I spend a lot of time on this site talking about USA Diving, the national governing body for the sport of diving; at the Olympics, at the world championships and the world cup, and at the national championships. But not much about Joe diver who competes locally at one of the many invitational meets that take place throughout the year.
Many of these divers are members of USA Diving, but for every member who aspires to a national title, there is also another diver whose focus is more regional or local in nature - high school divers, summer league divers, divers who those who may never make it out of a USA Diving regional qualifying event or those who are just trying to get there.
These divers are the backbone of sport, and a large majority compete in competitions sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union.
USA Diving vs. The AAU
There was a point at which the AAU sought to challenge USA Diving for prominence in the sport. This was, and would be a very difficult task considering that USA Diving has the charter from the U.S. Olympic Committee and FINA as the body that trains and chooses those divers that are selected to compete at the world championships and Olympic Games, and that after a long drought came away with four medals at the London Olympics.
It has always been an uphill battle and one that to be honest, the AAU is probably not going to win. But what the AAU has done, and done successfully is to focus on those divers who will never get to a national championship but still have the desire to be a part of, and compete in the sport.
These divers are, as I said, the backbone of the sport in the U.S.
If you look at DiveMeets.com, an entity that helps to run many of the meets in the U.S., you can get a pretty good barometer of the number of competitions that take place over the course of the year. This does not include all the meets that are conducted, but it does give a good indication of the balance of events.
During the past 12 months (2011-2012, not counting October of 2012), the number of competitions listed shows 89 meets for USA Diving and 59 for the AAU. But looking deeper, all but two of those meets conducted and posted on DiveMeets were invitational events, with the remainder being two national championship events.
On the other hand, 44 USA Diving meets conducted and posted on DiveMeets were of an invitational format and the remainder (38) were either national championship events or qualifying events for nationals.
The point being: the AAU is doing what it set out to do by offering opportunities for those divers who are not elite and want more than two regional qualifying meets a year. And at the heart of this effort has always stood the invitational diving meet, which makes up almost all of the AAU's competitions.
A Healthy Balance
Currently a healthy balance seems to have taken hold, with the AAU offering competitions that are not national championships or qualifying events, on a regular basis. Whereas USA Diving, while not exclusively, is primarily focused on elite development and the race to the top.
This might be a bit of an oversimplification, but I don’t think that it is a stretch to make that statement. And it is good for the sport, just as competition is good for athletes and it is good in business. There is definitely a place for both, as long as their relationship is not contentious and mutually beneficial.
Of course there are many other factors that come into play such as pricing and insurance, but that topic is probably better left for another day.
Right now though, the two coexist with the goal of exposing more and more athletes to the sport of diving and to the excitement of competition.