Tessa Sims - Competitive Diver - US Glove Brand Ambassador
Born and raised in a gymnastics family, the sport runs deep through the veins of Tessa Sims. “She was basically raised in a gym because my wife also coaches, so she’s been in the gym since she was about a week old,” says Tessa’s father Mathew. “She was destined to start in gymnastics, whether she continued or not.” Nearly 10 years passed between Tessa’s trip to the gym as a newborn and the discovery of her true calling.
“We used to go to the pool a lot and I always wanted to try diving, but it wouldn’t work with my schedule,” she explains. “So when I decided to quit gymnastics I turned to diving.”
When she did make the switch, Tessa noticed a couple of key divergences between the two disciplines. First, Tessa—who names the one-and-a-half as her favorite skill—had to go against a basic instinct she knew all her life: “Landing on your feet versus landing on your head are two completely different things,” she says with a laugh. But on the flip side, she says diving overall has a safer feel to it: “If you fail, it’s not going to break your bones.”
Although the water is certainly more forgiving, diving presents plenty of risk for injury. Steve Voellmecke—whose impressive resume includes 35 years of coaching experience as well as a two-time USA Olympic Trials judge—explains the small splash spectators see is far from the whole story. In reality, divers oftentimes hit the water traveling at more than 30 mph. In order to protect their head and neck from the risk of serious injury, athletes break the water with their hands, which can place a tremendous amount of strain on the wrist and hand. Moreover, any dive that isn’t perfectly perpendicular forces the wrist backwards, bringing plenty of discomfort.
Tessa experienced this shortly after opting to make diving her sole focus. “I don’t think people realize how hard the water is when going headfirst—or really hands first—into the pool,” she says. “It really puts a lot of pressure on the wrists.”
In order to combat this issue, Tessa turned to her two favorite coaches for help. “I’ve been familiar with gymnastics products for a long time as a coach, especially Tiger Paws because it seems like everyone wears them,” said her father Mathew. “When I saw they were waterproof, I decided we’ll try it.” In addition to being waterproof, the Tiger Paws’ unique design further lends itself to divers by wrapping around the thumb to bring extra protection to an extremity that is especially susceptible to injury.
For Tessa, this new use of Tiger Paws has been a hit. “They do a great job of taking some of the pressure off and offering support just like for someone doing gymnastics or tumbling,” and adds that maintenance has been a breeze: “After practice, I put them aside and then just put them in my bag and they dry. I’ve never had any issues with them.”
The proper equipment, coupled with her years of gymnastics, made for a winning combination and in Tessa’s very first year of competition she advanced past the regional and zone meets to ultimately qualify for the AAU National Championships where she faced off against girls from across the country, many of whom had been diving their whole lives.
That magical ride may forever go down as one of Tessa’s favorite diving memories; however, she says she simply loves the team aspect of the sport. “I feel like we’re all working together for the team awards and even when it gets competitive it’s just in a friendly competition way,” Tessa says.
Unfortunately, diving isn’t immune to the ripples of the Covid-19 Pandemic and Tessa endured a four-month stretch out of the water—unable to even go and jump in the neighborhood pool. During that time, she participated in weekly conditioning Zoom calls that allowed her to stay in touch with the friends she missed, as well as stay in shape.
With things slowly inching back towards normalcy, Tessa and her team have returned to the pool, although it certainly has a different feel with just coaches, athletes and lifeguards permitted in the facility for the foreseeable future.
Tessa’s diving success is just one facet of her life. She’s active at her middle school, where she plays violin in the orchestra. Additionally, she represents her school in the Battle of the Books, a nationwide reading incentive program where students showcase their literary comprehension through competitions, which she started doing back in elementary school.
She also has a passion for helping her school’s special education students, having served as a coach for the Special Olympics team. While much of those events will be put on hold, a special ed teacher recently invited Tessa to join their Zoom call, which she is definitely looking forward to. Down the line, Tessa wants to become a marine biologist, but hopes she’ll be able to continue volunteering her time to help people with intellectual disabilities.
Outside of school, Tessa can be found drawing, riding her bike or capturing nature through the lens of her phone.US Glove is proud to have Tessa on board as a US Glove Brand Ambassador. Through the unwavering positive attitude she carries with her both in and out of the pool, Tessa perfectly embodies the US Glove spirit. Unleash YOUR superpower, with US Glove.