How to Learn a New Dive

Learning and mastering a new dive is an essential part of becoming a successful diver. But while necessary, adding a more difficult dive to your repertoire is never easy and can actually be a source of great anxiety for even the most experienced divers.

Although there is no way to completely overcome the fear, there are things you can do to prepare your mind for the task at hand. Below are five steps to help refocus a diver’s mental outlook and prepare him or her for learning the more complicated dives

1. Physically Prepare

A diver must be physically ready for the increased difficulty before attempting a new dive on a higher level springboard or platform. There are a few ways to get the body ready for the tough task ahead:

Lead-up

For example, if the new dive is a full twisting one-and-one half somersault on the 3-meter, try performing a full twisting one somersault on the 1- meter springboard. Repeating the dive several times on the lower level will prepare your body to perform the new dive at the 3-meter height.

Use the Trampoline

Working in a spotting belt or twisting belt is a great way to learn a new dive. It eliminates the fear of “smacking” or getting lost in the dive and it helps build confidence and proper technique without distraction. A diver can then learn how to spot and kick out of the dive before moving to the water.

2. Mental Preparation

Now comes the harder part: Learning to trust yourself as an athlete. Trying the dive can be scary, but also exhilarating through which you will gain confidence, versatility, and a whole new level of diving.

There are at least four tricks a diver can use to mentally prepare for a new dive.

Use a Bubble Machine

If available, a bubble machine can serve as a comfort for those learning a new dive. When turned on, air from the bottom of the pool is forced to the top of the water, creating a mass of bubbles and reducing the surface tension of the water. This can soften a landing that isn’t vertical and helps the diver master the dive without the distraction of a potentially painful  entry.

Use a Coach

A diver should always feel comfortable asking their coach to call them out of the dive. A call is when the coach gives a verbal command to the diver at the time he or she needs to kick out of the dive. Once a diver hears this call, she can come out of the dive and look for her spot in the water. It takes the guess work out of the beginning process and having outside support improves confidence.

Mental Distraction

Instead of focusing on the dive at hand, try focusing on some obscure thought or object. This will take your mind off the challenge of the dive and gives your body a chance to perform without the distraction of the head games that so frequently derail new dive attempts.

Specific Focus

Another good trick is to concentrate on one key aspect of the dive, say the hurdle or the position of the arms. As long as the physical preparation is adequate, taking the mind out of the game will help in performing the dive with less anxiety.

3. Over Thinking the Dive

Taking that first step is often the hardest. There is no way to eliminate the fear of the initial attempt, but there are ways prevent it from stopping you:

  • Just go! Thinking too long causes problems.
  • Don't over analyze the dive or think too much about the particulars. Just count to three and give it a shot.
  • Decide before even reaching the platform or springboard that you are going to do the dive.

4. Mental Block on a Dive

As the saying goes,if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. If you have flopped on a dive in the past, don't let that hinder you from trying it again. Just take a step back, reboot and train a little bit harder. Perseverance and good preparation including board and trampoline work will eventually lead to success.

Amazingly True Story

Michelle Carter, a former diver at Arizona State University, came very close to hitting the diving board on an inward 2 ½ somersault off the 3-meter. Her fear overwhelmed her and she could no longer perform the dive. Her coach, Ward O'Connell, told her to try the dive again but this time he wanted her to completely focus on the color blue.

Feeling a bit discouraged that her coach didn't have any great words of wisdom, she reluctantly followed his advice. She soon discovered that by distracting her mind with one thing unrelated to diving, she was able to perform the dive perfectly.

Divers often develop a mental block on a certain dive. If that is the case, just go over the steps above: use a trampoline, test it out on a lower board/platform, use the bubble machine if available, or ask a coach for help. If the dive still causes problems, try moving on to another dive to refresh and distract your mind from the built up anxiety.

Eventually though, you will need to return to the dive and the best thing to do is just practice, practice, practice. The more dives you attempt, the greater the chances for success.

5. Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is one of the most powerful tools a diver can have, but only when paired with adequate preparation. Try the tricks below to garner positive thoughts for preparing and attempting a new dive.

Visualize the Dive

Close your eyes and see and feel the motion of the dive that you have practiced multiple times: the hurdle, press, head positioning, arm positioning, visual spots, and the kick out and entry. Obstacles may be present, but flush them from your mind and remain positive.

Focus on the Positive

Use positive words and associations when focusing on elements of the dive. For example, if you need to keep your head up on the takeoff it is better to focus on the positive of, “keep head up” rather than thinking, “don’t look down.” By thinking, “don’t look down,” your brain automatically is focused on the negative and your body will work to accommodate your thoughts.

Trust Your Coach

Your coach wants you to succeed. Lean on his confidence if you have to and believe that this dive is one that you can perform successfully.

Positive thinking is a skill that takes time to evolve. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that retraining your thoughts is not easy; it takes time and effort.

Key to Success

Learning a new dive is scary, but it is also a lot of fun. The key to success, lies in both adequate preparation and the willingness to step out on the board and give it a try. By using the tools outlined above, you can approach the process with confidence.

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