When Bill Travis was 19, his father died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Before his passing, he taught Bill the importance of being present, of giving opportunities one’s full attention, and about pouring into others’ lives. Bill took these lessons and has utilized diving as a tool to instill these concepts into the next generation. This unassuming man would rather share about the successes of his students than himself.
I lived in Northern California until I was 17. In 1980, I moved to Los Angeles, where I spent the next ten years. I officially retired from coaching diving in 1986. A couple of friends and I decided to spend the week in The Woodlands where the Master’s National was being held. At this time, I met Lori Hillman; she was the reason I moved. At the end of 1989, I moved to The Woodlands. We have two boys. The oldest one is Britton; he is going to be a sophomore at the University of Colorado. Miles will be a junior at College Park High School.
I competed for the first time in 1969 at age seven. In 1973, I made the Age Group National Championship. I grew up as part of a great team in Northern California. I competed within the same program for nine years, spending my entire Age Group career with one team.
At ten years old, I won a bronze medal in the ten-and-under age group. At 11, I was third on one board, fourth on another. When I was 13, I qualified for my first international trip to Sweden with the Junior National Team. The following year, I made the team again; I went to the Junior World Championship in Canada. From that point on, I had college coaches calling me. I was very fortunate to be in the upper echelon at a young age.
I’ve been very heavily involved in the sport at the upper levels for 46 years. I didn’t go to my junior prom or my senior ball; in those two particular years, the Senior Nationals were that same weekend. I knew that in order to go to the Olympic Trials in 1980, I had to go to Senior Nationals. Although I did not make the Trials, I knew that was the stepping stone. I have lived at the pool my entire life. In this program, I try to implement the same camaraderie and the friendships I experienced. That is a big reason why I stayed in the sport. My entire wedding party was made up of divers. I am still in touch with a lot of the people; they are friends for life.
I went to California State University at Northridge. I actually quit diving my senior year. I got tired of it. I won the California State High School Championship three years in a row. I just wanted to have a life. I decided I would go to a junior college. My best friend, who was a diver, was a year younger than I and lived in Southern California. After I graduated, I went to visit him. The coach at Cal-State Northridge, whom I had known since I was little, asked me to put on my suit, get back in the water, and dive. He said, “I have a full scholarship for you!” The eight months I took off ended up being the best thing for me.
My freshman year in college I won the NCAA Championships in Division 2, garnering an automatic entry into the Division 1 Nationals. I went to Division 1 Nationals my sophomore year as well. I won the Division 2 Nationals my senior year and made Division 1 All-American on the one-meter and three-meter. After I graduated, I was still considered one of the top 15 divers in the country.
In 1986, I had a unique opportunity to get into coaching. I was Troy and Justin Dumais’ first coach. At the 2004 Olympic Games, they competed in Synchronized Diving. Troy is currently training to be the first person to make five Olympic teams.
The coach at The Woodlands Diving Academy in 1988 saw me dive. He convinced me to train for the 1992 Olympics. At that time, I qualified for the Senior Nationals. I was a finalist and earned a spot at the Olympic Trials in 1992. After that, I became the Age Group coach at The Woodlands from 1992-2000.
I was giving private lessons in The Woodlands. At a friend’s house, I saw The Conroe Courier on the couch. I saw Synchronized Swimming Lessons being offered at the Conroe Aquatic Center. I called the number and said,
“Do you have a Diving Program?”
“No, we do not, but we do have a diving board.”
The “Old Pool” has one diving board over ten feet of water. In 2000, none of the rest of this was here. I started a “Learn to Dive” program in the old facility. Soon, I was told that the City of Conroe was going to build a brand new aquatic facility. I was asked if I would be interested in running the program. I couldn’t pass up such a great opportunity. Originally, they were going to put in two-one-meter (diving boards) and one three-meter. The Booster Club borrowed money to put in an extra three-meter and the platform. In that first two years, I actually had four kids who qualified for the National Championships with just that one-meter diving board. We watched this pool from the first hole in the ground all the way to what it is today. In May 2003, we cut the ribbon. In 2010, the Conroe Diving Club finished in the top ten at the National Championship against 85 teams. In 2011, I had one little girl, Loren Figueroa, who was a National Champion; she actually made the Junior World Team and was able to go to China. She is now a senior at the University of Missouri.
Mason Williams, 14, has been diving for about a year and a half. Chris Donald, 14, and his younger brother Peyton, 11, have both been diving for over two years. It is the first time for these three students to attend Nationals. Travis Saye, 14, has been diving six years. This is the second time he has been to Nationals with me as his coach. Michaela Fleming, who has a background in gymnastics, has been diving about a year. This will be her first time to Nationals. Kambri Foster, 12, has been diving over two years.
In 2010, along with Loren, there were three other young ladies and one young man diving as we finished in the top ten. They have all graduated and moved on. When you lose that many divers to college, it takes a while to develop the program. It is very rare that talent wins out over hard work. I’ve seen talented divers who don’t possess the mentality, and I’ve seen kids who I thought would never go past learning a few skills go on to receive full-ride scholarships. The members of the group who are going to Nationals are hopefully hooked and will be in diving for a couple of years. Right now, I have three 11-and-under girls who hopefully will be ready for Regionals next year. With the first six and these three, we will have nine competitors. Hopefully, in 2017 we will have a couple of more, and we will be rebuilding the program. Our next goal is to have somebody final, which is making the top 12 at the National Championships.
This is the first year they are combining the Age Group Nationals and the Senior Nationals. Now the junior divers are able to see the best senior divers in the country, and it gives them incentive to know what they are up against. From the Senior Nationals, divers qualify for the Olympic trials. My goal is to have one or two of these divers qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials.
It is about peaks and valleys. It is very easy to be happy when you are riding high. But, it is what you do down here in the valley that makes you stronger when that peak comes around next time. I want it to be rewarding and fun for the kids. As they see strong performers at higher levels, I want them to know they belong, that they can compete with these divers. I want them to know that I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I can help them know what to expect and how to cope. I am a “father-figure” to many of them. It takes a while to develop that rapport, that relationship. Also, I am still learning—still keeping up with the changes in techniques.
Diving saved my life. There was a part of me that started to get a little wild as a teenager. Diving humbled me. I couldn’t go out and do some of the things my friends were doing, because I knew I had practice at 6 a.m. In order to train—to stay focused—I wasn’t able to do the stupid stuff my friends were doing. It kept me grounded. I knew what I had to do to keep my grades up, to get a scholarship, to get into college. Diving kept me on that straight and narrow path. I am able to share that with my divers. Teaching diving is more than teaching a sport; it is about life lessons and building friendships.