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An Overview of Coaching Styles in Diving


Coaching is a special skill that combines instruction with artistry. Some athletes need a coach that is gentle and motivating; others work best with a coach that is structured and has high expectations; and some need a coach that knows when to be kind and when use a little tough-love.

However, all good coaches should possess the ability to inspire and teach his or her pupils in a way that is effective for the individual.

Below is a synopsis of three distinctive coaching styles. Although most coaches do not fall exclusively into one category, they do tend to have attributes that favor one particulate style over another.

1. The Supportive Coach

The supportive coach is an active participant in the coaching/athlete relationship. This type of coach has the following characteristics:

  • They listen intently, expect a lot, but will always stand up for their divers.
  • They are quick to complement, slow to criticize.
  • They openly show confidence in the divers and their performance.
  • They have done their research, know the latest and best techniques, and eagerly want to implement new skills.

This style of coaching is differentiated by the personal connection the coach encourages with the diver. They see their role almost overlapping with that of a counselor, listening to the diver while also encouraging discussion. The diver of this coach may not even realize they are being critiqued because of the subtle, yet effective style of instruction.

2. The Poised-Under-Pressure Coach

This coach is one who thrives under pressure. The demands of competition motivate them and motivate their divers. They are usually supportive and calm, even in high stress situations. They are generally outgoing and use humor to create a fun atmosphere among divers.

This style of coaching is distinguished by the composed position the coach takes when faced with stressful circumstances. When things go wrong, they generally stay relaxed and approach the problem in a poised, rational manner. They will take time to cool-off instead of acting out of anger and critique their divers in private, not in front of others.

3. The Scientist Coach

Greg Louganis was first discovered and coached by Dr. Sammy Lee, the two time Olympic gold medalist. Dr. Lee's effective coaching led Louganis to his first Olympic Games, but after high school, Louganis decided to switch coaches and train under Ron O'Brien.

Although both coaches were successful teachers, their two coaching styles were dramatically different: Dr. Lee was direct and strict while O'Brien was more supportive and understanding. In Louganis' autobiography, Breaking the Surface, he points out that while he greatly respects Dr. Lee, he knew he needed a change. After switching to O'Brien, Louganis went on to win gold in two consecutive Olympic Games.

This is a coach who is very knowledgeable in the science behind the sport and likes to use it to explain the different aspects of a dive. They like to have a rational explanation for all areas of diving — usually involving physiology and the specific diving environment. In addition they are disciplined and succinct, often avoiding lofty, wordy explanations.

This type of coach uses goals to motivate their divers and expects them to be goal oriented as well. He or she encourages their divers to write down both their long and short term goals and is willing to work hard to make sure those goals are achieved.

Coaches to Avoid

All coaches have flaws. People lose their temper, get agitated or frustrated and coaches are no exception. However, if a coach's flaws become more prominent than their strengths, it may be time to switch gears.

Here are some common coaching styles to avoid:

The Control Freak

This coach thrives on control. They need the day to run according to their plan and expect the divers to fulfill their demands without question. They have a hard time admitting when they're wrong and focus too much on their own ego, which gets in the way of effective teaching.

The Sloppy Coach

This coach is the opposite of a control freak—they are disorganized to a fault. They don't show up to practice or competition on time. They are cluttered and frazzled and often lose important pieces of information. In addition they do not know how to handle pressure and this lack of discipline begins to impact the motivation of the divers and their ability to excel.

The Super Friend

This coach wants to be best buddies with their divers; they want to fit in. In trying to fit in, they may hug or contact their athletes inappropriately, joke incorrectly, or use poor language and judgment in order to be “one of the guys/girls. As a result, they do not take a position of leadership and become ineffective in guiding their divers to success.

The Critic

The opposite of super friend, this coach spends most of their time yelling and criticizing their athletes—no matter how well the dive, there is something that needs to be improved. They may resort to name-calling in especially heated situations and will not hesitate to criticize their athletes in front of others. Divers tend to walk on eggshells in their presence and ultimately they bring down team morale.

A Coach is a Teacher

Diving, like other individual sports, starts and ends with the diver — but without a coach, it will be hard to truly reach your potential. A good diving coach is a teacher who knows their students, is knowledgeable, understanding and encouraging. How those attributes are best distributed to help an athlete excel in the sport depends on the diver.

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