Danielle Mansfield


Standing on the edge of the board, junior Danielle Mansfield prepared to dive into the cold water. It took a move to a new state, a switch in sports, countless mental blocks and many demanding hours of practice, but she had finally mastered her new dive.

After moving to Plainfield from North Carolina a few weeks into her freshman year, Mansfield joined the swim team. The swim team was very welcoming for her and allowed her to meet tons of new people – but it also came with a fair amount of challenges.

"I had never swam competitively before my freshman year, so starting it with no previous experience was really a challenge," she said. "Generally, a lot of swimmers have been swimming for several years – even some since early elementary school through clubs – and are really conditioned for the strenuous expectation."

Regardless of the things that stood in her way, Mansfield persisted. "I had told myself that I wouldn't quit mid-way through the season, but decided that I would much rather do a sport that pushed me but still allowed me to enjoy my time," she shared.

By the end of her freshman year swim season, Mansfield decided swimming wasn't for her – but something else had caught her eye. "A lot of the time during swim practice in my freshman year, I would watch the divers. I didn't really know any of them, but just watching what they did was so interesting to me and made me want to try it myself," she recalled.

Switching from swimming to diving, Mansfield met some of her closest friends and learned how to be dedicated and persistent. "For me, diving is all about self-improvement. Although competition is an important aspect and motivates me to improve and learn new dives, I also try to push myself to make those improvements just for myself," Mansfield explained. "It's really rewarding to walk out of practice with a new dive and recognize that it's the work I'm consistently putting in that got me there."

Diving could be mentally challenging for Mansfield, so she had to be sure to trust herself and think positively before she dove in. "Being in a head-space where I do not believe that I can improve and that I can't do my dives right is something really damaging to my performance. A mental block can really hurt me, so it's important that I focus on maintaining a positive line of thinking and trust myself to correctly do a dive," said Mansfield.

Her biggest piece of advice for anyone thinking about diving is to have a positive mindset. "Whether you're scared of people judging you because of your skill level, or just being scared of actually doing the dives, fear is the biggest thing that will hold you back," she explained."Going into it with a positive mindset and just believing that you will be successful and able to progress is so important."

Although diving was an important part of her life over the last few years of high school, Mansfield does not plan on pursuing it after she graduates. "I plan to study something in the medical field and expect it to be pretty challenging and time consuming. I never planned to go to college and play a sport or rely on it for a scholarship, so I think that I'll probably just finish after high school," she explained.

Even though she plans on leaving the sport behind, she is forever grateful for the people she met and the lessons she learned along the way. "I will always be thankful for the experiences and people that diving has brought to me," she said. "The friends I have made through this sport and the coaches who have taught me are people who I will never forget."

Story by Addisyn Burnett