How to Relax During a Diving Competition
One of the best ways to test your skills and confidence in diving is to compete. The pressure, nerves and extra adrenaline of competition will test your diving abilities and bring out either the best or the worst of performances. Learning to effectively deal with that anxiety will help you grow as a diver and as a person.
Here are five tools that can help ease your nerves so you can have a successful diving meet.
1. Location Around the Pool Deck
One of the first things you should consider when entering a diving meet is where you want to sit during the competition. Situate yourself in an area that will benefit you the most, depending on the type of person you are.
In general, there are two types of competitors: Social and private.
Social athletes tend to feel most comfortable when they are talking to other divers in between rounds. They often like to watch their competition: Knowing where they fall in the mix encourages and motivates them.
If you are an extrovert, choose an area close to the competition, perhaps with a group of friends or teammates. That way, if it's a long competition with a lot of participants, you can relax by chatting or playing cards between rounds.
On the other hand, private people much prefer not knowing how the competition is fairing and would rather to keep to themselves. If you consider yourself a more introverted competitor, find a spot away from the crowds — perhaps under the bleachers or outside the pool arena and under a tree.
Make sure to sit where you can still hear them call your name. The last thing you want is to miss your turn on the boards and get disqualified from the competition.
2. Music & Diving
Studies have shown that listening to music increases serotonin levels — the neurotransmitter associated with mood and anxiety — in the brain.
Music is a great tool that many divers use to both calm their nerves and provide motivation. It takes your mind off the stress off the situation and serves to remind you of the larger world outside of the meet.
Depending on the songs you choose, either soothing or motivating, music can help you stay relaxed, loose, and ready to perform your best.
Bring an MP-3 player (or other device) to your next diving meet — you'll quickly see why it's a favorite mode of escape amongst divers.
3. Yoga & Diving
Yoga, with the gentle movements and internal focus it demands, also promotes relaxation. The practice can be an effective tool for divers to use during competition.
Here are some ways to implement yoga into your meet routine.
Yoga focuses on breath. Breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth, using the sound of your exhale to release built-up tension. This will fill the muscles with oxygen and help your mind relax.
Close your eyes and focus on the breath described above. Let other thoughts/anxiety fade into the background. Try to drown out “diving sounds and stay focused on something abstract – say a bird in the tree or the water sloshing into and out of the drain of the pool.
Postures, such as tree pose or triangle pose, encourage focus and balance; downward facing dog is also a great pose for divers as it stretches out the neck, shoulders, and back—all areas that hold tension.
4. Pool-side Techniques
There are a few other ways to relax during a diving meet. Here are two techniques that may help you.
Stretch before it's your turn to dive. Find a suitable place, lay out a towel and work out your hamstrings, shoulders and back. Keep the stretches light, so the entire process is calming, not stressful.
Jacuzzi & Shower
Hop in after your dive and let the warm water relax you. The shower beating on your back or soaking in hot water can really help release any tension that may have built up.
Don't stay in hot water too long between dives. A small amount releases tension and helps soothe your body, but too much time can turn your muscles to mush. Get in, enjoy, and get out.
5. Before You Dive
Once you know your turn to dive is coming up, get ready to compete!
If it has been a long time since your last dive, jump in the water and get your body wet. Then dry off with your shammy, and practice your dive on the side of the pool deck. Simulate your dives in their entirety, including takeoff, spin and entry.
Focus on the dive at hand — don't think about your last dive or the dive you have in two rounds. That way when your name is called you feel 100 percent ready.
And, of course, don't forget to talk to your coach. He/she is a great resource and can help you stay focused or give you pointers on the dive before you compete.
Enjoy the Competition
People are different, what relaxes one diver may not work for another. Some like noise, groups of people, and watching their competition; others prefer quiet and isolation — getting away from the competition in between dives.
Discover what works best for you. Then just sit back, relax and enjoy the competition!