gold medal at the Junior Olympics for diving during high school, received five All-American titles as a diver in college, and was a cheerleader for the Patriots. Wolf found the Andover diving program as a coach in 1991 after she could not bear to leave the sport, and has since formed life-changing connections with her divers. “This is where it gets so emotional: I loved diving, but it doesn’t even compare to how much I [love] coaching. I have been coaching here for twenty-eight years and there hasn’t been one time where I was like, ‘Oh, I have to go there.’ When diving season’s coming, I can’t sleep. It feels like Disney World every single day…I think it’s because I love coaching diving so much and I’m so passionate about it and then the kids feed off of it,” said Wolf. According to Wolf, the success she had as a diver was the result of her high school coach, whom she respected the way she hopes her athletes respect her. She believes that someone can recognize the enthusiasm she brings to coaching her athletes from the minute they meet her. “No one can be me. That’s my power. I got that from a meme. I saw in a meme, ‘no one can be you, and that’s your power.’ But I always say, ‘no one can be Belinda Wolf, and that’s my power,’” said Wolf. According to Zack Peng ’21, whom Wolf has coached to New England, school, and pool records, Wolf ’s positivity is refreshing compared to other coaching he has experienced. “Her methods are very similar to what I’m used to at club diving. The only thing is that she’s just nicer. She has a different kind of way in telling the divers how they should correct their dives, but just an overall more positive, more optimistic way to encourage us rather than scare us,” said Peng. Wolf employs unorthodox coaching techniques to make her athletes feel comfortable, like tempting them with unconventional motivation and a newly-created sticker system. “Other coaches would say, ‘Go in deeper. You’re a little over.’ I come up with things like, ‘Go to the bottom, there are penguins down there. Oh my gosh, you’re going to be on The Ellen Show if you do the dive. Oh my gosh, I will get you a free Ferrari.’ I say really fun things, and then they do it,” Wolf said, continuing, “these high school students that are at the number one high school in the world…the things that they will do for stickers that cost me 99 cents. And while I’m coaching them, they’re looking and they’re counting who gets the most stickers. A sticker is: did you do the dive well and did you do it for you and did you do it for me? Then, they get a sticker, and it’s beautiful.” One of Wolf ’s favorite aspects of coaching is the connections she makes with her divers and the trust they place in her coaching ability. “One of my favorite things in the world [is] when I watch [the team] compete, [and] when they get on the diving board—and you know when a child looks at their parent for reassurance —I love when they get on the board and they look me in the eye like, ‘Am I going to be ok? This is for you,’” said Wolf. Captain Ora Cullen ’19 said, “I love to stay and coach JV with her and learn from everything that she has to offer…It helps a lot in terms of my personal growth in terms of what things to do and not to do. It helps a lot getting to see what I would have been like at the beginning, knowing that I’ve come so far, and knowing that these JV divers are going to come just as far.” Wolf is especially proud of divers she has taught who, prior to joining the team, held no experience in the sport but decided to pick it up when coming to Andover. Bennett Pease ’21, who began the sport last year and is now competing in Varsity meets, said, “She has taught me so much and helped me grow as a diver and as a person. She’s so good at making everyone feel welcomed on the team…She is truly one of a kind…There’s no one else like her on this planet and we’re so lucky to have her as our coach.”