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A Positive Mental Approach For Diving
Wayne Oras

Originally this article was written in 1969 and some of the points are still pertinent today. It was an early attempt for what has become known as mental imagery or visualization.

Any physical action performed by an individual seems to establish certain psycho-motor patterns (synapses) in the brain that apparently are never forgotten. These patterns would include both gross and fine motor skills. The strength of these patterns depends on the re-enforcement of them according to the law of use (Use it or lose it). Each pattern established may be completely different from others but are organized in the brain simulating an overlay process.

Each pattern may include nerve impulses to various body parts for movement, which are highly sophisticated for proper diving mechanics. They also appear to contain various feeling sensations just as if the individual were actually going through the motions of a dive. When a dive requires a specific pattern for this intricate body movement, the brain will shuffle through its files and pull out the pattern desired (an over-simplified explanation). If there is no such pattern, one will be developed as the individual executes a dive or it will alter one if the actual mechanics of that dive are similar to that of another.

These patterns or mental images are of invaluable aid to a diver because he/she can actually go through a complete workout without stepping on a diving board. As a result of feeling sensations derived from these patterns, a diver prepares physically for a dive much the same as executing numerous dives, only to a lesser degree. This should not be interpreted to mean that we are substituting mental imagery for actual practice. What we are doing is using one to compliment the other.

According to some studies in the field of psychology, the individual is not only exercising the mind and increasing his/her power of concentration but they are also strengthening every portion of these patterns thus allowing for this increase in quality concentration and ultimately the performance.

Each diver should try to recall the proper mechanics and all of the minute feelings involved in executing a good dive. He/she should picture him/herself performing the perfect dive. It would be like watching a movie with them in the lead role, which would include all the sensations a particular dive provides. If the mental images show that he/she has blown the dive, the images should be repeated until a successful attempt has been made.

What we are striving for is not only better understanding and concentration but quality in a diving workout. Each dive performed should be executed as if it were the one being used in competition. In this respect we are trying to achieve consistency of dives with the elimination of as many mistakes (both physical and mental) as possible. By improving the practice sessions, we can improve competitive levels and thus improve the sport of Diving.

When discussing this topic, we must realize that divers in the younger age groups will have difficulty grasping these concepts because of a lack of experience and understanding proper diving mechanics, maturity (both physical and mental) and their limited attention span. Even though these problems exist, we as diving coaches must begin this educational process as soon as possible.

The information in this article was the catalyst for some of the ideas presented on this website. Articles such as "Diving From The Deck", "Using The Water As A Teaching Station", "Using Some Imagination" and "Concept Mapping" are examples. I was searching for ways to help divers make the appropriate connections in various diving sequences so that they would not only understand but be more willing to make that first attempt.

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