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Next Level Guy

Jun 3, 2022

Welcome to an episode of 'Top Tier Talent', a new series, where I focus on stars who are top-tier prospects in their sport or industry, and focus on finding and highlighting the key skills, habits and mindsets that make them so successful. 

Based in Montreal at the Pointe-Claire Diving Club, Caeli McKay is one of Canada’s top 10-metre tower divers as well as forming a partnership with Olympic medallist Meaghan Benfeito in the 10-metre synchro event.

At age 16, she made the difficult decision to leave her family and move to Montreal and became Meaghan Benfeito’s new partner in the 10-metre synchro event. McKay initially resided with Benfeito, whom she credits for helping her get acclimatized to her new surroundings.

While there was initially an adaptation period with the young teenager joining the Olympic veteran – McKay even grew taller during the early period – they have gone on to become Olympic medal contenders for 2021.

Together, McKay and Benfeito have won medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the 2019 Pan American Games, the FINA Diving World Series, and the 2021 FINA Diving World Cup.

Individually McKay has emerged as a diver to watch notably winning a silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Games, and a bronze at the 2021 FINA Diving World Cup.

McKay was initially a gymnast and started diving when she was six years old. She attended an intro-to-diving summer camp hosted by the Dive Calgary club. However, her passion for sport was born when she was five, while watching Olympic medalists cry on the podium at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. She told her parents: “I want to go there, I want to go to the Olympics!”

McKay’s first podium at the senior national level came at the 2014 Winter Nationals when she was 14 years old – behind her idols Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion on tower. That’s when she realized she could go far in the sport.

She recently came #4 in the Women's Synchronised 10m Platform Diving.

In this interview, we cover her story, diving, skill development, competing and the Olympics, injury and recovery and so much more.


Top Tier Talent utilise a lot of great mindsets, skill sets, training hacks, and approaches to life - these are some of the key points from this interview  think you should pay attention to:

  • Caeli was inspired by her parents love of sports growing up. Please encourage your kids to try sports, believe in themselves and chase their dreams. 
  • To be the best, it takes a lot of dedication and you have to sacrifice the parties, the normal rites of passage. However, when you consider that by accepting short-term sacrifices will produce a long-term gain instead. Caeli forged her own path based on her goals. What could you do if you chased your dreams, rather than likes? 
  • Caeli took time to adapt to her new location when she started her full time training. Remember that all transition will affect you, you can't change and expect everything to feel right straight away. Caeli, built up a support network to help her settle. When you need to deal with change, accept it will feel bad at first, fear will always be there but control what you can, and let the other things go, like the top performers do. Look at people in your area and network, family members, friends, coaches, teachers, support groups etc, look for hobbies you can do to get you out the house, use for groups etc, build up a network of people and places to go, to go to for the support you will need.
  • There are many different areas that you will need to focus on to be a better athlete. Physical, mental, flexibility, strength, conditioning and so on. Seek out coaches and experts to assist with each area. 
  • Learn the basics and the fundamentals of the sport when you start so that when you build towards more advanced movements and techniques, you have a strong foundation to build from.
  • Caeli utilises visualisation to mentally rep and prepare her dives. She feels the dive, the movement of her body etc in her head, and reps the movement. So when she gets on the board, the movement is dialed in and she just needs to follow the pattern in her head.
  • You will lose the fear of high diving when you practice a lot. The more you do something, the less the power it has on you. 
  • Caeli has a power stance and mantra that she uses before she dives. This lets her enter her competing zone, to feel confident, centered and it sends a message to her brain to be primed for diving. Try and build a practice that you can use before training and competing that will let you enter 'Boss' mode. 
  • You will never remember everything about a technique as you try it. Focus on the key things, like the feeling, the main movements, and just let your body and brain follow your reps, go to your training and work from there.
  • Caeli utilises breathing methods to control her stress levels, her fight or flight feelings. She uses the five senses method to distract her from the pressure and stresses of the competition. All top performers have a routine, a ritual that they do in the warm up, preparing, competing etc, to ensure that they are mentally, physically and emotionally ready to compete.  
  • Caeli is very analytical and breaks down her training, focus and how she prepares herself for training on a daily basis. She approaches her training and life very smartly and builds systems to help her chances for success. 
  • Caeli knows her learning type - find out more here. She will watch her dives back and use slow mo technology etc to analyse her dives and where she can improve on. There is some amazing technology available, find the right apps, tools and accessories to help you be analytical on your performance, see where your strengths are and what you can work on to improve. 
  • All sport can be intense and demanding on the body, but to become top-tier, you need to implement a proper recovery process and procedure to recover when you are not training or performing, and to recover for the next session. 
  • Caeli loves to learn and always is looking for new things to learn and try. I would highly recommend MasterClass to help you on your journey for learning new skills. 
  • As you level up, you will need to learn new skills, some soft, some hard, and understand that as you improve, new demands and pressures will arise, and you need to understand that you have control on what you will accept, comment on, post etc, it is all a learning curve. Expect to make mistakes, to mess up, but you will quickly learn. 
  • It is normal to feel flat after a competition, after competing or a big event. Expect it, and assume it will come. Take your time, recover, eat well, sleep, give yourself time to grieve for the loss of the challenge, take your time, don't rush back and catch your breath. Then when you are feeling better, set new goals and chase them again. 
  • It is OK to ask for help, to admit you need some support and advice and speak to a doctor etc. Don't bottle up the stress etc, and speak to someone if you need help. 
  • Caeli mentions how she can struggle with the many demands that she faces and works with a psychologist who helps her break down all the problems, analyse them for the truthfulness and then set smaller goals to achieve each day. A large goal can be terrifying and seem overwhelming, so if you break it down and reverse engineer how you are going to achieve the end goal and work out what you need to do to get there, you can then write out a list of small manageable goals and start ticking them off daily. As you achieve the goals each day, your momentum will build your confidence and drive you onto towards success. 
  • To overcome her fear of diving again after her injury, Caeli just followed Nike's advice, and just did it! The reality is never as big as the drama that you make up in your head. Feel the fear, hit your power stance, and let that and the mantra flow through you, and fall back onto the highest level of training and succeed!