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A Springboard To Extinction
Wayne Oras

A Springboard To Extinction

The above title was an article in the Aquatic Magazine Jan-Feb 1999. Some of this information was contained in my letter writing campaign in the year prior to the elections for US Diving. US Diving is not to blame for this situation but they did little over the years to curtail it. It is what the grass root coaches have been facing for a lot of years. They are being squeezed out of the pools in their area. Why worry about certifications, when you may not have any diving boards to use?

Since the liability scare in the early 80’s, Risk Management has told lifeguards not to allow people (kids) to do things from the diving boards. In essence these people got the idea that the whistle blowing meant that they were doing something wrong and dangerous. That attitude is probably why many grass roots coaches have a hard time finding kids that want to be competitive divers. Many coaches have had a kid or two come up to them and say that they want to be a diver. The coach finds out that he/she can’t even dive into the water head first. This did not happen over night but it has happened. In their effort to keep the public safe, the Risk Management people went a little over board. Rather than limit what an individual diver does, a blanket policy was established. No one will do this, that or the other thing.

Liability issues are cause for concern for everyone. However, people have to understand Absolute Safety can never be achieved. If the human body or an object or both are in motion, the potential for serious injury will always exist (Informed Consent). Add that to our inability to control someone else’s behavior, and it should be easy to realize that mishaps will always happen. Extreme sports bring extreme injuries. Diving is not an extreme sport or dangerous unless it is done in shallow water. Statistically, I believe, Diving is safer for the divers than the spectators sitting in the bleachers, watching the event. Now that the public doesn’t seem to be enticed to pools to use the diving boards, pool operators are finding other ways of regaining their interest at the local pools. Adding water slides does this very well along with zero depth wave pools. Water circuses, as I call them, add ropes to swing from and things to climb on that float. If new pools are built without deep water, these activities will suffer the same problems that Diving had when it was almost lost in the early 80’s. People (kids) will be playing on these things in shallow water. History has proven any entry into shallow water can have serious consequences.

US Diving only gives out its "Position Paper" to interested parties. They should be giving it out to Risk Management and the Insurance Industry to make it known that Diving is a very safe activity, whether it is supervised by lifeguards or coaches. Not just Competitive Diving but even Recreational diving if the depth is appropriate and lifeguards are present. If diving is no longer available at the recreational level, there will be no grass roots level of diving. As the National Governing Board, US Diving should be monitoring all phases of the activity before it's too late. If the grass roots are eliminated, it won't be long before diving is truly extinct.

I share the coach’s point that US Diving has only been concerned with the Elite Divers. At this point, they had better get more involved at the grass roots level before it’s too late. Eventually every coach will feel the impact of these trends, from the age group coaches up through our National and International coaches. US Diving must support any kind of diving from diving equipment. It can not afford to ignore the places or people who get their introduction to the activity in a daily swim at their local pool. Recreational swims use to be the place where divers came from. They played and learned (practiced) how to do a few dives and got interested in the activity and eventually joined a team. That’s just not happening anymore. Coaches have to search the neighborhoods and entice these kids to try the activity.

In our lawsuit crazed society, we have lost the concept of the word accident. When something happens, it always has to be someone’s fault. Swimming pools are designed to accommodated a lot of different activities. Unfortunately it appears that diving is not going to be one of them unless the National Governing Board and all coaches start doing something about it.

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