Without question, diving is a fun but challenging sport. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to become successful and the rewards are almost always worth it.
What may offer an even bigger challenge for athletes who decide to become involved in diving is competing on the high school level.
Many high school divers enter into their freshman year prepared to dive in high school – having learned in age group diving the necessary fundamentals to be competitive, but many others have no idea or no preparation for what is required of them when they step into their first practice or competition.
Here are six important aspects of high school competition that every diver should understand to better prepare them for interscholastic competition.
If you want to compete in high school diving at the varsity level you need at least six dives, and that will allow you to compete in dual meets.
A six dive list, commonly known as a dual meet list, is used – as one might suspect, during dual meets. Dual meets are competitions in which two teams compete against each other, or perhaps three that compete in a tri-meet.
Within a six dive list, at least one dive must come from each of the diving categories: forward, back, reverse, inward and twisting. The sixth dive may come from the category of the diver’s choice, but cannot be a previously used dive.
Competing in a dual meet though, is really only a means to an end as the real competition in high school is the championship format.
To compete in a championship meet, such as a regional or state championship, a diver needs eleven dives; one voluntary dive from each of the five diving categories, one optional dive from each of the five categories, and a sixth optional dive that can come from any of the categories.
The kicker here is that if you are new to the sport and want to compete in championship meets, learning eleven quality dives in the space of a four to five month season can be very difficult. A new diver must not only learn dives from the reverse and inward category, but also must have two dives that come from the twisting category!
For those who have already competed in USA Diving or the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), an eleven dive meet poses another twist because it adds additional dives that they do not normally compete under age group rules. This may not be a difficult task, but it may change the way they normally train.
The championship format of high school diving includes a preliminary round (five dives), semifinals (three dives) and finals (three dives). After each of these rounds divers are cut, or removed from the competition.
This manner of competition is only used in high school competition. Other institutions such as the NCAA, USA Diving and the AAU do use prelims and finals, but in their formats the divers perform all their dives before being cut – an entirely different animal than being removed from the competition after doing less than 50% of your dives.
So why is this important to understand? Because learning to compete in high school diving means learning how to structure you diving list so that you can survive each “cut” and make it to finals.
Needless to say, a diver who wants to make finals would not want to put their worst five dives at the beginning of their diving list. So learning to highlight your best dives, and hide your worst in a diving list is essential to success, not to mention your and your opponents psyche!
One thing that separates the divers who are successful at the high school level is the ability to perform twisting dives well. The ability to perform dives such as a forward 1 ½ somersaults with one twist, or a back somersault with 1 ½ twists, can be a huge advantage, especially in an eleven dive contest.
Since a twisting dive is required in the first seven dives, the ability to perform a twister for adequate scores can mean the difference between being cut after the semifinals and returning for finals.
High school rules can be difficult to understand for many divers, simply because in many instances they are different than those used by the AAU and USA Diving.
The competition format and judging scales are different, the rules governing hitting the board, crow hops and twisting dives are different, and you certainly do not want to be caught with pony tail holder on your wrist during the competition.
Not only are some of the rules different, but many of the officials who judge competitions do not have a diving background which can result in inconsistent scoring.
This can be a shock for divers who come from an age group background, and down right confusing for those who are new to the sport.
How does a diver deal with these bumps in the road? One way is to only concern yourself with your training and performance. A second is to simply be aware that there are going to be bumps and that it is the nature of high school diving.
What is the high school season for swimming and diving in your state? You might be surprised to know that unlike basketball, baseball or track, different states have different seasons for swimming and diving, and many times the genders are also separated by season.
In Kentucky swimming and diving is a winter sport, while in California it is a spring sport. In Colorado, the girl's compete in the winter and the men in the spring. These varied seasons can make it a challenge for divers who compete in multiple sports or for those who train for a competitive diving season outside of high school.
So make sure you know at what time of year that your high school federation sponsors their season.
Learning eleven dives in the space of a few months is difficult. Learning to do them well is another challenge, while learning dives with enough difficulty to be competitive can take more than one season.
That is why if a diver wants to compete at a high level - well enough to qualify for a regional, sectional or state championship, it is advisable to dive outside of the high school season.
Without question, the divers who find the most success in high school are those who dive in year-round programs. If that is not something that you either desire or are able to accomplish, it is still a big help to find outside coaching when not in season: maybe a diving camp here or there, or just diving in a summer league, but spending six months without diving will make it very hard to pick up where you left off at the end of the previous season.