By: Melissa K. Mead
University of California, Irvine Student-Athlete, Taylor Arth, is a vital member of the Women’s Diving team. As a result of the recent UC Budget cuts, the UCI Sports Administrators discontinued five intercollegiate sports, including the Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving teams. Arth agreed to meet with me to discuss how diving has been a focal point in her life, as well as how her experience here at UCI has been tainted by the unfortunate loss of several sports programs, including her own.
At 5:35 p.m. on a semi-brisk Monday evening, in the midst of the five o’clock Starbucks bustle, I learned that UCI student and diver, Taylor Arth, embarked on her diving career when she was in the third grade. After having caught a glimpse of an American diver in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, who closely resembled her ten year old-self, she was hooked. She was “just set on it.” Only after signing herself up (practically) for the sport, and merely letting her mother know “when, where, and which days the team was meeting,” her journey toward diving and competing at the Division I collegiate level, had begun. But little was her third grade-self aware, that due to “cost-cutting measures of the state economic [UC budget crisis], UC Irvine Intercollegiate Athletics [would be] discontinuing several of its sports programs,” leaving her and many other swimmers and divers in the dust--or rather, in the wake. But not only were he UCI men’s and women’s Swimming and Diving teams given the boot; there were five intercollegiate sports programs total that were cut from the sports administration budget--(the other three included men’s and women’s rowing, and sailing). For Arth, this meant the (temporary) end of a competitive career in diving. But she, and numerous others, remain hopeful towards the reinstatement of their athletics programs.
Arth, who specialized in high-dive for her club diving team, the Mission Viejo Natadores, ”got serious at age thirteen,” and has been “competing ever since.” She then proclaimed that she “always knew [she] wanted to be an athlete and compete in college,” and it took choosing UCI as her stomping grounds, to realize her ultimate dream. But the San Clemente native didn’t join UCI’s diving squad right out of high school. And at first, with a smirk on her face, she solemnly admitted that UCI’s diving team wasn’t exactly on the radar for her at the time. In fact, Arth had at one point verbally committed to Cal Berkeley before she opted to take a full year off, and take full advantage of an opportunity to travel to and dive competitively in China the summer after her graduation in the spring of 2007 from San Clemente High School. Upon her return, much to her surprise, Arth felt more “at home” in Irvine, ended up contacting the coach, and soon enough, she was “on the team,” and competing under scholarship.
When I asked Taylor how she first caught wind of UCI cutting five Intercollegiate programs (hers included), she responded frankly, that she had received this text message from a former UCI diver who recently graduated, who made it sound “as if someone had died.” Arth then went on to elaborate of how her “coach actually didn’t even contact” her nor her other teammates to inform them of the discontinuance of the Swimming & Diving program--which I felt was a bit odd. I then asked her what was traversing through her mind when she first heard that her team was being cut from the UCI Intercollegiate role sheet, and she told me that she was “shocked” initially, but immediately “felt like [they] would be able to get it back and try to [quickly] reinstate it, which has been [the] goal since then.” I then asked Arth what her opinion was on why Izzy chose to diminish only aquatic sports programs, and she assured me that while she “wasn’t exactly sure why they cut only aquatic sports, but that [she] thinks it has something to do with the program being in a slump,” unlike Men’s Volleyball or Men’s Volleyball, who have been notorious for recently achieving the recent title of 2009 National Division I champions.
It’s certainly one thing to be affected financially by the UC Budget crisis as a UC student. But as a UC student athlete, to have your sport taken right out from under your feet, “feels as if part of your identity has been taken away [as well],” Arth states. I then took a moment to myself. As a UCI student-athlete as well, I tried even fathoming the discontinuance of the cross-country or track & field programs--why, I’m not sure. All I know, is that it was near impossible to do so. But Arth remains positive as she “still continues to train with the Natadores (her club team in Mission Viejo),” and that “one nice thing about her situation,” is that she has options. As a Sophomore, Arth “still has three more years of athletic eligibility” to dive competitively at the Division I level, and although the thought of transferring to another Division I institution resonates nicely in her mind, Arth already feels “settled into the UCI family,” making the idea of transferring less appealing. Also, although she seemed unsure of the financial and academic aid of other swimmers and divers, she disclosed to me that her scholarship was still in tact, and that she lost nothing. The highly acclaimed Swimming World Magazine, also confirmed that “UCI will honor all scholarships as agreed to for the 2009-10 academic school year for the student-athletes... wishing to continue their studies at the University” (Swim, 2009). However, as a Sophomore, Arth has yet to decide on a major, which allows her quite a bit of flexibility academically. But she did recollect that should she have chosen to be a part of UC Berkeley’s diving team, she wouldn’t be in the pickle that she is currently in. In the future, Arth does sees herself potentially diving post-collegiately, and remains under the impression that the Save UCI Swimming and Diving Foundation will raise enough money to revive the program. When questioned about the other Intercollegiate sports teams that also suffered a loss, Arth recalled that although both the Men’s and Women’s Rowing teams have raised quite a bit of money, the sport has remained merely a “club sport.”
Lastly, I asked Arth if there was anything she would be willing to tell young, aspiring divers (motivationally), who are aiming toward competing for a Division I school in the future, and if there was any advice she’d give as to how she’s staying positive through this frustrating time. With a heavy heart, she said that although “it’s hard when someone else decides to end your career for you,” nothing is ever truly written in stone. No matter what happens, “you just have to believe that things will turn out the way they are meant to turn out,” and have faith in what you love to do, no matter how difficult the situation.