From one springboard to another
Olympian diver and SafeSport advocate makes an impact
Serving others motivates Sam Dorman. This may explain why he was “merely” an elite diver in individual events, but an Olympic silver medalist (2016, 3-meter springboard) in synchronized diving events.
“When I was diving synchro, I was trying not to let my partner down, doing the best I can for my team,” Dorman said. “But when I was diving individually, I would spin it as, ‘I’m competing for my coaches.’ That created a mindset that allowed me to not put it all on my shoulders. I always did better when I was competing for, or with, someone else.”
Dorman brings this service ethic to his new role as a member of the U.S. Center for SafeSport Board of Directors, joining the one-third of Center board members (including three Olympians or Paralympians) who have competed internationally on behalf of the United States.
While serving as an athlete representative for USA Diving in recent years, Dorman first gained exposure to the Center’s work and the abuse and misconduct reports it works to resolve fairly and thoroughly across the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement. For years he has helped fellow divers fill knowledge gaps and make their voices heard. “I’d like all athletes to feel comfortable within their sport, and to have their questions answered if concerning incidents do occur,” he said.
Dorman competed at high levels throughout the 2010s, winning the AT&T National Diving Championships in individual 1-meter and 3-meter events in 2013, the first of his five years on the U.S. National Team. While logging strong results as an individual, he was a perennial top-3 finisher in major national synchro events from 2012 to 2018, with two top-10 World Championships finishes to go along with his 2016 Olympic silver.
In 2018 injuries forced Dorman to retire and reckon with the reorientation of his life. “It was full struggle—no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I was living this awesome athlete life traveling the world, and then immediately stopped and had to get a real job,” he said. “It took me two years to figure it out. But I learned you’ve got to dive right in: pun intended.”
Now an engineer at diving products firm Duraflex International—he’s earned engineering and MBA degrees along the way—Dorman finally feels at home, reconnecting with the diving community and working to develop products that make athletes safer. One such product is a machine to help divers train on complex dive maneuvers and receive guidance independent of physical contact with coaches.
Dorman’s initial impressions once joining the Center’s Board have been strongly positive. “I didn’t realize just how much they deal with, how prevalent the abuse and misconduct reports are, the cases they deal with, how many cases they close,” he said. “Everything’s done at a very rapid pace, and there’s no slowing down. They’re there to get work done—which is as it should be.”
Dorman feels athlete attitudes are changing for the better, and that further spread of SafeSport principles across sport communities is vital to building awareness needed to move the needle on athlete safety across sport. “I’d love to help the cause and push more to keep sports heading in the right direction,” he said.
Asked what advice he would have for a young Sam Dorman starting in sport, his response was simple: “Find a great coach. Coaches can influence not only your ability in a sport, but more importantly, who you are as a person. My coaches helped me develop skills I’ll have for the rest of my life.”