So you're interested in getting your child involved in competitive springboard diving. Maybe you have noticed your son or daughter flipping off a diving board at the neighborhood pool, or they have shown interest after seeing a local springboard diving competition.
By following a few simple guidelines, you can be up the ladder and off the diving board in the time it takes to pull out your judging scorecard.
Find a Coach and a Youth Diving Team
It may seem obvious that a coach is needed to teach a forward 2 ½ somersault, but finding an experienced coach and junior springboard diving program is much more important than teaching a particular dive – it’s a safety issue. A coach's expertise and the value of a diving program goes well beyond teaching a particular skill. Springboard civing coaches are licensed professionals whose primary goal is the safety of each participant. And while learning that forward 2 ½ will make you a good diver, the safety of the diver is the most important consideration.
How do you find your first coach?
- Contact Your Local Swimming Pool: If you have a year-round aquatic facility or natatorium in your community, chances are a springboard diving team does exist. A call to one of these facilities can quickly answer your first question.
- USA Diving and the AAU: Check with USA Diving, the National Governing Body for the sport of diving, or the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) for help finding a diving club and coach. Depending on where you live, this may not be an option. Not every town has a spectacular natatorium with a diving well. Many springboard diving teams practice at municipal facilities, high schools, or private pools. Not to worry, both USA Diving and the AAU sanction club diving teams and coaches, and would be more than willing to help a prospective diver find a team and coach.
- Learn to Dive Programs: Many diving programs offer “Learn to Dive” or springboard diving lessons geared toward teaching the basic fundamentals of diving. In these programs, the goal is to teach basic diving skills in a fun and exciting environment with the safety of the participant being the primary concern.
- Research Summer Leagues and Private Instruction: If a full-time springboard diving program is not what you are looking for, many outdoor pools offer summer leagues that can be a great introduction to the sport. If competition is not what you're looking for right away, many of these facilities also offer springboard diving lessons to get any diver started in the right direction.
Assess Your Child’s Ability to Handle Springboard Diving
Learning the skills needed to succeed in diving requires many physical attributes, but above all is the ability to feel comfortable in deep water. Of course the ability to swim is a must, but a prospective diver needs to feel as comfortable in 15 feet of water as they do in the shallow end. This comfort level allows the child to concentrate on learning proper diving skills and to enjoy their time in the pool.
If you feel unsure about your ability to judge your child’s readiness for diving, a local coach can help you assess their current abilities and make recommendations about the future.
Learning to Dive Takes Time
Being able to flip and twist are great attributes in the sport of diving, but fundamentals are the tools that create successful divers. While this is many times lost on young divers who want to throw themselves off the diving board with reckless abandon and limitless energy, it is the role of the parent to help them understand that learning to dive correctly takes time and patience.
Depending on your aspirations in the sport, it may take up to two years before a diver learns the proper skills needed to enter competitive diving. Many diving teams will not let a prospective diver “dive” into the pool for up to a year, preferring to teach proper skills using dryland instruction with tools such as a trampoline and spotting harness.
So if you're excited about becoming part of the diving community, head to your local swimming pool and get ready to dive in!