LSU’s swimming and diving team goes out of the country to build a diverse and advanced training environment.
The team consists of 12 international swimmers and divers as well as one British coach, Steve Mellor.
“From the recruiting standpoint, whether it be international or domestic, I’m looking at finding the athletes who are the best fit for our program and have the best competitive experience,” said dive coach Doug Shaffer. “The international aspect of it is something that has proved successful, so I’m going to keep going with that.”
The dive team alone currently has seven athletes, four of whom are international students. There are divers from Norway, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. competing this year along with divers from Mexico and New Zealand training with the team for the 2020 Olympic Games.
“The team owes a lot of its success to the international divers,” said diver Dakota Hurbis. “They are often able to bring in different training styles and a new approach to the sport, which helps everyone around them.”
The swim team alone has a smaller ratio of international athletes than the dive team, but a key difference is an international coach. Coming here seemed like a no-brainer to Mellor, the assistant swim coach.
“Louisiana has this ability to make anyone feel at home no matter where they come from,” Mellor said.
Having international athletes on both the women and men's team brings unique aspects to LSU. It adds diversity and a third dimension to the Tigers which strictly-American teams do not have.
“Having so many internationals allows us to have a wide immersion in different cultures,” said British swimmer Ellie Baldwin. “It also brings different approaches and ideas to our sport because of the different experiences everyone has entailed.”
The Tigers are very accepting of the international athletes who come to visit and encourage them to commit.
“I definitely found that having other British people on the team certainly helped with my decision,” Baldwin said. “It comforted me and my parents that people like me can enjoy and survive US College.”
Although many successes have come from international athletes, it is the collaboration of both international and American that ultimately gives the Tigers that competitive edge.
“A lot of the most talented swimmers that we have, have come from an emotional standpoint,” said Mellor. “And we use that success to better recruit domestically.”
There are four international additions to the competitive team this year. The Tigers are excited to welcome them on board and show them what wearing purple and gold is all about.The team intends to go forward with the expansion of a culturally diverse team. They hope that this will inspire a strong work ethic and a fun team dynamic.
“Some of my best friends are from different countries,” said Kit Hanley, LSU swim and dive women’s team captain. ”I'm so blessed to have them as not only teammates, but also as brothers and sisters.”