From Swimmer To Swiver: An Interesting Transition

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From Swimmer To Swiver: An Interesting Transition

By Tara Draper, Swimming World Intern

Although classified together, the worlds of swimming and diving are vastly different. Swimming is all about power and speed, trying to out-touch your opponent by the smallest of margins to finish first. Diving is all about precision and grace, making minute changes to a hurdle or flip mid-air to improve a dive and gain an extra half-point. Swimming is also always objective, since the clock never lies and is not impacted by personal feelings. As a diver, you can dive the exact same dive in front of a different set of judges and get a completely different score.

Sparking My Interest In Diving

Since arriving at college, I have had a fascination with diving. I was nicknamed the ‘dive groupie’ because I would get to practice early to watch the divers before completing my swim workout. I grew close to the divers, learning which dives they were good at, what a good dive looked like and what kind of corrections they were often told to make. It was nice to be able to get a deeper understanding of their sport, so at competitions I was able to be a better teammate.

The first thing I learned when I became interested in diving was the numbering system. To be able to classify dives, each dive has a number code based on the direction you are spinning, the number of half rotations, the number of half twists, and your body position as you spin. Additionally, each dive has a degree of difficulty, which rewards divers with more points for harder dives. The judges’ scores are then multiplied by the DD to get the final score of the dive. For those that don’t know how the numbering system works, here is a quick run-down from USA Diving that explains it. I used to have fun at meets trying to say the full name of the dive before the announcer, so I could practice my skills.

Starting My Own Diving Journey

This year, because COVID has removed all in-person competition, I convinced my college coach to let me learn to dive. Learning to dive has been a lot harder than I expected. I only started three weeks ago, and already I have learned so much. My core strength is terrible, and I can’t touch my toes, so this has already been an interesting journey. My lessons began on the trampoline learning how to do a one-step hurdle. From there I progressed to doing line-ups off of the three-meter board. These are where you fall in headfirst, attempting to land completely straight. This has proved difficult for me for a few reasons. My lack of core strength doesn’t really help me and I also had to unlearn my streamline technique and separate the sports in my brain.

To dive, you can’t enter the water with a streamline; you need to enter with your hands above your head in a flat-hand position, to prevent shoulder injuries as you hit the water. The other issue with diving vs. swimming is in swimming, you often have an arched back. This is a no-no for diving, where you want to enter with a rounder back, so you don’t end up having your feet be too far over. I still haven’t been able to get this right, but I am slowly working on doing better.

Learning My First Real Dive

I then progressed to doing hurdles off of the one-meter board, and tuck jumps. From there, I progressed to doing front dives. One of the hardest parts of this dive was my arching. I lean forward as I go to throw the dive. This and my arching meant that I was often going over and landing on my back. While learning this, I began learning back jumps and back fall-ins. The next step was to add a little jump to this and do a back dive. These are harder to do mentally, as you have to overcome your body’s instincts to stay vertical.

One of my favourite things my teammate has said to me happened when I finally started to feel more comfortable doing back dives and front flips. She turned to me from her board and said, ‘Yay, your self-preservation instincts are dying!’. This very much embodies diving, as you have to train yourself to not listen to the inner voice that tells you what you are doing is dangerous.

Beginning The Road To More Complex Dives

From here, I had to learn to flip. We did a few flips on the trampoline with a harness on, so that my coach could pull me to make sure I made it around all the way. I then had to pluck up the courage and throw myself. Let’s just say this was not as easy as it sounds. I smacked my back, shins, hamstrings, arms and butt more times than I care to admit. Every time I would surface with a look of pain on my face, and sit on the edge for a minute to wait for the specific muscles to stop aching. I’m still not very good at flips, but I am slowly getting more comfortable with them.

The next dive on the list to learn was inwards. This is the one where you stand like a back dive but throw your body forward. Of the dives I have done so far, these are my favourite, despite not being very good at them. I really want to get better at them and start to look more like a diver. I’m soon going to learn reverse dives, which I have been told are the hardest to learn, but only because of the mental challenge they present. I am hoping I will be able to get them, and I look forward to the challenge of trying.

Effect On My Swimming

I would like to believe my diving hasn’t had a significant effect on my swimming. The main effect I think it has had is that I am more tired. Since my practices are back-to-back, I spend four hours at a time at the pool. Overall, I think I am handling the tiredness as best as I can.

Diving will have a few positive effects on my physique, as improving my core strength will keep me more stable in the water. I am also hoping I will develop more flexibility, which will improve my stroke and hopefully bring my times down. 

I have really enjoyed getting to explore diving, and I hope to be good enough to compete one day. Especially in my conference, being a diver can often earn you more points than being a swimmer, especially if you’re a mediocre swimmer like me. I hope to be able to do both swim and dive at conference once COVID is under control, but we shall see what the future holds.   

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