Gabbi Trudeau and UT Diving Coach Dave Parrington
Oct. 28, 2009
By Donnie Conley
In many ways, Gabbi Trudeau made the transition to college look easy.
As a freshman diver for the Tennessee women's swimming and diving team last season, Trudeau earned All-America honors and qualified for the NCAA Championships. She won the 1-meter competition at her first-ever college meet and posted zone qualifying scores on nine different occasions.
However, the adjustment wasn't as seamless as she made it appear, largely for one reason: English.
Trudeau hails from Montreal, Canada and grew up speaking French. Though she began taking English classes during her senior year of high school, Trudeau said that the language barrier was extremely difficult to overcome at first.
"I got here and had headaches (all the time) the first couple of weeks," she said. "It was hard to connect with the team a lot. Whenever they were talking about something, I had to translate everything and try to form a sentence before I could say anything.
"At some point, I just decided not to worry about sounding weird and just say whatever was on my mind. Now, it feels weird to speak French."
As she grew more and more comfortable speaking English, she started to develop some very close bonds with her teammates.
"Being a Lady Vol is something that only 27 of us can share and it's really something you can't understand unless you're a part of it," she said. "It's a really special bond and it's like a second family for me."
In her first season as a part of the Lady Vol family, Trudeau enjoyed a lot of success on the 10-meter platform, finishing 13th at the NCAA Championships. This year, she said she is working hard to improve on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards, the latter of which has caused her problems in the past.
"I was really afraid of (the 3-meter) before and I wouldn't be aggressive on the board because I wasn't really confident in myself," Trudeau said. "I talked to (Tennessee diving coach) Dave (Parrington) a lot about my worries and concerns. He believes a lot in me and that confidence is what helps me the most."
Parrington, who has coached 10 Lady Vol All-Americans in his time at Tennessee, said that a lot of Trudeau's success can be credited to her work ethic.
"More often than not, she comes in with a positive attitude and is ready to learn and work on the things that we've set to work on," Parrington said. "She's always trying to get herself better each and every day."
Trudeau has posted NCAA Zone B region qualifying scores in the 1-meter in both meets this season. She has set several goals for this season and is working hard to pursue them.
"I would love to be an SEC Medalist and go back to nationals,' she said. "Right now, I think it's really possible but it's just something that we'll have to let play out during the season."
Through two meets this season, the Lady Vol swimming and diving team is 1-1. Parrington's divers are somewhat shorthanded because of injuries to sophomore Jodie McGroarty and freshman Tori Lamp. Still, the diving coach, in his 20th year, has been satisfied with his team's performance this season.
"I'd say we've had a solid start," Parrington said. "Up to this point, we've had some pretty significant injuries. I won't harp on that because I don't make excuses but it's hard not to have two of your top divers. That's really hampered us because the more depth you have, the more confidence you have. That said, I've been very pleased so far."
Parrington, Trudeau and the rest of the UT swimming and diving team will be back in action this Friday, as the Lady Vols host SEC rival Kentucky at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center. The meet kicks off with the 1-meter board competition at 2 p.m.