So often you see and hear about a split tuck, or a cowboy tuck. It definitely has its detractors and supporters, but the truth is somewhere in between about this diving technique – it can be beneficial, but only to a point.
What Is A Split Tuck
First things first … what is split tuck. A split tuck can be defined as a tuck position in which the legs separate and move outward from an imaginary line that runs through the center of the body. As a diver splits their tuck, their shape changes from a tight ball (considered to be the proper tuck position) to a more horizontally elongated or flattened shape.
A split tuck can vary from one in which a diver’s knees slightly separate and the toes still touch, to one where flat feet and knees sit a foot outside the ears.
Legal or Illegal?
A split tuck is not technically illegal, meaning you are not going to be disqualified for using it. But it can affect the way a dive is scored by the judges.
According to FINA rules – the international governing body for the sport of diving, and the rule generally followed by USA Diving, the Amateur Athletic Union, and the NCAA, a split tuck is a common form error in which “the diver opens the knees and feet in the tuck,” with the result that the dive “is not perceived to be aesthetically pleasing.”
If this does occur, there are no mandatory deductions, but the judge is empowered to deduct from ½ to 2 points (1-2 in the NCAA) based on their own perception as to how the split tuck affected the overall impression of the dive.
In layman’s terms: if the split is wide and obvious, the judge is probably going to deduct for it.
Should You Split Your Tuck?
That really depends on what dive is being done. At times it can be appropriate, but then again, it can be inappropriate.
When a diver splits their tuck they need to consider whether the benefits of that split are worth the possible loss of points. So that brings up a good question: why split your tuck.
I Want to Spin Faster
So what is the benefit of splitting your tuck?
There are generally two valid reasons why a diver would split their tuck, and it begins with spinning – an essential component to diving!
As a diver splits their tuck they reduce the radius about which they are spinning. When this happens, it makes the diver spin faster as a result of the principle of conservation of angular momentum.
Picture a ball on a string attached to a poll. The longer the string the farther the ball must travel to make a complete arc; the shorter the string the shorter the time to travel. That may be a bit simplistic, but do you get the picture?
Reason number two is that if you split your tuck it allows the diver to see between the legs and as a result, they can pick up visual clues easier in order to help them use a technique called visual spotting. Another important concept if you want to stop the spin!
Law of Diminishing Returns
As with many things in life, a good thing can only go so far and that is true about splitting your tuck. Pulling your legs apart wider and wider does not mean you will spin faster and faster.
The concept of pulling the legs out wider and spinning faster only works if; when the legs move out, the chest moves closer to the divers’ center of mass and the spinning axis. In other words, the chest goes down as the legs go wide.
Once the legs are split, and the chest is pulled closer to the spinning axis and center of mass, the diver reaches a point where they cannot reduce the spinning radius any further. The problem is that they can keep pulling their legs wider and the tuck can ugh … become aesthetically unappealing.
Why and When
It’s important for coaches and divers to understand why a split tuck can be beneficial, and when it might be appropriate to use.
Many divers and people in general, have a tendency to mimic what they see. If they see the best diver on the team splitting their tuck, or those in the Olympics doing the same, they will mimic the skill without a clue as to why they are doing it.
But if they understand the why’s and when’s of split tuck, it just might help them to move from a front 2 ½ to a front 3 ½.