Keep It Simple Stupid! It may be overused and cliché, but in diving, and in coaching in general, this acronym is extremely important. Essentially it states that the simpler a concept, the easier it is to learn.
How does this relate to diving? The more complicated an instruction, correction, definition or coaching technique, the less likely it will be understood or followed.
Considering the fact that a diver (especially a young age group diver) may only hear 20% of what is being said during a practice – just like Charlie Brown and the teacher, blah, blah, blah, the more instructions you give or the more points you try to make, the less chance that the diver will listen and understand.
Sometimes this might be difficult when there are so many things that need to be addressed, but by concentrating on one point at a time, there is a better chance that a change will take place and the coach will not be repeating the same instruction over, and over, and over ...
2. Stress Fundamentals
Fundamentals are the basis for good diving, and good athletic success. Fundamentals should be stressed all the time whether the diver is a beginner, a high school freshman, or an elite diver. Fundamentals need to be taught from the beginning, during the middle of the season, and at the end.
The learning of fundamentals should be constant process. Even professional football players still must focus on blocking and tackling despite the fact that they are at the top of their profession. Fundamentals form the base from which harder and more challenging dives can be done correctly and for better scores.
3. Break Skills Down
Breaking a dive down into simple individual skills and teaching those simple skills is the most effective way to teach a dive. Asking a diver to do a forward 1 1/2 in pike without first learning entries, a hurdle, proper pike position, come outs, ect., is going to be less effective than teaching the parts first.
Don’t get me wrong, most divers will get better by practicing a dive repeatedly, but most divers will never reach a level of excellence unless they first learn and master the parts. Of course, the amount of time a diver practices comes into play, but in a perfect world you break all skills down to smaller parts and practice them repeatedly.
Breaking skills down is somewhat of an extension of stressing fundamentals, but even fundamentals such as a simple entry into the water can be broken down into smaller parts such as a flat hand, body posture and head alignment. Simple movements are the easiest to teach and offer the best chance for success.
4. Compliment Sandwich
John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches and educators that has ever lived, always endeavored to start with a compliment, added his instruction or critique, and ended with a compliment. It is known as a compliment sandwich. The first compliment will ease the pain of the critique, and the second compliment helps to rebuild the confidence.
By using this technique a coach is much more likely to get his or her point across rather than stepping right into a mind boggling and detailed description of what went wrong with a dive. And if it was good enough for John Wooden (10 NCAA basketball championships in a 12 year span), then it should be good enough for most coaches!
5. Playing Games
Playing games, having a competition, testing skills …. no matter what you want to call it, having some type of competition during practice makes the drudgery of repeating skills a lot more fun than doing the same thing over and over without end. And this is especially important with younger divers whose attention span may be much shorter than your frustration level!
There are unlimited ways to do this - scoring lineups, see who has the best standing front dive tuck or who can touch the board on a back press and jump. And their should always be a reward such as getting a jolly rancher for an eight on a lineup!
An important point about a game or competition is that this should be the culmination of what goes on during a practice or over a week of practice. It’s not as effective to have a competition at the start of practice and then trying to teach a skill.
6. Lesson PlansTeachers have a lesson plan for every day that they spend with their class. Since a diving coach is in essence a teacher, it follows that a diving coach should also have a lesson plan.
The best reason to develop a lesson plan is that it maximizes the time with your divers (students). With the limited time that many coaches get to spend with divers in the pool, you want to make sure that you are not wasting time thinking about what you are going to do during the first 15 minutes of practice.
A second reason that a lesson plan is important is that you can structure a practice toward a goal. Different skills when put together lead to a conclusion, such as all skills leading to the improvement of reverse optionals – back lineups, front jumps, reverse dives tuck, reverse somersaults and whalla, a great reverse 1 1/2!
Lesson plans also allow a coach, who may become as distracted as their divers during a practice, to stay on task. So create a lesson plan and put it down on paper, so you as don't forget what plan is. Create a lesson plan, and stick to it!
7. Be Positive
Sometimes it is really hard to be positive when the same mistake is made time and time again and it can be frustrating. But every coach needs to be positive. Happy divers will always do better than those who are constantly berated for their mistakes. And happy and engaged divers want to come back for more!