How to Visually Spot in Diving

Have you ever wondered how Olympic divers spin and twist in the air while simultaneously maintaining spacial awareness? It looks complicated, but in reality it is quite simple: Divers open their eyes and take a look around.

During a dive, a diver will locate different objects in the pool, such as the water or the diving board. These “spots” are then used as reference points, letting a diver know how many somersaults he has completed, how many twists he has finished, and when it is time to kick out of the dive. This is called visual spotting.

Many divers think that simply “feeling” the dive in the air is enough, but in order to dive consistently, you must learn how to spot. For most, learning to spot is a challenge, but there are some tricks you can use to help you pick up your spots and learn this important skill.

Open Your Eyes in a Dive

To start spotting, you must first learn to open your eyes while you dive. At first, it may be hard to distinguish between all the different visual stimuli, but after a while, you can try to pick up specific “objects” as you rotate — such as the water or board.

Practice on Dryland

Studies have shown that the more nervous a diver, the narrower their field of vision becomes. As anxiety increases, the brain actually shuts out excess stimuli, which in turn can cause you to miss your spot. That’s why it’s important for you to relax as you dive, especially when learning how to spot.

Dryland facilities are a great way to learn spotting. Practicing in a spotting belt enables the coach to control the rotation of the divers somersault. Once the somersault is controlled and slowed down, you can practice “catching” your spot on each rotation.

Here are two ways to help you catch your spot on trampoline:

  1. Use bright colors: A bright red or yellow towel is an easy indicator to locate on each rotation. Place it on the edge of the trampoline and keep an eye out for the color after each rotation. You will eventually be able to catch your spot even on faster somersaults.
  2. Verbal cues: A coach can help you catch your spot by using verbal commands such as “look” each time the spot passes your line of vision.

Practice on the Diving Board

Once you have practiced on trampoline, you can then move the cloth to the end of the diving board.

Here is how to begin:

Back Somersault

  • Perform a back somersault.
  • Locate the spot (towel) at the beginning of the dive and again at the end of the somersault.
  • Move the towel closer and closer to the end of the board until it is no longer necessary — eventually, the board becomes your spot.
  • When you are comfortable spotting the board on the simple somersault, move onto the 1 ½ somersault (203).
  • Once you spot the board (after the somersault), hold your position for a bit longer.
  • Then kick your legs above the diving board, reach back, and dive into the water.

Forward & Reverse Somersaults

  • After completing a forward or reverse somersault, look for the water.
  • Once you are comfortable spotting the water after the somersault, you can move onto the 1 ½ somersault (103 — forward 1 ½; 303 — reverse 1 ½).
  • Keep your eyes open and see the water as you pass the first somersault.
  • For a 103, spot the water after passing the somersault, and kick your legs up to the sky into a handstand position. Dive into the water.
  • For a 303, spot the water as you pass your first somersault, hold on to your legs a bit longer. Then kick them into the sky, reach back, and dive into the water.

Inward Somersault

Inwards are performed the same as forward somersaults. The only difference is you may spot the board on your dive. The board is fine to use as your first reference point, but you should also spot the water after you complete your somersault.

Hot Tip: Spot the Water

The water is the point of entry, and therefore more helpful to use as a spot. On more complicated dives such as the 405c or 407c, the springboard or platform will not be in your line of sight after the first two rotations. If you learn to spot the water, it will always be a consistent point of reference letting you know exactly where you are in the dive.

Spotting Twisters

It takes a bit more time to learn to spot during twisters, since it is difficult to get a good look at anything while the body is both somersaulting and twisting through the air. However, there are two moments within all twisting somersaults that you can learn to spot: At the beginning, when you wrap the twist; and upon squaring out of the dive with a clear view of the water.

Here are some tips that can help you spot both forward and backward twisting somersaults.

Forward Twisters

  • Use the moment when you see both your legs in the pike and the water as the cue for you to wrap your twist.
  • As you square out, look for the water. This spot will mark your point of entry.

Back Twisters

  • On back twisters, most divers will see the ceiling or sky on the initiation of the twist; they may also see the board on takeoff. Either of these points can serve as a reference to initiate the twist.
  • Upon completion of the twist, square out and look for the water. This spot will mark your point of entry.

A Good Habit

Although spotting may be difficult to learn, it will allow you to consistently perform more complicated maneuvers — dives become easier and less scary once you have located a good spot!

So take the time and energy to master this new skill. Visual spotting is a tool you will use throughout your diving career.

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