To mark Pride Month, masters diver Rich Robinson shares his experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community within aquatics.
Masters diver and Swim England volunteer Rich Robinson has told how the diving community gave him the confidence to open up to his family about his sexuality.
After being inspired to get involved with the sport following the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Rich fell in love with diving.
He took up lessons at the City of Sheffield Diving Club and immediately caught the diving bug, joining and then competing for their masters squad.
Looking to progress in the sport in a way that utilized his degree in mathematics and computing, Rich also got into volunteering at local events.
He began by recording scores for City of Sheffield events at Ponds Forge and it’s grown ever since.
Following the pandemic, Rich set up computers for events at the club and now travels the country volunteering at a number of Swim England diving events.
On his volunteering Rich said: “When they needed local volunteers to do regional events I got suggested and I was happy to do so.
“Before Covid I only really did stuff at Ponds Forge but since coming back, the first event we did I helped to set up the computers and since then I’ve become the person who does it all.
“All this has come just because I like diving and computers. It’s great to put the events on for the kids and I get to watch a lot of diving so I’m happy.”
Rich spoke of his experiences of coming out, telling us that his road was a rocky one for a number of reasons.
“When I came into diving, I wasn’t comfortable with my sexuality, I wasn’t out or anything. That’s been a massive journey I’ve been on for the last two-and-a-half to three years.
“It kind of just naturally happened, it’s late on in my life as I’m now 37, nearly 38, so I’m old for doing all this.
“I always did a lot of sport and stuff to hide the issues, not dealing with them and just burying them away really. The other thing I did a lot of was playing PlayStation online with friends and when that kind of stopped as I got older I had a lot more time to myself.
“It gave me more time with my own thoughts and made it harder for me to suppress everything.
“Things started bubbling up to the surface and became a problem for me mentally.”
Following a personal loss, Rich recognized that he needed help and took the brave step to reach out to a mental health first aider at his workplace.
“It was only three years or so ago when I decided it had all become too much and I needed to come out and deal with it.
“I had just decided to make this decision in my head and there was an email on mental health awareness day at work and I just replied back to it saying I’m not ok.
“We had a long talk as there was so much going on and I was stressing out. Dad passing away and having to deal with everything, there was so much going on in my head.”
‘My coach was one of the people I came out to first’
Diving was always there for Rich though and one coach in particular was someone who he has great gratitude towards.
“It was one of the coaches at the diving club in Sheffield (Bron Jenkinson) who was one of the people I came out to first,” he said.
“I didn’t plan it, it was just a conversation that happened and I decided to tell him. I had told myself before that I need to speak to and open up to more people.
“He was amazing at supporting me. He helped me so much, if Bron told me to do something I would do it, be it on or off the diving board.
“He coached me through everything, he was brilliant!
Rich explained that it was the support of his coach and other members of the diving community that gave him the confidence to open up to his family.
He said: “Even before my dad passed away, I told Bron everything and he got me to talk to some of the other coaches and some of the masters divers.
“Having the connections in diving actually gave me a really big support network to help me do the difficult part which was coming out to my family.
“It was a year later when I decided to tell them and I chose to tell my sister first. That day Bron was the person telling me to make sure I went and saw her and did it.”
‘It felt like a safe space’
Rich says that his time at diving events have all been positive ones and that he’s not been met by any kind of homophobia at events since coming out.
He said: “Definitely from my experience, I have not been met with any kind of homophobia from anybody.
“I’m sure there are exceptions out there but for me diving’s only helped make things easier for me.
“Obviously there have been various individuals I was cautious about telling just because I was worried about their response but, at the end of the day, I’ve felt so much better since coming out and a million times better than I was two years ago .
“I feel free now. A lot of people say when they come out that there’s this sense of relief and the pressure has gone off your shoulders but there was nothing that ever stopped me going diving because of what I was going through – it felt like a safe space.”
After his experiences, Rich had a message to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who’s thinking of getting into diving.
He said: “Get involved with the diving community definitely.
“It’s a really friendly and welcoming place where there doesn’t seem to be any prejudice against anybody.
“It’s a really impressive sport, too, so I really encourage anyone thinking of getting involved to do so.”