Brushing Off the Chip

By Brian Shim

For Elly Morrison, success in diving isn’t about proving anything to anyone; it’s about being the best version of herself.

Junior diver Elly Morrison’s career has been nothing if not exceptional, and exceptionally varied. Morrison first developed a passion for her craft while living overseas in the Netherlands. She dove in the Amsterdam and Eindhoven Diving Cups and the Dutch Nationals. Then, she forged a competitive five year career in Maple Grove, Minnesota as an All-State, All-Champion varsity athlete. 

That was before jumping to Huntington Avenue to clinch CAA Rookie Diver of the Year as a freshman in 2019, and becoming the lone Husky to qualify for the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships in 2020. 

Yet, Elly Morrison chooses not to let her past accomplishments dictate her future. Rather than fueling a desire to continue winning to motivate herself, Morrison harks back to her roots to drive her athletic philosophy. 

“For me, diving started very innocently,” Morrison recalled. “When I was seven, my older sister and I saw a commercial on Disney Channel about it. We got so excited by it that we showed our mom, who loved it and signed us up for lessons.”

Since then, Morrison has decided that the only pressure set on her is that which she sets on herself. Her diving isn’t simply to win titles or collect accomplishments. Focusing on personal growth, consistency, and individual improvement, Morrison sets her goals on making herself better.

“It’s more personal than just the numbers,” she said. “The places and the points do matter, but they come after my own goals and desires. Sometimes the only goal I’ll focus on before a meet is feeling good about one particular dive on my list or getting my competition anxiety under control.”

This athletic dialect is one not particularly prosaic in competitive sports. Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, and many more of the most accomplished athletes in history attribute their success to some all-consuming mania that drives them to show up and prove everybody wrong, regardless of what they’ve already achieved. 

Morrison, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything to prove. She chooses to brush that chip off of her shoulder. 

“I don’t need to prove anything. I’m just competing against myself,” Morrison explained. “But at the same time, I don’t feel the need to outdo myself every time I get on the board. For some people, keeping that chip on their shoulder motivates them, brings out their best. I feel like if I did that, I would get so caught up in the number that I would be less present in the moment and my performance would deteriorate.”

Diving is a uniquely subjective sport. The scoring on an individual dive is drawn from a panel of seven judges who recommend a score between 0 and 10. The highest two and lowest two scores are dropped, leaving three scores to be averaged and subsequently multiplied by the dive’s difficulty rating. 

This subjectivity in scoring and placement explains Morrison’s unique outlook on her craft. 

“You could champion a meet and still have had a horrible meet, or you could end up in dead last but still feel like you had a great one,” she explained. “For me, diving needs to be an individual thing. I can’t compare myself with everyone out there.”

Northeastern diving coach Lauren Colby wholeheartedly agrees: “There are so many talented women in this sport. If you start to compare yourself, things can turn to a negative light very quickly.”

For both Morrison and Colby, it is this priority on individual growth and developing the intangibles that truly translates to performance on the pool deck. 

“I go into every practice and every meet with the mindset that I want to get better, I want to feel better,” Morrison said. “And I believe that my scores will reflect the work I put into that.”

Beyond performance, Colby believes this philosophy also cultivates the type of confidence and self-determination that coaches want to bring out in their athletes.

“It’s just as important to grow outside of the pool deck as it is to improve in the sport,” Colby explained. “As my student-athletes go through the program, it’s ultimately more important for me to see them grow up as people than it is to see them excel in just diving. I really try to style my coaching around that philosophy.”

As a former varsity diver herself, Colby feels strongly about the importance of personal growth – especially self-confidence – for her student-athletes. 

“The one thing I try to instill and coach in every athlete is confidence,” Colby said. “Being a woman and being 20-something years old – confidence is key. With the world that we live in, it can be extremely challenging for women to gain the confidence they need to excel. All of my athletes are wonderful, talented women. That’s something I truly want them to recognize in themselves, both on and off the deck.”