Learn more about head varsity diving coach Dr. Leo Procise.
Dr. Leo Procise’s first experience with diving was watching Jacques Cousteau on the Discovery Channel as a child.
“I grew up in boring Indiana,” he says, jokingly. “I could throw rocks in the brown rivers or hike somewhere super flat, or I could sit and watch Jacques Cousteau diving in this clear blue water. It just hooked me into science.”
His interest in marine biology and his “knack for informing people about science” led to a bachelor’s degree in biology and secondary education from the University of St. Francis in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. During undergrad he happened to work at the only local pool where all the high school diving teams competed. After four years of observing from the lifeguard stand, he learned enough through osmosis to be offered a job.
“I was telling a swim coach at the pool how I was about to student teach at her school, and she suggested I become the diving coach,” he recalls.
He went on to coach diving at several high schools in Indiana, eventually becoming the assistant coach at Indiana International School of Diving. While at IISD, Procise taught diving skills to athletes of all ages and skill ranges—from beginners to NCAA Division I college athletes. In his role as varsity head coach at Indiana’s Floyd Central High School, he guided 10 on the women’s team to postseason competition.
“Of the 10 divers, two had experience and the rest were cheerleaders and gymnasts who learned the necessary skills to compete with the top 80 divers in the state,” he says.
A job at McCallie School brought Procise to Chattanooga in 2016, where he currently teaches AP biology and coaches middle school football and upper school track and field (two sports he played in high school and college). He returned to the pool this season as GPS’s diving coach.
“Returning to diving this year has made me realize how much I have missed it the past few years,” he says. “It’s an easy sport to coach if your athletes are able to buy into what you are teaching them, and I feel like GPS divers have done that.”
He notes that the girls have been comfortable from the start, noting they are very “secure and confident in who they are.”
Procise loves coaching diving because it’s all science—physics and anatomy. He even works diving into his ‘day job’ as a biology teacher, although it’s more the Cousteau variety. He has already led seven McCallie students to Andros Island to study marine biology, and plans to take more boys to Bermuda and other tropical marine sites through annual trips.
With a PhD in oceanography, Procise has traveled to multiple continents for his studies including France, South Korea, and all over the US. He also lived in Hawaii for a couple of years.
Procise describes his coaching style as old school, insisting on establishing fundamental skills first. He is careful to explain to students how the mundane exercises he requires them to do serve as a critical foundation. He credits mental toughness and a mastery of minor skills as the way to more technical dives and higher scores.
“Some coaches are excited to have kids who are eager to throw flips and will rush them into those tricks, but this is how divers get hurt,” he says. “When they learn these minor yet fundamental skills, they actually gain confidence and courage in their dives.”
Even so, he dedicates time during some practices to let the girls try out any dive they want.
“This was a really positive experience for the team,” he says. “They feed off each other’s creativity and boldness to try something new.”