Former SIU diver tries out the coaches chair

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

SIU’s swimming and diving program has a familiar face this season, but in a new role.  

Esther Chen, former SIU diver, is now a volunteer diving coach for the program.

Chen is a graduate student in exercise science and plans to continue coaching next year for SIU while she is still in school. Chen said she would like to continue coaching after she graduates.


She first started diving at 8 years old for Wuhan Diving Club in Wuhan, China. Chen said her 18 years of experience on the diving board makes it easier for her to communicate to divers.

“I know what it felt [like] when I was diving, so now I can tell them how to improve,” Chen said.

In her time at SIU, Chen was a runner up in the one-meter dive in 2013 and in the three-meter dive in 2014 in the MVC championships. Both years teammate Kaixuan “Sherry” Zhang finished No. 1 in both. 

Chen coached two divers to top-three finishes at the State of Illinois Double Dual on Saturday. Zhang won the one and three-meter diving events and sophomore Rachel Williams finished third in both.

Chen said coaching her former teammates is easier because of a mutual respect. 

“The divers respect her, they know she’s a hard worker,” coach Rick Walker said. “They also know if she steps up and says, ‘That’s not good enough’ it’s not because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she does, she’s been there before.”

Chen said coaching is not all verbal. Divers often use body language to demonstrate correct technique for dives.

“We talk about what we see,” diving coach Joy Zhao said. “But a lot of times she can read my eyes. … To have two opinions always helps.”

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @EvanJones_DE