Slowing Down Time: Inside the Mind of a Diver

KNOXVILLE, TN - July 31, 2014: An Unknown Diver during the 2014 USA Diving Age Group and Junior National Event at Allan Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Matthew S. DeMaria
Photo Courtesy: Matthew S. DeMaria

By Molly Lloyd, Swimming World College Intern

You stand at the edge of the pool, cheering on your teammates as they swim their various events. Your heart is racing and your voice is hoarse from shouting words of encouragement during every race of the meet thus far. You pick up your heat sheet to check how many events are left until you have to start mentally preparing yourself.

Two events left, and one of them is the 500, that’s enough time to psych up and get ready to throw yourself off both the one and three meter boards. You’ve already warmed up on the boards, it’s about time to focus.

You make your way behind the boards, lean against the wall, and slowly slide down into a crouched sitting position. You close your eyes. You breathe deeply and visualize. Step one, two, three, four, hurdle, up, land, circle, wait, wait, wait, and…throw. Hold. Hold. Hold. Pike and press. Point your toes. The entire time. You repeat things to yourself, over and over, as if you’d forget how to do the dives that you’ve been working on all season.

Keep your head neutral. Wait as long and you can before you throw. Keep your core tight, tight, tight. Don’t pike save too early. Look for your spot and for God’s sake keep your eyes open the entire time. It’s a lot to think about for something that takes you about three seconds from start to finish. You envision yourself doing every dive perfectly – ripping them – and you feel a kind of confidence in your chest. You finally open your eyes and notice the judges have taken their seats; it’s time to start.

Jul 13, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, USA; Pamela Ware of Canada prepares for a dive in the women's synchronised diving 3m springboard final the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports Images

The announcer’s voice echoes through the pool, announcing the line up of divers; your name comes fourth. Your coach comes up to you and puts his hands on your shoulders, looks you in the eye, and smiles.

“Remember what we worked on,” he says. “If you focus on the approach and stay patient, it’ll all come easily. Confidence. I believe in you, kid.”

You smile to show that you’re ready to go and the knot in your stomach begins to loosen. You can do this, you tell yourself. You’ve done it all before, you can do this. Your team is sitting on the bleachers and in the gutter of the pool, all of them smiling at you; they believe in you too. You shake hands with all the other divers and wish them luck.

The first diver steps up for her first dive and rips it. You clap your hands and cheer for her – she really did nail it. You hope you can perform that well. You hope you can perform as well as the two girls that follow her, too. Finally, you hear your name, followed by “303 B” – reverse one-and-a-half, pike. You step up to the board, wipe down your legs with your chamois, and throw it onto the pool deck. You look at the end of the board and take a deep breath, preparing yourself.

Adjusting your feet, you methodically tap your thigh and nod your head until you…go. Step one, two, three, four, hurdle, up, land, circle, wait, wait, wait, and…throw. Hold. Hold. Hold. Press and point your toes. Your flattened palms rip through the water, you pull them down to your sides and quickly pike save, keeping your toes pointed until you’re completely submerged.

The quick rush of the water is refreshing and relaxing, just what you needed to feel after a nerve-wracking and simultaneously exhilarating start to your meet. Funny how something so fast can feel so slow. You take a moment for yourself before emerging from the water to hear the judge’s scores. Not too shabby, but there’s no time to dwell, you still have five dives left and you’re on to the next.

A diver entering the water from the 3 meter springboard.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Jared Book
Jared Book
8 years ago

303B is a Reverse One and 1/2 Pike. Front is 103B. Otherwise, nice story.

Jeff Commings
8 years ago
Reply to  Jared Book

Thanks for the clarification!