To Watch or to Participate?

The “Season of Sports” continues…

By Marjorie Turner Hollman

I spent many of my early school years being a spectator. I was always the one to wait, to let others go first, to see what might happen before I jumped in. But in my last year of high school, I was bored with being a spectator. When my friends told me that the swim team needed an additional springboard diver to constitute a “team” for competition, with their encouragement, I “dove in.” When I first stood at the end of the 1-meter diving board and was urged, “Jump up,” all I wanted to do was to get down as fast as possible.

That’s where Mr. Crane came in. The parent of one of my fellow divers, Marvin Crane would arrive from work each afternoon in his coat and tie, and we would immediately begin diving.

Among us were three state diving champions, another who came in close to top in the state, a few experienced divers, and me. It didn’t matter—we each got his undivided attention, precise suggestions, and his encouragement to try again.

mth diving 01 mth diving 02

For an entire year, I headed to the pool after school, wriggled into my bathing suit, and hit the water. Each new dive was terrifying to me, and since six different “dives” were required to compete, Mr. Crane “held my hand” as I struggled to learn each of the main dives—back dive, front dive, inward, reverse, half twist, and forward 1½. By the end of the year, I had made it—I could “do” these 6 dives, more or less, with some degree of skill.

One day another coach approached me, asking if I would like to add a few more dives to my list so that I could help the team participate in a larger event. “Uh, no, I don’t think I could,” was my answer. The truth was that I’d just about reached the limit of my illustrious springboard diving career.

When I left for college, people asked if I would continue to dive. Not a chance. College diving starts with the 3-meter board and on up to the 10-meter platform—thirty feet up. This was not my cup of tea at all. But I had learned that I could step out of the crowd, stop being a spectator, and participate.

I later learned that Mr. Crane had never jumped off a diving board in his life. I have no idea whether he could even swim. It didn’t matter. He paid attention, understood how bodies moved, and was able to teach clearly. Whether he could dive or not had nothing to do with how he taught us. He would stand at the pool’s edge in his coat, tie, and business trousers, and confidently describe us what we needed to do to be better, more polished, and more able to cut a clean line into the water as we dove. And it worked.

Throughout my life I have looked back at the lessons I learned at the swimming pool in high school, and have felt such deep gratitude, not only to those friends who encouraged me to try, but to Mr. Crane, who offered me his attention, regardless of what I would do with his lessons. He was my model for what teaching is about—being there, showing up, encouraging, and not worrying about the end result. These have been life lessons for me throughout many different life circumstances.



Another lesson learned? That, like Mr. Crane, I didn’t have to always go out on a limb (or a diving board) to be able to help others. I could keep my feet firmly planted on the ground as long as I let my eyes and my voice travel wherever my students needed me.

Marjorie Turner Hollman

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian, Certified Legacy Planner with, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, and More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, guides to walking trails in south central MA. She has presented numerous workshops at regional conferences and was a classroom teacher for nine years. She has been a freelance writer for the Bellingham Bulletin and numerous other local, regional and national publications for the past 17 years, and is the chapter coordinator for the southern New England Chapter of the Association of Personal Historians.

Essays welcome for the “Season of Sports”! Your writing prompt:

You didn’t play or you did play or you took the middle ground. You were male, or female, or transitioning between one and the other. What was the role of sports in your life as a young person? What has the impact of that been on your life since?

See guidelines for submissions here. Play along and send your sports story for publication on True Stories Well Told?

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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2 Responses to To Watch or to Participate?

  1. Pingback: Ready to Dive In? | Marjorie Turner Hollman

  2. ellenfishman says:

    Love this post, Marjorie!


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