Dive Injury Prevention: No What UR Divin’ N2

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Cole Sydnor

As summer gets into full swing, Cole Sydnor, the 20-year-old University of Richmond junior wants you to consider diving safety whether you are at the beach, in the pool, or at the “Rivah”, as they say here in Richmond. I introduced you to Cole in my last article, Roll with Cole Sport-a-Thon, where I told you about this fun event to support athletes who have been injured with college scholarships.

In addition to being a full-time student (Cole is majoring in psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience), coaching, and organizing the Roll with Cole Sport-a-Thon, Cole has another critical mission – to educate others about diving safety. This hits close to home, because 4 years ago, Cole experienced a spinal cord injury while diving into the James River. During months of rehabilitation, Cole re-learned many of the daily activities that most of us take for granted. Cole is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair.

Cole’s dive injury prevention campaign became important to Cole while he was still receiving treatment at the Shepherd Center Rehabilitation Center in Atlanta. 

Richmondmom: “You are a role model in our community. Tell me about your dive injury prevention program.”

Cole Sydnor: “I laughed a little when you said that I was a “role model” because really the whole idea behind my No What UR Divin’ N2 (“Know What You’re Diving Into”) campaign is to make sure kids are not following my example. The whole idea started when I was rehabbing at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. I attended a meeting where all the patients who had sustained a spinal cord injury through a diving accident came together to share their story with each other, some of whom were sharing what had happened for the very first time. It was a truly moving experience.”

“At the end of the meeting, the doctor asked how we all thought it best to spread the message that diving may result in a a catastrophic injury such as a spinal cord injury. Many people suggested that we convey to the younger generations that they should not dive at all. I disagreed for a few reasons:

1) I’m sure you know full well that as soon as you tell a kid not to do something, their first instinct is then to do immediately what they had been told not to do. If we went around telling kids not to dive, chances are they’re going to go dive.

2) I was a swimmer for most my life and dove all the time with no consequence, but I realized that that was because I had always known what I was diving into. The day I hurt myself I couldn’t see the bottom of the river and did not know exactly what I was literally diving into. Also, I didn’t know what I was diving into in the respect that I had no clue I could paralyze myself if I broke my neck.”

Cole Sydnor, with friend, Luke Bolka
Cole Sydnor, with friend, Luke Bolka

I believe that by preaching “know what you’re diving into” kids may learn to be careful about every decision in life beyond what they’re literally diving into. That motto applies to every decision an individual makes in life whether it’s applying for college or applying for a job, whatever. I think that’s an important message for kids to hear.

For more information about diving prevention from Cole and others who have sustained injuries from diving, please visit these dive injury prevention safety tips from the Shepherd Center. To learn more about Cole’s dive injury prevention program and his personal experience, check out his video, No What UR Divin’ N2.