Without any male divers, Lehigh’s swim and dive team was frantically searching for someone to fill the vacancy. Senior captain Sydney Izakson never expected the team’s solution would be sitting next to her in an organic chemistry class.
After some conversations, then sophomore Jack Grotke expressed interest to Izakson in trying out for the diving team after learning she was a member.
Izakson connected Grotke with the swim and dive coaches and he began practicing with the team in the spring of his sophomore year. Now, he is a junior competing in his first official season.
Grotke has seen success in his first career meets, placing fourth against Loyola and first in the following meet against West Chester in the one-meter dive.
“While the sport is enjoyable, being in the stage where I can see myself making progress every practice is pretty cool,” Grotke said.
Despite his early success, Grotke has no previous diving experience.
“It’s definitely a scary sport, especially when you first start,” Izakson said. “It’s a different type of energy because he never dove before, so it’s interesting to see his perspective on certain things.
Grotke joined Lehigh’s gymnastics club as a first-year student. From this, he had a bit of familiarity with aerobics like tumbling because he went to open gyms, but he said he was never a competitive gymnast. Diving was completely foreign to him.
Swimming and diving coach Rob Herb said Grotke’s competitive and selfless nature makes him an asset to the team.
He said it’s courageous of Grotke to come on as a diver so late into the game.
“He’s done a great job of learning the things he needs to do to be competitive,” Herb said. “This is a good guy who’s doing this for more than himself and he is helping his team out.”
Picking up a completely new sport comes with its difficulties. For most of the season, the team’s TIVO, the TV replay system for divers to watch their dives during practice, was broken, which created hurdles for Grotke.
Aside from the technical aspect the TIVO helps with, diving also requires a lot of mental toughness.
“Since I don’t have the diving confidence and awareness that many other divers with several years of experience have, I often have to throw a new dive and hope for the best,” Grotke said.
He said he can push through the adversity of trying something new because the sport provides him with a release and a sense of accomplishment. His main motivational factor is he can have fun on the diving board and in the pool.
Herb said he noticed Grotke’s progress and isn’t concerned with Grotke putting up points too soon into his young career — he emphasized the importance of Grotke keeping his love for the sport.
Grotke credits his continued enjoyment of the sport to the structured timetable that comes with being a student-athlete and the camaraderie of his teammates.
“I had a lot of free time beforehand, so it’s honestly better for me because it’s easier to stay on schedule. The entirety of the dive team has been very supportive and helpful with the adjustment,” Grotke said. “It’s almost relaxing in a way to go there every day and jump in the water.”