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Is Diving A Bore ?
Hobbie Billingley


Hobie Billingsley

Olympic Diving Coach and Judge, formerIndiana University coach

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 contests.

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 enthusiasts. Apparently, 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.

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