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What's up Down Under
Mike Martens


Senior /Open System, Structure of Australia
by Mike Martins from Down Under, Adelaide Australia

Senior /Open System, Structure

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is the national training center in Brisbane.  There are also State Institute for Sport. The main ones are South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.  Not all of the State Institutes have elite (open international level) diving programs.  Presently, divers who make up Australia’s national teams and who are considered to be Olympic hopefuls are training at the AIS, South Australia or New South Wales Institutes for Sport. Also known as High Performance Centers,  those SI’s have made a serious commitment to diving by providing facilities, elite coaches and other support services. At SASI, my divers and I have easy access to physiologists, strength and conditioning experts, sports psychology, physical therapists, massage therapists, video expertise and administrative support. One of the best things about the Institute is being in an environment of international sport. The fraternity of coaches and athletes includes some of the best in the world in their respective sports.  Divers on the elite squad at each HPC are offered scholarships that cover coaching and training fees, travel and equipment and the above listed services.  Junior divers or others who train at  HPC’s but who are not yet “elite,” have various levels of scholarship. The HPC’s are results driven. Programs that have athletes who achieve internationally better their chances for funding (See results theme below under Turnaround)

Having Australia’s elite divers located at one of the HPC’s allows for consistent and close management of their development.  This management comes primarily from the Australian Diving Association’s (ADA) High Performance Manager (counterpart to USA Technical Director) currently, Valerie Beddoe.  National coaches and divers are accountable to Valerie and Elite Management Committee.  She usually travels with the National Team serving as the manager and evaluating competition performances and team dynamics. Valerie provides an objective, critical eye on the progress of  National Team divers and the overall status of the National Team.  While coaches are independent in how we train divers, we must submit a detailed training plan to the HPM bi-annually.  The plan must explain our strategy for achieving international results with our divers. Besides dry-land and diving training, strategies for using sports medicine and other support services must be addressed.  Having the elite programs in only a few locations affords the HPM the opportunity to visit and monitor their progress and consistency with the training plan.

The advent of diving HPC’s is relatively new.  Only in the past 2-3 years has there been dedicated programs that can compete with the AIS, which has been established for 15 years.  Of course, at the national championships and in national team selection meets, there is healthy competition between the divers and coaches of the respective sports institutes. There is a general consensus that the competition is a good thing and that it has made Australian diving stronger. Beyond those competitions though, there is a genuine commitment from all of the National coaches to put Australian Diving ahead of their individual programs. There is one goal common to all coaches and divers –Australia achieving successful international results. Opinions will vary as to whether that is the case in the U.S.A. 

The differences between Australian and American diving systems are rooted in Australia’s complete focus on international results.  This focus combined with successful strategies and strong determination from coaches and divers has propelled Australia near the top of the diving world.   (In short, Australian divers train at HPC for international results.  Most U.S. divers train at Universities with many restrictions on training and a focus on national results)  Advantage:Australia

The Turnaround

Not too long ago, the focus here was primarily domestic. That is, coaches and athletes directed their efforts to making  the national team and then competing internationally. Generally, the mindset was that if you made the team, got the outfitting, and got on the plane – you had “made it.”  With the exception of a few outstanding individual performances, Australia’s ordinary international results reflected that mindset.

Two important initiatives changed that. First, the employment of Chinese coaches at the AIS revolutionized Australia’s dryland training regime, resulting in a higher level of fitness and better fundamental skills among the national divers.  Additionally, they demanded a much stronger work ethic.

The second initiative was to implement  Olympic Athlete Program (OAP) standards as used by other sports.  This “raised the bar” for Australian divers and put the focus on getting results, not simply making the team.  Using scores from the most recent World Championships and World Cup or Olympic Games, three OAP levels are determined:  A = top 3 in the world,  B = top 6 in the world,  C = top 12 in the world. To achieve OAP status, a diver must post a score in a given category twice each six months.  The score must be achieved in national or international competition. In addition to funding incentives in the program, divers must be at least OAP C athletes to represent Australia’s National Team in international competition.  Simply placing high nationally will not earn a spot on the team.  The harsh reality is if a diver finishes in first or second place in a trials meet and doesn’t make at least a “C” score, he or she stays home! The philosophy is, if the diver doesn’t have the chance to make the finals and have a run at a medal, it is a waste of money to send him or her.

Initially the divers’ reaction to this policy was predictable.  They were not pleased.

Now that the policy has a track record, the athletes believe in the process. They like the high standard and indeed they have risen to it.  They know that whoever is representing the national team has put in the work necessary to compete with the best divers in the world.  After raising the bar two-and-one-half years ago and sticking with this policy, Australia’s recent international results speak for themselves – number two nation behind China at the ’99 World Cup.

Membership/Junior Competition

The states of Victoria and New South Wales have recently experimented with “Talent Identification” to lure youngsters into diving and efforts have begun to formulate a formal program.  As in the US, the majority of divers start diving by chance – they have a friend involved or they see it at their local pool and they want to try it. 

Within the states there are “levels” meets similar to novice and intermediate meets in the U.S.A.  These meets allow divers of virtually any skill level and regardless of age, to compete.

There is also state and national competition at the junior level, where FINA rules are followed.   That is where I see a big difference to the U.S.A.  FINA rules are less demanding – fewer dives are required in each age group, divers 15 and younger are limited to 5m and 7.5m platform and it is possible to be successful until the age of 16 without using a back or reverse optional.  In the Australian junior nationals, there was very few back and reverse optionals performed and even fewer good ones, especially in the 15 and younger age groups.  U.S. Diving’s junior rules are more demanding and particularly the 13 and under rules, facilitate better fundamental skills and higher difficulty dives.     Advantage:USA

Popularity of Diving

As in the USA it is one of the most watched sports during the Olympics.  Fox Television televises all of the Open nationals and Grand Prix meets, as well as 2-3 “staged” diving events per year.  The staged events are usually Australia vs. another country or an interstate challenge.  These events are televised in decent time slots, too!  Despite that  I have heard many coaches say that they want larger teams, more new divers.  There is definitely room for growth at the grass roots level. Similar to the US, clubs are always looking for young, talented boys.  Just for comparison - there are about 150 divers at the junior nationals and about 60 at the Open nationals.  Remember though the population here is only 18 million.

Upcoming Olympics

The level of enthusiasm for all sports is very high, now.  The effect on diving has been more unity among national team divers.  Everyone is looking at the “big picture” – how the national team is preparing for 2000 and how they are performing internationally.  The results at the World Cup have were really a confidence builder and the determination to win medals in Sydney is high.  As stated above for Australian Diving – the big picture is on everyone’s mind.  The games being here has contributed to that…..A strong showing in Sydney will most definitely raise the status of diving in the eyes of the sporting community, but more particularly, The Australian Sports Commission, the peak national funding body.



Not any obstacles per se.  We don’t yet have the lawsuit mentality here, as in the U.S. All coaches and divers are required to have insurance but it is not the major concern that it is in the US.   Fortunately we don’t have all of the problems and concerns that the NCAA always raises.   Of course, diving is always striving for more funding from the ASC.  More funding is dependent on international results.  With more money, diving can implement more programs, etc.  In my opinion, getting more boys in the sport and raising the level of junior diving and coaching are two areas that need improvement.

Top Divers

Robert Newberry, Dean Pullar, Steven Barnett, Shannon Roy, Scott Weeks,Lynda Folauhola, Rebecca Gilmour, Chantelle Michele, Loudy Tourky

In summary, I think that the system here has a good blend of centralization and intra- national competition.  The HPC’s allow for some centralization of resources and hence are able to offer all of the things I listed above.  Having several of them allows for individuality and differences in the programs.  I am enjoying working in this environment and I am looking forward to the challenges presented in the next 18 months.

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