Jeff Shaffer has been developing and guiding divers across the country to great accomplishments throughout their careers in the last 30+ years. He came to Auburn almost 14 years ago as one of the most respected coaches in the diving community and has improved the Auburn diving program in Olympic-size proportions.
During his tenure at Auburn, Shaffer has made the diving program into a complete complement to the Auburn swimming program. Through his strong coaching ability and sound philosophy, Shaffer has guided his student-athletes to success.
"Our philosophy here at Auburn is developing divers from the ground up," Shaffer said. "It is a growing process and through the experiences gained here, our divers have the opportunity to become great."
Shaffer's coaching career kicked off in 1980 after he graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor's degree in physical education. He moved to Mission Viejo, Calif., and assisted diving legend Ron O'Brien from 1980-85. Shaffer followed O'Brien to Boca Raton, Fla., and continued to coach with him until 1988.
While with O'Brien and during his career coaching at the club level, Shaffer coached divers of all ages and ability levels and demonstrated the gift to develop divers to world renowned status. His talent was recognized by the United States Olympic Committee in 1996 when they honored him as the inaugural recipient of the USOC National Developmental Coach of the Year for all Olympic sports.
Throughout his club coaching career, Shaffer has guided divers to many distinguished accomplishments. Such honors include 10 World Junior champions, 39 National Junior champions, eight Senior National champions, three Junior National Team titles and three Senior National Team titles.
Shaffer carried his philosophy and achievements to the collegiate level, first to LSU, then to Southern California and now at Auburn. His divers have played crucial roles in contributing to the success Auburn has had on the national level, making an impact on 12 of Auburn's NCAA team titles and 18 SEC men's and women's titles.
The contributions started through Shaffer's first recruiting class that included Caesar Garcia and Ashley Rubenstein and have continued throughout the last 14 years.
Evidence of Shaffer's philosophy of developing athletes can be seen through all of his pupils, including Garcia and Rubenstein. With Shaffer's guidance, Garcia grew from an All-American as a freshman to a two-time NCAA platform champion, the 2004 SEC and NCAA Male Diver of the Year and a XXVIII Olympian.
Rubenstein played a significant role in the three NCAA championship teams she was a part of. She was a member of Auburn's first-ever women's NCAA title in 2002 and as a senior in 2004, her fourth-place finish on the 1-meter contributed to the team's large margin of victory and its third-straight national title. Rubenstein has gone on to be a 2004 USA Olympic Team Trials finalist, a National Team member and most recently, the 2006 U.S. National title one the 1-meter.
Among the many successful divers Shaffer has instructed, some include NCAA champions Matt Bricker and Steve Segerlin and All-America honorees Corey Gerlach and Lynnsey Segraves.
In 2009, Auburn's Kelly Marx and Dan Mazzaferro played key roles on the team's eighth NCAA title run during the 2008-09 season. Marx was runner-up on the 3-meter and reached the finals on the one-meter, while Mazzaferro earned honorable mention All-America honors on the three-meter at the national meet. Both divers earned honorable mention All-America accolades on the 10-meter platform.
At the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, Shaffer's diving corps came away with three SEC titles and seven All-America honors. Marx concluded his senior season with three All-America honors, two SEC titles (1-meter, platform) and was named SEC Male Diver of the Year. Vennie Dantin captured the conference 3-meter championship, while she and Anna Aguero competed in their first NCAA meet and came away with two All-America honors each. Thad Ellis was also honored by the SEC, being named SEC Male Freshman Diver of the Year.
A year later, Mazzaferro reached the SEC pinnacle, winning conference titles on both the 3-meter and platform at the 2011 SEC Championships while finishing third on the 1-meter board. For his efforts, he was named the SEC Male Diver of the Year and shared the SEC Commissioner's Cup as the high point-scorer of the meet. Dantin and Mazzaferro each earned two more All-America honors at the NCAA Championships, and Mazzaferro wrapped up his collegiate career with two high academic honors, being named the SEC's McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year and a CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-American. In addition, Dantin qualified for the 2012 Olympic Diving Trials by advancing to the finals on both the 3-meter and platform at the 2011 USA Diving National Championships.
Dantin finished her career in 2012 as one of the most decorated women's divers at Auburn, winning her second SEC title on the 1-meter board and capturing a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The seven-time All-American also left Auburn as the school record-holder in all three events, setting two records at the 2012 NCAA Championships in Auburn.
All in all, the philosophy that Shaffer has embedded in his coaching has proven to be successful from his days with O'Brien to now as he continues to provide his student-athletes opportunities to grow into essential contributors to the continued accomplishments the Auburn swimming and diving team's experience, as well as success on the international level.
Shaffer and his wife, Jenny, have two daughters, Amy (24) and Kelly (23). The couple also has a son, J.J. (Jeffrey Jr.) (18).