When You're Ready for Platform Diving
Platform diving is one of the most popular summer Olympic sports. It has all the requirements of good television: awe inspiring athleticism, beautiful acrobatics, and nerve-wracking, possibly dangerous feats—all done from 33 feet in the air.
Many divers aspire to the platform because of this world wide popularity, but learning the sport is not easy. It is important for divers to have proficient knowledge and a solid foundation of springboard experience before even attempting to dive platform.
Although springboard and platform diving are both different sports that require separate skill sets, there is some overlap. Here are some details about platform diving to take into consideration before you make the jump up (way up) to platform diving.
As in all sports, a solid foundation in the basic skills is required before any advancement can or should take place. Platform diving is an advanced skill and novice—or even intermediate—divers who are still learning different groups of dives off the boards need time and practice before moving up.
Kimiko Soldati, the 3-meter USA Olympian in the 2004 Games, was plagued with shoulder injuries throughout her diving career. She attributed her bouts of shoulder pain to a failed 10-meter attempt that occurred early in her career.
In an article written by Bryan Burell in the Post-Dispatch on June 12, 2004, Soldati explains that she hit the water with her arms in the wrong position. The force of the impact tore the muscles in her biceps, causing damage that required multiple surgeries and years of rehab.
Perhaps the most important skill required is a good, strong entry. A diver should always enter the water with a tight body, arms tightly pressed to the ears, and the hands in a flat-hand position. Diving at heights of 5, 7.5 and 10 meters can be dangerous, and a tight entry is the number one thing a diver can learn to avoid injury.
Once a diver enters the water, it is important to maintain body control. A diver can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour, and it easy to be pushed and pulled in many different directions if you enter the water slack or out of control. Back, shoulder, and even head injuries are possible, which is why a by-the-book entry and strong body positioning in the water are crucial before trying to dive platform.
Comparing Platform to Springboard
Once the fundamentals are in place, a diver needs to know and really conceptualize the main difference between springboard and platform diving.The springboard bends and thus propels a diver off the board and into the air, while the platform is a solid structure of concrete. The only way a diver can gain height off a platform is to physically jump with his or her own body strength.
Therefore the takeoff is different on platform compared to springboard.
On platform, there is no need for a hurdle as it would only cause the knees to buckle and the diver to fall. Instead, platform divers use a run (similar to a gallop) and a small skip, along with a good arm swing as the forward approach.
On springboard a back press starts with the rocking of the board which gives the diver the height necessary for the dive. On platform, the ability to garner height is completely dependent on the diver's strength and their ability to jump up and away from the tower.
Once the dive is in the air, however, the motion is the exact same as it is on springboard. The kick out, the spots and the entry are all performed just as one would off the 3-meter, and in fact, most divers starting out on the 10-meter platform will use their 3-meter diving list to start off.
Although the 10-meter platform provides the diver with seven additional meters, the diver will have approximately the same time to complete the dive as she did on the 3-meter.
Gymnastic Skills in Platform
Gymnastic and tumbling skills come in handy in platform diving (more so than on springboard) for several reasons:
- It teaches a diver how to rotate off a solid surface.
- It gives a diver body control.
- It develops strength, coordination and balance.
- It builds athletic confidence.
Start on 5-meter
It is a good idea to start on the 5-meter platform and slowly progress up to the 10-meter level. By starting on these lower levels, divers get the feel of what the body endures as it enters the water and how the takeoff affects the speed and height of the dive.
It is important to move slowly in training time as well. Platform diving is a physically strenuous sport. It takes a toll on the body, and the shoulders, neck and wrists will likely be sore after a day of diving platform. For this reason, most divers do not practice platform diving daily and instead alternate between platform and springboard.
Confidence in Platform Diving
Platform diving is an exciting and fun sport. Once the tumbling skills and the fundamentals of springboard diving are in place, a diver can learn to dive platform with confidence and success. Just remember that 33 feet demands respect, so take it a step at a time and follow the guidance of an experienced coach.