USA Diving President and CEO Director Linda Paul hasn’t cleared off her desk yet. “I don’t know where to start,” jokes Paul, who steps down April 28 after 17 years at the organization. Her decidedly old-school approach, which has made a big splash with the U.S. Olympic Committee and diving communities, is obvious with her stack of files that never quite made it onto the cloud. More papers have accumulated than Paul expected when she dove in part time in 2000 as a favor to her friend, then-USA Diving Executive Director Todd Smith. Never did Paul dream she would ascend 10 years to become one of three women leading an NGB in the United States. As women in Team USA are celebrated this week, Connect Sports caught up with Paul for a rare interview.
Why step down from USA Diving now?
What did Kenny Rogers say? “You need to know when to hold them and when to fold them.” We all have freshness dates and a shelf life. I think it’s time. It gives the organization time to make some changes too, as our high performance director [Steve Foley] went back to Australia. In my mind, this is a great opportunity for people to step up and take it to the next level.
Do you have any particularly fond memories?
In 2012 in London, we found some success after somewhat of a drought. [David Boudia won the country’s first gold in diving since 2000, among other medals.] That stands out as a real highlight. I would not say that’s me—that’s from years of work by coaches, athletes and administrators making sacrifices. It happened to be on my watch, which I’m grateful for.
Did you realize there were only three women leading NGBs when you became executive director?
I wasn’t fully aware of that when I got the job. I had worked with Debbie Hesse, who had been with USA Synchro before USA Diving and is now with the USA Swimming Foundation. That had been all positive. Then I went to my first USOC meeting with other executive directors and that stood out. I hope more women are coming down the pipeline. There are some incredible women at the USOC, and among them are my best friends. They are kind, dedicated and compassionate, and it’s been an honor to meet them and get to know them.