Former Monona Grove High School athlete Henry Carman feels very blessed and fortunate these days, even though his life didn’t turn out the way he expected.

The 2017 WIAA boys state diving champion was recruited by NCAA Division 1 Georgia Tech University men’s diving team. Fresh off a state title, it appeared Carman was on the road to being a successful college athlete.

That dream came to an end after his sophomore season, when he decided to medically disqualify himself as an NCAA athlete. Chronic pain Carman was feeling during his diving events turned out to be stress fractures in his vertebrae. His diving career abruptly came to an end.

“When my coach (John Ames) and I had the conversation about choosing to medically disqualify, I knew it was the right thing to do for long-term health,” said Carman, who has just completed his junior year at Georgia Tech. “The first thing I told him was that I still needed to be a part of this team.”

Ames made sure his wish was fulfilled by naming him the team manager. While he no longer competes on the team, Carman still receives the benefits of his scholarship. It was difficult to retire from diving after his sophomore year, but Carman feels he is still an integral part of the team and is learning new things he never thought he would.

Carman’s responsibilities include shooting video and posting it and other information about the team on its social media sites, operating the scoreboard at diving events and serving as the public address announcer, ordering clothing for the team and providing tips and other advice to divers during practices.

“I’m never in the water, but I do serve as an extra pair of eyes with our head coach,” Carman said. “I’m able to travel with the team to every meet. That makes me feel like I’m part of the team, and I’m very grateful for the entire Georgia Tech coaching staff for making sure I had this opportunity.”

Carman also assists the team with its workouts as he undergoes physical therapy to treat his back. He said his old teammates have been supportive and have become his best friends.

“They have made me feel valued by my helping them with the workouts. I can give them pointers sometimes during practicing,” Carman said. “I feel that by watching so much diving, I have learned so much more about the sport, more than I ever did when I was actually competing and practicing.”

It’s a different setting for Carman, who first dreamed of diving glory when he was 11. A number of coaches helped make him into a state champion including Caleb Percevecz at the Monona Community Pool, Anton Slobonov at UW-Madison, Todd Hill with Schroeder Diving Club and Morgan Percevecz with the Monona Grove School District.

Yet, it took some time for Carman to finally take the top step of the podium at the boys state tournament.

He qualified for state as a freshman in 2014 but finished second to junior Joe Kaszubowski of Whitefish Bay. Kaszubowski defended his state title the following year with Carman again taking runner-up with Jeremy Moser of Nicolet ending up third.

In 2016, Carman no longer had to worry about Kaszubowski, who graduated, but he still came up short as Moser took the top spot with Carman settling for another second-place showing.

Carman had one more chance to win the state title during his senior year in 2017, and this time, he walked away with the gold medal for first place after beating out four other seniors who finished second through fifth.

“It was more just about having fun and trying to perform well so I could get recruited to a college,” Carman said. “It showed that hard work does pay off.”

Carman was mentored at Georgia Tech by coaches Ames and Courtney Hart before stepping away from competitive diving.

Carman is majoring in business administration at Georgia Tech with an emphasis on operations and chain supply management. He has a minor in environmental policy.

Looking to the future, Carman sees himself working in an industrial setting with the possibility of getting his MBA.

His story could be an influence for anyone who has dreams and passions taken away by unfortunate circumstances. In the long run, Carman likes the way his college life has turned out so far.

“It’s important to keep an open mind. I never thought I would retire after my second year of diving. I’ve learned so much in retirement and in serving a different role,” he said.

Carman also added these words of advice for anyone who has similar experiences:

“Don’t get discouraged if things don’t work out, because things could turn out to be a very good experience in the end.”

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