MAPLEWOOD, NJ — For anyone who’s ever dreamed of diving off an Olympic Games platform as a competitor or talking to someone who has, Maplewood Community Pool will host the Scott Donie Dive Camp in August with Olympic silver medalist Scott Donie.
Donie, who competed in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, took home the silver medal in the 10-meter platform dive at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
Though he is a native of Somerset, Donie credits the Maplewood Community Pool as being the place where he really began to learn his craft.
“When I was 11 years old, I was a member of a diving club based out of Columbia University called the ‘Morningside Muggers,’ which at the time was one of the top club programs in the country,” Donie said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “I trained under the legendary Jim Stillson, and our club often traveled to Maplewood to practice because their community pool had one of the few outdoor 10-meter platforms.”
A 1990 graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, Donie was a three-time NCAA Division I champion, winning both the 3-meter springboard and 10-meter platform dives in 1990, along with the 10-meter platform dive in 1989.
After returning to the diving community as a coach, Donie found himself back in the area coaching at New York University.
During his time there, he coached nine divers to a combined 19 All American honors. Last season, Donie produced NCAA National Championship qualifiers and UAA Champions in both the men’s and women’s divisions. Donie went on to be named Eastern College Athletic Conference and UAA Championships men’s and women’s Diving Coach of the Meet.
But Donie never forgot where it all began, here on the other side of the Hudson.
“Last summer, I was wondering whatever happened to the Maplewood pool, so I reached out and I met Kayla Spinelli, who is the diving coach for the local diving team, the Manta Rays,” Donie said. “I told her that I was interested in doing something with diving and she and I came up with the idea of doing a diving camp.”
After Spinelli and Donie decided to have a camp, their next step was to approach Melissa Mancuso, the Maplewood interim director of recreational affairs.
Once Donie explained his connection to the Maplewood pool, Mancuso was immediately on board and worked tirelessly to bring the details together.
“This whole thing wouldn’t have been possible without Melissa,” Donie said. “Once we approached her about it, she got the ball rolling and got everything in place for us to be able to run the camp without disturbing the other camps and programs that use the pool during the day, or the people who have memberships.”
Spinelli, who started the diving club at the Maplewood pool in 2013 and currently serves as coach for both the Manta Rays and as a coach for the Maplewood Makos swim team, will also be assisting Donie in running the dive camp.
“The pool used to just give diving lessons and never competed; it was very low-key,” Spinelli said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “I’ve been working at the pool since 2005, first as a lifeguard and now as a coach for the two teams.”
Spinelli, a Maplewood native, also recently completed her first year as a diving coach for the women’s team at Seton Hall University, where she was named the Big East Conference Diving Coach of the Year for the 2015-2016 season.
“This diving camp is open to everyone who is interested, not just people from Maplewood, because I wanted for sure to do something that would reach all of the divers that we possibly could in the diver community,” Spinelli said. “I think it’s going to open up the opportunity for us to build up new programs in the future.”
Mancuso is most excited about the opportunity to make great memories that camp participants will have.
“I grew up going to community pools and it is a place to go make memories all summer, and I wanted to open it up and give knowledge to Maplewoodians and people from other towns from an Olympian,” she said. “Scott had a really great time in Maplewood as a kid and that’s what community pools are all about; it’s always your summer go-to with your friends and where you can meet new people.”
Tuition is charged for the camp, which will run from Monday, Aug. 15, through Friday, Aug. 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. Participants must be between the ages of 8 and 18 with previous diving skills and are asked to bring a towel and provide their own lunch.
For more information, call Maplewood’s recreation department at 973-763-8120 or register online at https://register.communitypass.net/maplewood.
Photos Courtesy of Melissa Mancuso