POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – In his four-year career at Marist, senior Sean Molloy (Slingerlands, N.Y.) of the men’s diving team faced adversity with a late-season injury and met success, claiming the first place finish in the one-meter dive at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship meet to end his career.
“In athletics, in general, you could be the most gifted athlete in the world and never be successful,” said Head Coach Larry VanWagner. “In order to truly realize your potential you have to explore the mind-body relationship in athletic performance, and I think Sean is the epitome of what it takes to overcome. All of us are faced with challenges and hurdles everyday of our lives, but Sean’s came two weeks out from his last conference championship.”
Just ten days before the Red Foxes traveled to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championship meet, Molloy dislocated his shoulder for the third time over his four-year span with the team. With the postseason around the corner, Molloy and Head Diving Coach Melanie Bolstad came up with a visual plan to train by.
“In the moment, I was thinking that this was going to be the end of my season, the injury that finally puts me over the edge,” Molloy said. “But Melanie was really good with helping me to try to stay calm and stay positive to keep my head on my shoulders. So I really had to mentally prepare for MAAC’s. I was just doing a lot of visualization, and going through my dives every night before I went to bed just kind of visualizing everything in my head, from the pool to my dive list.”
With three days to spare from the competition, Molloy was able to train for the event, but was forced to wear a brace for the remainder of the season. Luckily, he grew accustomed to the new addition quickly.
“After the first warm-up at MAAC’s, I knew that I could still compete with the other divers, despite my brace,” he said. “So I let it go and forgot that I was even wearing it.”
At the MAAC Championships, Molloy helped the Red Foxes to a second place finish by claiming second in the one-meter dive with a score of 277.15, and taking third in the three-meter dive (286.90).
“He led by example,” said Bolstad. “We had a long talk before, when he got hurt, that he wouldn’t be able to prepare for the championships like we usually do. And he had to do a lot of mental preparing and a lot of visualization. Which he has done before, but not at this level. I think he started to believe that if he could imagine himself vividly doing the dive that it gave him the experience he needed in crunch time, and he did it. I was very impressed.”
Two weeks later, Molloy defied the odds of his injury again and took home the only gold medal for the Red Foxes at the ECAC Championships. Placing first in the one-meter dive with 299.10 points, he just missed the NCAA Zone A Diving Qualifiers by .90.
“I couldn’t be happier to end my career like that,” Molloy said. “I was thinking in the back of my head that I could make Zones if I kept my momentum in this meet. I think that my teammates were more upset than I was because they wanted me to come with them. But I just looked up and started laughing. Just to go out in first place with such a great team and such a great coaching staff is unbelievable.”
As Molloy has now finished his athletic career in the 2013-14 season with the Marist swimming and diving team, Bolstad looks back over his four years with nothing but pride.
“It was a pleasure to watch him grow and mature through the four years,” she said. “It was always a pleasure coaching him. He always gave 100 percent, and as a coach you can never ask for anything more.”
Likewise, Van Wagner looks to his now former captain as the perfect example to lead by.
“We tell our kids this all the time, the loudest athletes don’t make captains,” he said. “The best captains for any athletic team are made up of the student-athletes who lead by example, and that’s what Sean Molloy is. I think his story is a tremendous Hollywood ending, the perfect scenario. It’s one of the ones that I will never forget.”
As Molloy prepares for graduation, he has one piece of advice for his fellow teammates and future Red Foxes.
“Commitment is a huge aspect of our sport,” Molloy said. “You can’t let a single injury impact the way you’re going to think about your performance. It’s really just a stepping stone. You might take one step backwards but you can recover from an injury and take another five steps forward. You need to mentally prepare and use the help of the team. Use your resources and listen to people who have gone through the same thing. Keep your head up and stay positive.”