SPRINGBOARD DIVING A BORE?
Olympic Diving Coach and Judge, formerIndiana
Perhaps it may seem strange for a person who has been involved in
competitive diving for over thirty years to feel that competitive
springboard diving could be a bore but when observing the whole
diving program as it is now presented, it is difficult to recognize
that it is anything but a real drag.
One needs to simply observe the empty stands at our national
diving championships to realize that diving offers little spectator
appeal. In talking with
divers ranging from the age group level to the best divers in
the world, I found that nearly all agreed that much could be done
to make competitive diving more interesting and rewarding.
How diving can be interesting to the spectator and competitor
when seventy or eighty divers all perform swan dives, back dives,
etc. as was done at our recent National A.A.U. and N.C.A.A. Diving
Championships is a question that will have to be answered if the
sport of diving is to progress or even survive.
Obviously, no person this day and age can stir up too much
excitement or interest in participating or watching such repetitious
To understand better how little competitive
diving has progressed by
way of interest and appeal to all
concerned, let's go back to the very beginning when competitive
diving was introduced to this country at the turn of the century. At that time there were around twenty-five
dives to chose from in the diving tables, the facilities were
few and radical in design, and there was a skimpy number of competitors
in most meets. Since then, tremendous improvements have been
made in facilities, which number in the thousands; the number
of competitors has increased to well over a hundred thousand;
and the number of dives in the diving tables has almost tripled.
Yet, with all of these improvements, the diving contests
have changed from a four compulsory and four optional dive contest
to one with five required and six optionals.
Surely with all the vast improvements made over the years
some imaginative effort could be made to improve the contests.
In approaching competitive diving from this view, several interesting
questions arise such as "Why hasn't the diving programs changed
more with the times?" or "How do we offer a better program
which may prove interesting and satisfying to all concerned?"
To answer the first question, we must be somewhat familiar with
the manner in which our diving rules and regulations are formed.
All amateur athletic contests fall under the auspices of
two governing bodies in the United States which are the National
Amateur Athletic Union and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
In reference to diving, these two governing bodies adopt
their rules, almost to the letter, from the world governing body
of amateur athletics, which is the Federation Internationale de
Natacion Amateur (F.I.N.A.). This world organization governs all
of the rules and regulations used in conducting such international
contests as the Olympic games and the Pan American Games. Therefore, our rules rarely deviate from those
of F.I.N.A. for if they did, our chances of competing well at
the international level could be seriously hindered. For example, if we in the United States decided to use a different
set of compulsory dives than now used, our divers would have difficulty
competing well in the Olympics or other international contests
for we would have perfected and practiced dives not used in these
competitions. It then becomes clear that if any country changes
or modifies its administrative rules for diving without the acceptance
or adoption of F.I.N.A., these changes could actually hinder rather
than help diving in that country.
This perhaps more than anything is the reasons why diving has not progressed further in this country or other
countries throughout the world.
Let us now consider what may be done to make diving more interesting
for the diver and the spectator.
First, diving contests have always been presented as individual
contests for men and women. This
means that the competitor has always been completely dependent
upon his own performance for the outcome of the contest.
However, if we take note of other sports such as tennis
and offered doubles competitions where two men, two women, and/or
a combined team where a man competes with a woman, then perhaps
we would have some foundation for making competitive diving more
challenging, stimulating, and appealing.
Of course such a proposal creates immediate questions concerning
the time needed to conduct these contests and the method to be
used in selectiag the dives for each competition.
At first glance everyone will agree that we already have too many
divers for the little time we have to conduct our present diving
program so why compound the problem by adding more events.
This may be answered in part by considering on holding
the doubles contests at other times than the singles contests. For example, the doubles competitions for national championships
could be held on or near Christmas vacation for the winter season
and in late June for the summer season.
Meets of less importance could add variety to their programs
by staging the doubles meets on other weekends than the singles
events. If doubles contests were offered early in the season, divers would
have better reason for getting into condition sooner without the
stress of executing a full list of dives for, as is explained
later, each diver would have to perform only five or six dives.
Other positive features in offering doubles contests can be seen
in the opportunity of divers developing teamwork and dependence
on one another while competing.
It would also offer divers who can execute some dives well
but may be somewhat deficient in other phases of diving to team
up with another diver having opposite strengths and weaknesses
and form a strong team. This
could result in youngsters becoming champions when diving as a
team when they may never be able to be so when competing as an
individual. Mixed doubles events could also be helpful
to the program by encouraging the use of girls in diving programs
that have normally been for boys.
High schools and colleges have long neglected girls in
their sport programs but if mixed doubles were a part of the competition
in our age group, national and international programs these institutions
may be a little more respectable to girls in the future.
As for these events offering interest to the spectator
and diver, there seems to be little doubt that a contest involving
Cynthia Potter and Jim Henry matched with Micki King and Craig
Lincoln would prove most exciting. These added events would also provide support for a legitimate team
championship in meets only offering diving events.
Another point to be considered in creating more interest and appeal
for competitive diving is the selection of dives to be used in
the contests. Most will
agree that the present rules requiring all divers to perform the
same compulsory dives do little to stimulate the interests of
anyone. However, if the
divers were permitted to select a dive from each of the groups
with the total degrees of difficulty placed at a certain limit,
as in men's platform diving, then the selection of dives from
the diving tables could be vast.
It should be noted at this point that competitive divers
normally use less than 251 of the dives listed in the diving tables.
The above suggestion would not only encourage more use
of dives, thus offering a little more variety in the competitions,
but it would also permit divers a chance to execute dives they
can perform well but have not been able to use in competition
because of a low degree of difficulty.
This system of selecting compulsory dives would also be
ideal in doubles and mixed doubles events.
The manner in which the mixed doubles competitions could be conducted
is many. The contest could
include five compulsory and five optional dives or six required
and six optionals. Of
course each diver would perform the same number of dives but which
diver would perform what dives would depend on the rules formulated.
In a contest involving six compulsory dives, if the divers
were compelled to execute the dives as presently stated in our
rules, a slight deviation could be made to allow the sixth compulsory
dive to be selected from Group V, the twisting group.
A choice could be given to the two divers of the same team
by permitting them to each select a dive with a half twist from
the forward, back, reverse, or inward group and give these four
dives the same degree of difficulty.
Some may first believe that a great deal more practice would be needed
when adding more even*.s to the program. Actually, this is doubtful for most of the dives used in the doubles
events would be the same as those used in the singles events. The divers may have to practice two or three
extra dives in a workout but this would be of little consequence.
In conclusion, it has been stated here that there is great difficulty
in changing rules relevant to those used for conducting competitions.
In like manner, an attempt was also made to point out some
changes that could stimulate interest and excitement for all diving
if competitive springboard diving isn't changed to some degree,
it may be in for a very bleak future.
Therefore, the crux of the whole problem seems to be based on the
question that if certain changes are good for diving, how can
such changes be made? It is suggested here that the officials
conducting meets at the local and state levels try employing doubles
events and analyze their effect on the divers and spectators. If such events indicate interest, then similar
events should be proposed at the national level. Similarly, if these events are effective at
the national level, then it is only a matter of time before they
are submitted to F.I.N.A. for international approval.
Sweden has already taken some imaginative initiative for
creating interest by developing a contest based on an elimination
tournament and it has proven very successful.
We in the United states should follow suit in accepting
the challenge of change and it would not be surprising to this
writer if we found better ways of conducting our meets.
Gradually, making changes of this nature requires the diving
people of this country introduced insight, imagination, and courage
but many of the rules now used by F.I.N.A. and I am sure that
we have much more to offer. We
are always saying that the contests are for the "kids".
Then if this is so, let's stop putting them to sleep by
confining them to rigid and repetitious contests where they have
little fun, no chance for teamwork, little opportunity to mix
or compete with the opposite sex, have limited freedom of choice
of dives, and really have no real chance to get much more than
. . . bored.