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Of Competition and Cooperation

Of Competition and CooperationFor Tufts diver Kendall Swett, training with her division rival has not only given her a competitive boost, but a new ally.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.02.07] When art history major and NCAA Div. III champion diver Kendall Swett transferred to Tufts for her junior year, academics were a big part of the reason. But for the 2006 3-meter national champion, the other factor was the competitive edge that training alongside her division rival from MIT would bring.

"That's one thing that the competition and the pressure can do. It can bring out the worst in people. It can also bring out the best," Tufts’ Diving Coach Brad Snodgrass told The Boston Globe.

Snodgrass also coaches MIT’s women’s diving team, which includes junior standout Doria Holbrook. Because the Jumbos and the Beavers train together, Swett and Holbrook—two of the best divers in the nation—see more of each other than most competitors.

"I was definitely concerned that the pressure of seeing each other every day and not just training, but de facto competing against each other every day, would be more stress than either of them wanted, so I knew there could be some challenges ahead," Snodgrass told the Globe. "I had a feeling that presented with this challenge they would both rise to the occasion and really show their best side.”

Both Holbrook and Swett are accustomed to putting their best foot forward, especially when it comes to competing. In 2005, Holbrook won the Div. III 3-meter diving title, while Swett claimed the same honor a year later while diving for Lake Forest College in Illinois. This year, both were top contenders for the national 3-meter title, which Holbrook snagged. Swett came in 4th place.

While the training together has become part of the athletes’ normal routine, Swett told the Globe that she was initially a bit apprehensive about working with Holbrook, even though the opportunity to do so was part of what attracted her to Tufts.

"I don't know how to deal with this," Swett recalled her feelings to the Globe. "I was like, I have to be focused. I have to come in and be relaxed. But how do I relax when the girl that I'm most competitive with is right next to me? How do I do that? Every single day. And it was for a long, long time—maybe until like a month ago, or even now, still—we come to practice and it's not like a meet. But it is."

While it may have taken some time, the pair of divers has begun to break down the barriers between them. The Globe reported that at a Tufts vs. MIT meet on Jan. 20, Swett was the first person to jump to Holbrook's aid when she knocked her index finger against the board during a dive. The gesture helped defuse the tension between the two highly competitive divers.

"It's new territory for both of them," Snodgrass told the Globe. "They have to coexist and they have to sort of tolerate or understand or see the other's point of view in order to keep that friendship going. We're very much a family. So I think of them more as sisters than as friends."

Though the two divers come from different backgrounds, Snodgrass says they still have a key area of common ground.

"Kendall is more interested in the arts," Snodgrass told the newspaper. "Doria is more into numbers. So academically they have different interests. But sometimes, I think those two are more closely related than you might think…Maybe that's a big source of their competition, [that] they are so similar in their abilities and in their drive."

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