Needless to say, no one likes to hit the diving board. Hitting your hands or feet can be very painful and hitting your head can be catastrophic.
But getting close to the board is not a black and white proposition as in, "Get away from the board!"
So what is too close and how do you judge distance? This is a tricky question because it depends on multiple factors such as what part of the body is close, the divers height above the diving board and the water, how fast a diver is spinning, how a diver ‘kicks out” of a dive, or how they stretch to the water to name just a few.
How Close Is Too Close?
Many times the first reaction to a dive that is too close is for the coach to tell the diver to move it away! But that initial reaction might not be the best.
That type of instruction can often create bad habits and scare the bejesus out of the diver.... "Holy cow, I'm never doing a reverse 1 1/2 again!"
Of course, you can never be wrong by being safe and telling a diver to move away from the diving board. But there can be more productive ways of keeping the diver safe and it starts with understanding what you see on the diving board first before explaining to a diver how not to drag his or her ankles across the end of the springboard.
That being said, anytime a diver’s head is too close to the diving board, the first reaction, “Move the Dive Away,” is generally a good one. It is usually inexperience or bad technique that put the diver in that position, and while hitting hands and feet is bad, hitting your head is really, really bad.
Appearances Are Deceiving
If a virtual diver could be suspended in mid-air in a vertical position level with their hips four feet from the end (if this sounds familiar, it is the same as a line up and stretch for the water), that diver would not really appear to be close to the board.
But if that same diver is rotated 90 degrees so that they are horizontal – again, level with the diving board, the perspective changes! That diver could probably stretch their toes out and touch the end of the board, or flip them around and their hands might seem close. Move 12 inches closer and that diver could be scraping the end of the board with their knuckles!
Now take that diver in the horizontal position and raise them up three feet like a diver kicking out of a back dive tuck, and the perspective changes again. The diver does not appear close to the board and would not as they rotate toward the vertical entry position we started with.
The point here is that the proximity of the diver to the diving board can change as rapidly as the diver changes position and height above the water. And that a simple correction can change a dive that is close to the board into a safe and often very good dive.
It's a Matter of Time
All divers will at some point in their career come close to the diving board. It is simple a matter of getting better at diving and dives that are far away from the springboard or platform do not generally receive high scores.
Now some divers will get a little closer to others, and many will do dives that are uncomfortably close. When this happens though, a coach should take into consideration where and why a diver is too close to the springboard before making a correction to fix that problem. Unless it's their head that is too close ... then move the dive away!