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Diving Anyway
Wayne Oras


I realize that at the time of this writing, I am not a full blown member of the organization. I consider myself an adjunct member because my Safety Certification doesnít run out for some time. At anytime during that period I can qualify for the additional requirements and become a member again. The writing I do at this time should make you aware that I have no vested interest here, other than the survival of sport itself. With that idea in mind, I will continue. In my letter writing campaign, I believe that I argued in a negative way to get US Diving to change its course of action. Iím not sure that a difference would have happened if I were more positive. I do know that a lot of US Diving officers were in a defensive posture because of the way I asked questions and the questions I asked.

I went to the 1998 Convention with three thoughts in mind.

1) The membership prices were too high for the coach and diver.

2) Increase in coach certification requirements were statistically unjustified

3) The competitive requirements were too difficult for the younger age groups. I still believe that these items are killing the sport under US Divingís leadership. In order to make a sport grow, you have to find people who are willing to spend the time and effort it takes to run a program. Without coaches, there will be fewer programs and thus less divers. In Illinois, there are over 80 diving coaches at the high school level. I believe that there are less than 10 who get involved in a US Diving affiliated program. Why canít we get more of them involved? Time, money and the requirements for coaches to become certified. If the sport demonstrated an unusual high injury rate and had huge numbers of divers and coaches, then, maybe, the present rationale would be justified. If my memory serves me well, I thought we had something like 600 coaches registered. That would mean, on average, there might be 11 coaches per state in the United States. Some states don't even have that many. At the National level, 600 coaches sounds huge until you apply the figures on a state by state basis. We are small and may get smaller.I still believe that US Diving is shooting itself in the foot where part time, grass root coaches are concerned.

The cost of insurance was another area of concern in my letters. At the convention, it was decided that nothing could be done about the costs for insurance and membership. It was shrugged off as the cost of doing business. One coach in Illinois has done something about that. He has acquired the same type of coverage as that of US Diving but for much less. Because of this, almost 150 divers and a few coaches will not be a part of US Diving. They have found a way to break away. That does not make the organization look good just as the dissatisfaction of some of the registered coaches doesnít help the cause. In order to increase the number of competitors, the activity must be fun. Diving under US Diving has become way too serious, especially for the grass roots diver. I still can't figure out how we can require some of the harder skills to be performed by the divers with the least amount of skill and exposure to the sport. These are the entry level kids at the grass roots level. The entry level is where we should be able to hook the interest of the diver by having some fun and success. Instead they are put through a series of monotonous and sometimes difficult skills and drills that arenít fun. Some how they must be lured into the sport because itís fun. Once they are hooked, then the serious side can be exploited. At the age group level, too many kids are lost before they reach high school level. Itís too much work or itís not fun. I think the initial certification for US Diving was a good idea because it makes people think about what they are doing. Hopefully, it keeps them away from lawsuits.

Education is the key to safety. Beyond this certification, I believe that US Diving is stepping out of bounds. It can not regulate all facets of coaching or what a diver should be doing. Even if I were to get the additional certifications, as I understand the situation, some State codes suggest that I can not do two jobs at the same time. Meaning, I can not be a lifeguard and a coach at the same time. If that is the case, then when Iím in the pool I have to choose whether Iím going to be a lifeguard or a coach. This is a decision I should not have to make. The coach should be the person who decides what his/her program needs. The use of spotting belts is great and everyone knows that it speeds up learning time. Itís a great teaching aid. But what do you do when you have a tramp, spotting rigs and belts and can not use them in or near your facility? Dick Kimball said he couldnít imagine teaching without the use of a tramp. Many places will not allow the trampoline or trampolette on their property. This is the decision of their Risk Management Department. Right or wrong the coach is stuck with this limitation. Some coaches ignore that decision and use them anyway. Can US Diving afford litigation for these people if something serious happens? Things seem to be getting more complicated. When a diver does a dive, s/he can not afford complicated thought because it seems to paralyze the actions they must perform. When an organization becomes too complicated, it also becomes paralyzed.I believe that this is what is happening to US Diving. It has become too focused in certain areas that it can not stop becoming more complicated.

When is enough enough? How safe is safe enough? Whoís definition of safety do we follow? When does the idea of safety actually interfere with coaching the sport? I believe that we are there right now. Breaking down skills to more manageable pieces to get a diver to understand and be successful is fine. But how long does a diver stay at the piece stage and never get back to the whole stage? This is the complication in novice diving. Divers spend entire careers perfecting mechanics for their dives. Breaking down into finer pieces seems to keep some divers from developing a career at all. They begin doubting their abilities when they canít master a particular skill and remain a novice or intermediate forever. This does not increase the numbers that will have any effect on the upper competitive level. All of these lower level areas are fine but if these divers donít ever move up to the regular age group competition, the numbers we need to help increase our competitive performance are not there. I donít see the intermediate, novice or skills challenge increasing the large base numbers I have often referred to. Yes, we do see more divers total but not the total of quality divers we need to make the whole program better. It, therefore, becomes a separate program in itself. We have lost our world dominance in the sport for a variety of reasons and one of those reasons is the lack of emphasis on the grass roots programs. Only now we seem to be seeing some interest at the top in the grass roots. But they are still hindered by requirements that appear to be too hard for most entry level kids to pick up. Again more complications.

To limit the future of the sport, as has been the case thus far, means having a small base of divers. The smaller the base, the less competitive it is all the way up to the top. If the base is not enlarged, the top wonít get any better either. Competition from within the organization encourages improvement more than competition from outside the country. Everything that US Diving has done since the Chinese Way was introduced, has made the gap between the elite diver and other divers wider. This, I am sure, was not the intention at the start, but is the reality of circumstance. It must to go the other way if we intend to be a World contender again. It all starts with the grass roots. I do not believe that people in the organization are aware of current trends in the aquatic arena. Many places that once had diving boards, have replaced them with water slides or other types of aquatic equipment designed to bring in more patrons.

The bottom line is money. My particular program is being squeezed by the insertion of water slides. Most diving programs do not generate a lot of income for the pool operators. What better way to generate more income? Some programs share the pool with other activities. Syncro swim, water polo, open swims and lessons may be going on at the same time as a diving workout. Simultaneous activity times seem to be way of generating income along with better facility usage. More programs may be lost or squeezed out because of this trend.

When talk of SAFETY happens, is it safe when multiple distractions happen during a diving workout? These distractions can be open swimmers using the boards at the same time, swimmers going back and forth under the boards during their workout, to slides and other water activities that interrupt the diverís concentration. Many diving programs have to operate under these conditions or not operate at all. (See article "A Springboard to Extinction" under Current Topics.)

At the convention, it was mentioned that there were some diving accidents that happened during practices or on the way to and from meets. The number was divided and represented a percentage that was spread out on a per club basis. If I recall correctly, there were some 300 clubs. There was no mention of accidents happening to the non-club affiliated (unattached) diver. I am referring to the diver who may or may not have a certified coach or a coach at all and is not a member of a club. By inference, they seem to be the safer of all of the divers. To me this says the difference is the certified club coach.

I am now beginning to question the Safety Certification process all together. At this point in time, I can still run a diving program. I can get the same insurance coverage, if ever needed. I can be involved in local meets, that donít have national sanctions or requirements that must be followed. For me, all of this will happen with less expense and less hassles than under US Divingís leadership. If all of this were true, then why would I still be writing letters to people in US Diving? The answer is simple. To get you to reconsider all the opportunities coaches are being forced to take advantage of now and in the future.

All Iím trying to do now is keep the sport alive in my area.

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