Iliana Corfias / Lantern photographer
Justin Sochor has helped coach an Olympic athlete and has led the Ohio State Diving Club to three national championship titles, more than 10 individual national titles and the team title at the 2012 Olympic trials.
And he’s worked at Sea World.
Sochor is the head coach of the Ohio State Diving Club (OSDC) and was recently elected head coach of the USA Diving Jr. World team.
Sochor’s athletes and co-workers said his enthusiasm sets him apart as an excellent coach.
“Not only does he bring a high level of skill, because of his background and experiences, but he is extremely passionate about young people,” said Donald Stenta, director of the Department of Recreational Sports in the Office of Student Life. “Being a role model as a coach is a hallmark for him.”
Sochor, a Columbus native, said he has always loved the sport of diving.
“I was always a permanent fixture at the local pool as a child,” he said.
Sochor joined his first diving team in 1988, while in high school at Thomas Worthington.
His coach and former OSU diver Mark Bradshaw inspired him, Sochor said.
“I went to the 1988 Olympic Trials and watched as (Bradshaw) made the team,” he said. “I was so inspired by this that I dedicated the rest of my life to being involved with diving.”
His time spent as a professional entertainer and high diver at Sea World also influenced the rest of his career, Sochor said.
“High diving at Sea World was a huge part of my growing up and development as a person,” Sochor said.
Performing at Sea World demanded a high level of skill. Sochor said he would dive from 10 stories in front of thousands of people for as many as 10 shows a day.
“I learned a lot about sacrifice (and) hard work.”
Sochor started a diving club in the Cleveland area before accepting the head coaching position for the U.S. Elite Diving Academy, where he trained his first national champion team.
When Student Life and Recreational Sports decided to develop a competitive diving club, Sochor said he knew he “was the perfect candidate for the job and applied with high expectations.”
“I love Justin, he’s a great coach,” said Cheyenne Cousineau, third-year in psychology and redshirt sophomore on the OSU Women’s Swimming and Diving team. She practiced and competed with Sochor and the OSDC this past summer.
Sochor is “very energetic and fun,” Cousineau said. “He makes the practices very enjoyable and just makes sure that you understand the corrections that he is giving you.”
She said Sochor promotes enjoying the experience of the competition.
As a coach, “it is my endeavor to teach, train and motivate each athlete to reach his or her own fullest potential,” Sochor said. “I believe that diving is not only a skill, but also an art.”
Cousineau went with the OSDC to the 2012 USA Diving National Championship in August.
“Competing with (the team) and Justin at senior nationals was great,” she said. “No matter what you’re always having fun and you’re always enjoying yourself.”
But Sochor said he thinks he gets more nervous than the students at the big competitions.
“Each time we win a team championship or medal at an international contest, I am always greatly taken back,” Sochor said.
Sochor said coaching Olympic-level athletes is very different than coaching younger intermediate athletes because he is trying to get them to go from “near perfect” to “perfect.”
“Coaching at (a high level) takes more hours and a lot more preparation for each practice,” he said.
Some of these Olympic-level athletes are or have been on the OSU Varsity team, Sochor said, where they are “closely looked after by head varsity coach Vince Panzano.”
Panzano was named to the USA diving coaching staff for the 2012 London Olympics to coach Katie Bell, a former OSU student who finished 16th in the Olympic 10-meter platform dive.
Panzano has coached at OSU for 33 years and has coached nine divers who have gone to the Olympics.
The OSDC is run through recreational sports and the Swimming and Diving Team is an OSU varsity sport, so while the two are not related the coaches and some of the athletes know one another well.
Sochor said he has “spent countless hours with Vince and the (varsity) team” and personally built and coached six divers who have been to the Olympic Trials.
The success of OSDC “elevates Ohio State’s profile in a lot of different ways,” Stenta said. “The dive club has continued to grow in participation and the reputation, I think, is elevated because of Justin’s leadership.”