How to Become a Diving Judge
Diving is one of the few sports where the officials of a competition are not required to have any special training or specific testing to qualify. In most youth competitions, the judges of the event are the various coaches that are on the pool deck. But this does not mean that anyone can become a diving judge.
Judging diving is not as easy as it looks. Judges need to be fully knowledgeable in the sport and have an understanding of the various rules that apply to various dives. Below is a list of the three requirements needed to become a diving judge.
1. Know the Sport
Diving is a fairly simple sport. However, there are a lot of technicalities that diving officials must know in order to judge accurately. A diving judge needs to know the various rules of the sport. Not only does a judge need to know how a diving meet is run, but also how each dive is scored, and how the final score is calculated. Here are some of the basics that judges should know:
Dive Numbers & Positions
Judges need to know the dive numbers that are associated with each dive, as well as the corresponding position letter. For example, when it is announced that a diver will be performing a 5122 B (forward somersault, one twist in the pike position), a judge should immediately recognize that this is an error: This dive can only be performed in the free position — position letter D.
A judge should also know the point scale that is associated with the particular meet they are officiating. Here is the USA Diving point scale:
- 0: Completely failed
- ½ -2: Unsatisfactory
- 2 ½ - 4 ½: Deficient
- 5-6 ½: Satisfactory
- 7-8: Good
- 8 ½ - 9 ½: Very good
- 10: Excellent
Notice that a score of 10 does not mean the dive was perfect. It means the dive was excellent, and the overall impression of the dive was superb in the opinion of the diving judge. A good judge who has had many years of diving experience will easily distinguish between a dive that scores a five and a dive that scores an eight.
Judging diving is subjective — one judge may notice an error that another did not. This is why it is best to have a panel of five judges or more, so the high and low scores can be dropped from the final tally.
A judge should know who to go to in case a discrepancy arises. In most cases, the referee (or meet director) has the final call on any discrepancies during a diving competition. If a dive is executed incorrectly, it is up to the referee — not the judge — to declare it a failed dive. Similarly, if a diver balks on a dive, it is up to the referee to determine that a balk has occurred. The announcer is then to deduct two points from each judge's score.
Know What Makes a Dive Good
In order to accurately access a dive, a judge must know what constitutes a good dive. The judge must be aware of the five components of a dive:
- Starting position: Judges look for proper posture, and confidence in the starting position on springboard or platform.
- Approach: Judges will look for proper posture, proper carriage on the board or platform, and the confidence a diver displays during the approach.
- Takeoff: Judges will look for proper posture off the board or platform, proper distance from the board or platform, and the overall strength the diver exhibits in the takeoff.
- Flight: Judges will look for good height, distance, and proper form during the execution of the dive.
- Entry: A judge is looking for tight form upon entry, correct arm and head positioning, and little-to-no splash in the water.
Each component is analyzed and a judge will award a diver according to the overall impression of a dive. Therefore if a diver rips an entry, but doesn't have good posture or a decent takeoff, the score will reflect this. Once the diver enters the water, a judge is required to immediately flash their score, without referring to another judge's awarded value.
2. Become a Coach
A common mistake novice judges make is nitpicking small errors in a dive instead of judging the overall impression of the execution.
The best way to become a diving judge is to become a diving coach. Diving coaches are engaged in the intricacies of the sport and know (through years of experience) how to evaluate a dive. Generally, in youth diving, it is the coaches who are also the judges of a competitive event. As a coach, you will gain the necessary experience and practice required in evaluating various dives. To find out more on how to become a diving coach, take a look at iSport's guide, How to Become a Diving Coach
3. Pay the Fees
Lastly, in order to become a judge, you must pay a fee to the governing body of the sport. For the United States, there are two categories of fees:
- Official: $75 annually
- Coach & Official: $125 annually
The main difference between the two is the insurance that USA Diving provides. If you are a coach and an official, you are covered by USA Diving liability insurance. If you are only an official, you are not covered by the USA Diving policy for any type of coaching activity while on the pool deck.
Know the Details
Judging diving may seem fairly simple to an outside observer. However, knowing all the intricacies of the sport takes time to learn. After years of experience, you will start to notice actions in a dive that distinguish a good dive from a great one.
It takes a keen eye to know the difference between a dive that scores sevens and one that scores nines. To become fully equipped as a diving judge, it is important to get on a pool deck and watch the overall impression of hundreds of dives. Once you have this experience, you will be ready to tackle the world of judging competitive diving!