7 Tips for College Diving Recruits

Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold / Aringo Photos

By Michael Vaandering, Swimming World Contributor.

“OUT!”, my coach yelled as I was coming around to the second flip on a front double somersault tuck. I heard him loud and clear but delayed the kick-out just a split second too long. The momentum from the flipping with the late kick-out set me up for what was to be the worst belly flop I experienced in me entire diving career, and it was only 1 meter! Never again have I had my skin bubble up from the impact of the water. For those of you who don’t know, coaches will help you kick out of a dive at the right moment by “calling you out”. In the aforementioned story, I was on my second week of diving and I stormed out of practice vowing to never dive again (that vow was broken the next day). You see, divers are a different breed. We get up on the board ready to put all of our effort into throwing ourselves into the air to flip and/or twist as many times as we can without losing control and spiraling down to a painful watery smack. We are like aquatic gymnasts with a deference for pain.

If you are looking to take this passion to the next level, you might be considering diving in college. The first thing you need to know is that setting yourself up for this takes time! Start preparing yourself from the moment you read this article. College diving recruiting takes more than physical prowess; you need to prepare yourself mentally in more ways than one. Don’t let yourself get caught off guard when college practices start and your stuck working on the basics while everyone else in your class gets right into the good stuff. Work smart, read these 7 tips for young college diving recruits, and implement them!

7 Tips for College Diving Recruits

1. Set the foundation

I’m talking about setting the physical foundation of muscle that your college strength coach will build upon. Don’t go too crazy with complex lifts too early on. Build up the glutes, hamstring, shoulders, and back before moving to any Olympic lifts. Do your research, make some calls, see what your prospective college’s strength coach will be implementing. I did this and not only did it make me much more prepared for college, it made me look motivated to my future coaches! If your club or high school strength coach is nice, they will work these exercises into your program to prepare you. If not, maybe personal training is in your future! Make sure to choose a facility that specializes in elite athletes in your sport. If you have any imbalances or injuries, don’t push them off either. Find a physical therapist if you need one to get the correct exercise prescription before building up muscle in all the wrong places.

2. Spotting

This was my biggest weakness going into the collegiate level so I can speak from experience when I say that being a proficient spotter will put you miles ahead of the game; and not just from 1 meter or 3 meter, but from platform as well. There are many different techniques used to teach spotting, all depending on what equipment is available. I recommend using multiple methods.

One that I recommend involves having another diver help you out. When doing back or inward dives, your partner will crouch at the end of the board near the hinge and wait for you to begin the dive. Right as you take off, your partner will hold up a number of fingers on one hand (1-5) and you will have to count them as you flip and during your kick-out. The same can be done on front and reverse dives if your partner treads water about 15-20 feet away from the board in front of you. This method is very difficult to learn, so if you are able to perform this, you are a true spotter!

3. Master the Basics

This should go without saying. Get your basic (voluntary) dives down to a science. These are expected to be performed easily and with great skill. Make sure you are riding the board all the way down (and up) and coming out of the dive early enough to line it up perfectly every time. Don’t ignore these dives! Spend time on them, as they are the foundation that your optionals build upon. Spend time mastering your entries. Perform line-ups off of 3 meter and tower to work on body alignment, pike-saving, and hand positioning and technique for “ripping”. Additionally, practice handstands! You will have to compete handstand dives during meets, so work on strengthening your shoulders and core to be able to perform a good press-up into a stable handstand. Your coach will expect you to be proficient in all of these things, so practice practice practice! Be purposeful and focus on your weaknesses before they sneak up on you. 

4. Record EVERY Dive

Hopefully your club or school pool has a delayed video playback system that shows you every dive you perform. If they don’t, talk to your coach. This is the most valuable tool a diver has, and it will be easy to make a good case for it. Make sure you have the ability to save a clip of a dive that you liked or performed well. Additionally, have someone (parents!) bring a camcorder to record EVERY dive you perform at EVERY meet. You never know when your going to completely nail a dive and receive 9’s. These videos will be what you will use to create a montage of your diving to impress prospective college coaches. Not to mention the nostalgic benefit of looking back at your diving later on in life!

5. Strengthen Your Mental Game

80% power! My coach would always remind me of this before stepping on the board during a meet. By the time you get to a competition, you have spent countless hours perfecting every dive that you plan to perform. At this point your body knows what to do, and your biggest barrier is your own brain. If you find yourself nervous or shaky between dives or on the board, remind yourself to only use “80% Power”. This encourages you to perform a dive the same as you would during a practice. It is an all too common mistake to freak out during a meet and throw a dive as hard as you possibly can, only to end up in a belly flop. Remember, your body knows what it’s doing!

“peak performance is meditation in motion”
-Greg Louganis

5 time Olympic medalist diver Greg Louganis said it perfectly. You need to be calm and focused during competitions, especially college diving recruits. You should also get used to closing your eyes and going through the dive in your mind. Sit there and imagine yourself doing the dive. Imagine every single aspect of the dive. Think about what it feels like to push off the board, to throw the twist, to spot as your flipping, and to feel yourself kick out and line yourself up. Your brain perceives this thought process as if your body is actually performing it, and it gets your mind off of the hundreds of people sitting in the stands waiting for someone to belly flop. I always listened to relaxing classical music to calm me down and get me into a rhythm, but find what works for you.

6. Don’t Slack Off in School

Hopefully this one isn’t a new concept to you. Believe it or not, college coaches look at your school performance as well as your athletic ability. If they are deciding between two equally gifted athletes, and one has much better grades than the other, who do you think they would choose? Alternatively, suppose you are much better than another athlete that they are considering, but you don’t meet the minimum standards set by the college. Don’t overlook the importance of staying on top of your schoolwork. Being a student athlete in college is a tremendous amount of work. The earlier you can plant the seeds of good studying habits and delayed gratification, the more successful you will be overall. This isn’t just true of diving and college specifically, but is a good life lesson to learn early on.

7. The Rule of Thirds

I cannot take credit for this rule; Its something I learned long ago from something unrelated to diving. Regardless of it’s application, this is perhaps one of the most valuable life lessons you should adhere to if your goal is to grow and become proficient at whatever skill you are trying to master. The rule is as such: you should spend a third of your time with someone less skilled than you, a third of your time with someone equally as skilled as you, and a third of your time with someone more skilled than you. The time you spend with someone with less skill allows you to teach what you know to them. To be able to teach a skill or idea requires conscious competence in that skill or idea. This means that you are able to break down the movement into individual steps that make sense to the learner; a sign of a great leader! Spending time with someone equally as skilled as you provides motivation, competition, and the sharing of ideas. As divers, we typically have one area that we struggle in that others excel at. You may score the same in a 6 dive meet as your friend but your friend is much better at inwards, while you are better at reverses. This sharing of ideas allows you to motivate each other to become better athletes. Lastly, spending a third of your time with someone more skilled than you provides perspective, motivation, and a teacher. This should be with someone other than your coach. Try spending time in practice with the best diver there. If you happen to be the best, find out where someone better than you is training! Compete in more competitions and get yourself out there. Sometimes you can hear your coach correct your form hundreds of times without success, but a peer explains it differently and it just clicks. Use these peers to your advantage, everyone is competent in different aspects of diving and you never know what valuable tidbits of information they have to offer.

Summary of 7 Tips for College Diving Recruits

Diving is an amazing sport that requires tremendous amounts of skill and mental fortitude. Be prepared to challenge yourself in more ways than you expect when entering the collegiate realm. The earlier you start preparing yourself for this transition the better. Train smarter rather than harder. Many times this means going outside of your club or school team and hiring a personal trainer or strength coach to fine tune your strengths and fix your weaknesses in a more one-on-one environment. Focus on the basics and build a strong foundation. Most importantly, have fun with it! Don’t let the competitive side of college sports ruin the enjoyment you get out of diving. Invest the time, put in the effort, and you will find yourself more than prepared for the next stage of your journey.

If you’re looking for more tips on improving your diving performance, get 7 tips for improving your diving performance for FREE!

*All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.
*All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.
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7 years ago

This is just a test

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