Take Your Marks! Go! (How to Dive of a Starting Block)

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Feb 12, 2011

Take Your Marks! Go! (How to Dive of a Starting Block)

Last time, we were discussing the proper streamline during a dive and also some basic exercises to get us more comfortable jumping and diving into the water. Today, we'll build on top of what we have learned and add a few more diving steps before we move onto a proper start from a block.

When you are comfortable with the sitting dive and squatting dive you can move on to practicing the following exercises. Note of caution, perform the below exercises only in a pool which as a deep end otherwise you are risking an injury by hitting the bottom.

1) Standing pseudo-dive - You are almost there, just a few more drills and you will be able to dive. Here you will require an assistance from someone who is quite strong and can carry some of your weight. If you are teaching your children, you will need to be the one here. Here it goes. Put your feet to the side of the pool (about one foot apart), toes over the edge and your arms in the streamline. Head is between the arms. Now start slowly moving your upper body with you arms towards the water. At this point, the other person who is helping you out will stand next to you and grabs you by the hips from both sides and gently leans you over the water, so you are about to enter, but not enter, because they are holding you. Your feet are still planted on the wall, so the supporting person is only helping you shift weight forward, so you can feel how it is going to be when you do it by yourself. You will end up in a downward "V" with the tip being the top of your butt (on the top). If you are comfortable in this position, you can let the supporting person know and they will let you go, so you can finish the dive. If you are not comfortable, just ask them to bring you back to the vertical position and try it again.

2) Standing dive - This diving drill is basically the same as the one above, except you are going to do this by yourself, therefore, you will have to travel a bit of a longer distance to the water. Let's start by moving into the streamline position as we discussed in our previous lesson, put your toes over the edge of the water (Note: once again, this is best done where the water sloshes over the edge into the gutter). When you are all set, bend your knees a little and start slowly bending at your upper back and waist towards the water. Depending on your flexibility, you will want to start bending your knees as well, so you can get your fingertips as close to the water as possible. This time, however, do not wait to shift your weight forward until your fingertips touch the water. When your fingertips are pointing about 1/2 meter(yard) from the edge of the pool you can start shifting your weight forward, so you move fingertips first into the water, followed by your nicely tucked in head and then your body. Remember, do not be tempted to look where you are going, just keep your head tucked into your arms and watch your legs. You will enter the water at an angle away from the wall. Just imagine that there is a floating ring on top of the water and your body needs to go through it without touching the sides. Your fingertips go first, then your head and shoulder, chest, hips, knees and then your feet. If you are still unclear, just mouse over the image of the stick figure and you will get some more explanation.

3) Standing dive with an assist - If you find it difficult to do the above standing dive by yourself, you can have your friend help you. The basics are the same as the regular standing dive, except at the time you start to enter the water, your friend or parent will cut your legs from underneath of you. Don't be scared, this sounds much worse than it is. Instruct your buddy to squat down next to you and put his/her forearm in front of your ankles and when you are entering the water, he/she will simply help you move your legs upward with sweeping their forearm away from the pool toward your legs in a slightly upward motion.

4) Sitting dive from the block - In a similar manner we did the sitting dive drill from the side of the pool, we will do the same from the block. If you feel that the block is still too high at this stage, I suggest you keep practicing from the side of the pool OR usually there is a slightly raised platform next to the starting block which is higher than the regular side of the pool, but still lower than the starting block, so use that as you work your way up to the pool. The most important part here is the head between the arms. If you get scared and do look up where you are diving to, you will more than likely hit a very nice faceplant or you will do a belly flop. Both of these can hurt for a few seconds afterwards, but nothing lethal :). It is actually good, you experience some small pain, at least it will be a good reminder to keep your head down in the streamline position when entering the water.

by IITA Image Library
5) Standing dive from the block - When you make it all the way to this stage, you are almost ready to have a good swimming start. First, we will, however, do the same exercise as we did during the standing dive from the side of the pool. So put your arms into a streamline, feet next to each other, toes over the edge, bent knees and start bending downwards until you are ready to shift your weight, so you enter the water with your fingertips. I'll say it again, no matter what happens ( for example: someone calling your name at the side of the pool), KEEP YOUR HEAD IN BETWEEN YOUR ARMS. If this will help you, think of it as if your fingertips made a hole into the water and the rest of your body has to go through that hole, so your body needs to be as small, tight, compact as possible. If you stick your head out, you will hit the side of the hole and it will be a bit painful. For the most common mistakes, mouseover the image of the diving children.

If you have made it through numerous belly flops and faceplants all the way this far, very well done and you are tougher for it. If not, just keep practicing, you will get there, don't worry. There is a bit more to doing a proper swimming start, but this is for a next more advanced lesson. In the meantime, keep practicing and happy diving.
Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.