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Tips from the top Athletes

photo/Lisa Ventre

Photo/Lisa Ventre

How to make an Olympic-caliber dive

by Becky Ruehl, DAAP '99, Olympian

Step 1: Get suited up. I recommend a snug Speedo. From the 10-meter platform, you hit the water at roughly 35 mph. It's a good idea to wear a suit that will stay in place.

Step 2: Warm up. It's also important to stretch before beginning. Touch your toes, preferably with your nose to your knees, for a nice tight pike position.

Step 3: Pick your board. Begin your diving experience on a lower level. Other options are platforms at 5 meters, 7.5 meters and, of course, 10 meters, my favorite. From three stories high, it is the most exciting and the scariest.

Step 4: Choose a dive. Will it be a front dive, a back dive, a reverse dive (facing forward, diving backward) or an inward dive (standing backward, diving into the board)? Will it be a tuck (curled up in a little ball), a pike (bent over, touching your toes) or a layout (stretched out straight)?

Step 5: Plan your approach. Regardless of direction and position, dives need approaches. For front and reverse dives, the approach has at least three steps and a jump with arm circles for momentum and balance. The back and inward approach requires rocking on the end of the board, circling your arms and jumping.

Step 6: Establish air supremacy. What's done in the air is up to you. Dives can include flipping and twisting, anywhere from one to four and a half somersaults and up to four twists. Keep your eyes open as you fly through the air to count somersaults. When spinning is complete, you'll want to kick out and straighten your body to stop rotation.

Step 7: Avoid the belly-smacker. One significant goal in diving is to hit the water with a "rip," the sound made by a splashless entry. To do that, you'll want to enter perpendicular to the water, grab your hands one over the other with palms facing the water and make a quick scoop right below the surface.

Step 8: Practice. Get out of the water and do it all over again. And again. And… .

Becky Ruehl works for Kolar Design in Cincinnati. She became UC's first female national champion in any sport, earning the 10-meter competition title in 1996, the same year she competed on the U.S. Olympic team in Atlanta and finished fourth in the platform competition.


Video: Ruehl returns to UC with other Olympic athletes

photo/Lisa Ventre

Photo/Lisa Ventre

Slam dunk pointers from the 'Helicopter'

by Melvin Levett, Univ '99, lord of leaping

First: Practice, practice, practice. People ask me how I got my legs to the point where I could jump like I do (a 42-inch vertical leap). It was all God-given. I didn't even start lifting weights until I got to UC. I could tell the kids not to waste all their time trying to dunk until I was blue in the face, but it is too exciting. Instead I tell them to work as hard as they can at it. If you aspire to dunk, to be a great leaper, don't stop short. Just keep trying. And probably on that 52nd try, when your legs are dead, that will be the time.

Second: Bring it with style. There is an art to dunking. It is not just running and jumping. That is for the kids. I took the dunk and perfected it. I turned it into something people will remember me for. The most important thing is your energy. The crowd needs to see it in your face, the look in your eye, your body language. Fans expect the big-time, high-flashing dunk. One dunk like that can satisfy a whole stadium. And that is how much energy and style I try to put into it.

Third: Be creative. A lot of people remember when I dunked over three ball racks in the NCAA dunk contest. But that was very old for me. I did that in a Nike Invitational dunk contest in 10th grade. Even before that I jumped three people and dunked in the eighth grade at the Hoop-it-up tournament in Cleveland. The last original dunk I did was when I jumped over the golf cart at Midnight Madness in '99.

Fourth: Finish with a celebration. Sometimes I point to the crowd. Sometimes I just give a look or wave hands. Or sometimes I run around the court like a rabid dog.

Melvin Levett continues to excite fans with spectacular jams as a player for the Kentucky ProCats in the American Basketball Association. ("I'm still working on getting back to the NBA.") Bearcat fans will remember Levett as the hero of UC's upset of No. 1-ranked Duke in '99 when he slammed home the game-winning basket with a second to play. He also set the UC single-game record for 3-point field goals when he made 10 against Eastern Kentucky.

photo/courtesy of UC Athletics

Photo/courtesy of UC Athletics

How to throw a 70-yard touchdown pass

by Greg Cook, CAS '68, 1969 NFL rookie of the year

It takes a team effort. I was fortunate to have a strong enough arm that I could throw it long. But it is always helpful to have great receivers that can run under it and catch it. You also cannot be successful as a passer unless you have a running game to complement the passing game.

No time to waste. As a quarterback, you aren't protected that long -- a couple of seconds usually. By that time, the receiver is already 30 yards down the field. So you have to assess the defense and release the ball much quicker than most people think, even when throwing the "bomb."

Footwork is really important. It is imperative to keep on your toes and not get flat-footed. I've helped several young quarterbacks with that.

Just do it. You really have to throw all the time in practice. You have to do it over and over. If you want to run fast, you run. If you want to jump high, you jump. If you want to throw far, you throw. I used to throw 100 to 150 times a day. That's what it takes.

Greg Cook set several passing records while at UC and even set the NCAA record for passing yards in a game (554). Drafted by the Bengals in 1969, he led the American Football League in passing. Cook's true gift was the deep strike. He averaged 17.5 yards per completion in '69, a standard no professional quarterback has accomplished since. Unfortunately, Cook suffered a shoulder injury his rookie year that forced the phenomenal passer out of the game just four seasons later. Today Cook, a salesman with a Cincinnati firm that works with foundations and charities, keeps up with the game to the point that friend and Bengals owner Mike Brown still calls for occasional advice.


Sports Illustrated/CNN story that notes Cook "changed the face of pro football"

photo/courtesy of UC Athletics

Photo/courtesy of UC Athletics

Tennis lessons from a hall-of-famer

by Tony Trabert, A&S '52, CBS sports broadcaster

Start with the fundamentals. Go to a qualified professional and take some lessons. Otherwise you are just practicing mistakes and grooving bad habits. There is no shortcut to being good. You have to practice correctly. If you mess around in practice, that's what will come out under pressure. If you are going to be successful, you have to be fit, eat properly and be well rested.

Two things you must do. Watch the ball closely, and get your racket ready as quick as you can. You can't get your racket ready too early, but you can be too late. Good players are preparing their racket for the return as they are running. Then they just have to pull the trigger.

Decide on the proper racket. Get a qualified professional who has demonstration rackets, and find the one that feels best to you. When I was playing, I used a Jack Kramer Autograph Wilson. Wilson made mine to my specs. Nowadays, with graphite, you have a lot of choices. The size of the head, how tightly strung, the size of the grip.

Wrist mechanics are key. Use very little wrist-action for groundstrokes, and use the maximum wrist-snap for your serve and overhead smash.

Don’t try to copy a pro. Players are all different. Work on your own style, but incorporate good fundamentals.

Have fun. The best thing a parent can ask a son or daughter after a match is, "Did you have fun?" Not, "Did you win?" The quickest way to turn kids off is to force them to play. It is like forcing them to go to church as a kid. When they get old enough, they don't go back.

Tony Trabert won the NCAA singles title while at UC. He went on to capture three of the four Grand Slam singles titles in 1955 -- the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He and Jimmy Connors are the only players to amass such a year in the last 47 years. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in '70 and has worked as a television commentator on tennis for the last 30 years.


Read more about Trabert on CBS

Herald-Tribune article: "Include Trabert on list of 'greatest ever'"

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