||Senior /Open System, Structure
|by Mike Martins from Down Under, Adelaide Australia
Senior /Open System, Structure
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is the national training
center in Brisbane. There are also State Institute for Sport. The
main ones are South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland
and Western Australia. Not all of the State Institutes have elite
(open international level) diving programs. Presently, divers who
make up Australia’s national teams and who are considered to be
Olympic hopefuls are training at the AIS, South Australia or New
South Wales Institutes for Sport. Also known as High Performance
Centers, those SI’s have made a serious commitment to diving by
providing facilities, elite coaches and other support services.
At SASI, my divers and I have easy access to physiologists, strength
and conditioning experts, sports psychology, physical therapists,
massage therapists, video expertise and administrative support.
One of the best things about the Institute is being in an environment
of international sport. The fraternity of coaches and athletes includes
some of the best in the world in their respective sports. Divers
on the elite squad at each HPC are offered scholarships that cover
coaching and training fees, travel and equipment and the above listed
services. Junior divers or others who train at HPC’s but who are
not yet “elite,” have various levels of scholarship. The HPC’s are
results driven. Programs that have athletes who achieve internationally
better their chances for funding (See results theme below under
Having Australia’s elite divers located at one of the HPC’s allows
for consistent and close management of their development. This
management comes primarily from the Australian Diving Association’s
(ADA) High Performance Manager (counterpart to USA Technical Director)
currently, Valerie Beddoe. National coaches and divers are accountable
to Valerie and Elite Management Committee. She usually travels
with the National Team serving as the manager and evaluating competition
performances and team dynamics. Valerie provides an objective, critical
eye on the progress of National Team divers and the overall status
of the National Team. While coaches are independent in how we train
divers, we must submit a detailed training plan to the HPM bi-annually.
The plan must explain our strategy for achieving international results
with our divers. Besides dry-land and diving training, strategies
for using sports medicine and other support services must be addressed.
Having the elite programs in only a few locations affords the HPM
the opportunity to visit and monitor their progress
and consistency with the training plan.
The advent of diving HPC’s is relatively new. Only in the past
2-3 years has there been dedicated programs that can compete with
the AIS, which has been established for 15 years. Of course, at
the national championships and in national team selection meets,
there is healthy competition between the divers and coaches of the
respective sports institutes. There is a general consensus that
the competition is a good thing and that it has made Australian
diving stronger. Beyond those competitions though, there is a genuine
commitment from all of the National coaches to put Australian Diving
ahead of their individual programs. There is one goal common to
all coaches and divers –Australia achieving successful international
results. Opinions will vary as to whether that is the case in
The differences between Australian and American diving systems
are rooted in Australia’s complete focus on international results.
This focus combined with successful strategies and strong determination
from coaches and divers has propelled Australia near the top of
the diving world. (In short, Australian divers train at HPC for
international results. Most U.S. divers train at Universities with
many restrictions on training and a focus on national results)
Not too long ago, the focus here was primarily domestic. That is,
coaches and athletes directed their efforts to making
the national team and then competing internationally. Generally,
the mindset was that if you made the team, got the outfitting, and
got on the plane – you had “made it.” With the exception of a few
outstanding individual performances, Australia’s ordinary international
results reflected that mindset.
Two important initiatives changed that. First, the employment of
Chinese coaches at the AIS revolutionized Australia’s dryland training
regime, resulting in a higher level of fitness and better fundamental
skills among the national divers. Additionally, they demanded a
much stronger work ethic.
The second initiative was to implement Olympic Athlete Program
(OAP) standards as used by other sports. This “raised the bar”
for Australian divers and put the focus on getting results, not
simply making the team. Using scores from the most recent World
Championships and World Cup or Olympic Games, three OAP levels are
determined: A = top 3 in the world, B = top 6 in the world, C
= top 12 in the world. To achieve OAP status, a diver must post
a score in a given category twice each six months. The score must
be achieved in national or international competition. In addition
to funding incentives in the program, divers must be at least OAP
C athletes to represent Australia’s National Team in international
competition. Simply placing high nationally will not earn a spot
on the team. The harsh reality is if a diver finishes in first
or second place in a trials meet and doesn’t make at least a “C”
score, he or she stays home! The philosophy is, if the diver doesn’t
have the chance to make the finals and have a run at a medal, it
is a waste of money to send him or her.
Initially the divers’ reaction to this policy was predictable.
They were not pleased.
Now that the policy has a track record, the athletes believe in
the process. They like the high standard and indeed they have risen
to it. They know that whoever is representing the national team
has put in the work necessary to compete with the best divers in
the world. After raising the bar two-and-one-half years ago and
sticking with this policy, Australia’s recent international results
speak for themselves – number two nation behind China at the ’99
The states of Victoria and New South Wales have recently experimented
with “Talent Identification” to lure youngsters into diving and
efforts have begun to formulate a formal program. As in the US,
the majority of divers start diving by chance – they have a friend
involved or they see it at their local pool and they want to try
Within the states there are “levels” meets similar to novice and
intermediate meets in the U.S.A. These meets allow divers of virtually
any skill level and regardless of age, to compete.
There is also state and national competition at the junior level,
where FINA rules are followed. That is where I see a big difference
to the U.S.A. FINA rules are less demanding – fewer dives are required
in each age group, divers 15 and younger are limited to 5m and 7.5m
platform and it is possible to be successful until the age of 16
without using a back or reverse optional. In the Australian junior
nationals, there was very few back and reverse optionals performed
and even fewer good ones, especially in the 15 and younger age groups.
U.S. Diving’s junior rules are more demanding and particularly the
13 and under rules, facilitate better fundamental skills and higher
difficulty dives. Advantage:USA
Popularity of Diving
As in the USA it is one of the most watched sports during the Olympics.
Fox Television televises all of the Open nationals and Grand Prix
meets, as well as 2-3 “staged” diving events per year. The staged
events are usually Australia vs. another country or an interstate
challenge. These events are televised in decent time slots, too!
Despite that I have heard many coaches say that they want larger
teams, more new divers. There is definitely room for growth at
the grass roots level. Similar to the US, clubs are always looking
for young, talented boys. Just for comparison - there are about
150 divers at the junior nationals and about 60 at the Open nationals.
Remember though the population here is only 18 million.
The level of enthusiasm for all sports is very high, now. The
effect on diving has been more unity among national team divers.
Everyone is looking at the “big picture” – how the national team
is preparing for 2000 and how they are performing internationally.
The results at the World Cup have were really a confidence builder
and the determination to win medals in Sydney is high. As stated
above for Australian Diving – the big picture is on everyone’s mind.
The games being here has contributed to that…..A strong showing
in Sydney will most definitely raise the status of diving in the
eyes of the sporting community, but more particularly, The Australian
Sports Commission, the peak national funding body.
Not any obstacles per se. We don’t yet have the lawsuit mentality
here, as in the U.S. All coaches and divers are required to have
insurance but it is not the major concern that it is in the US.
Fortunately we don’t have all of the problems and concerns that
the NCAA always raises. Of course, diving is always striving for
more funding from the ASC. More funding is dependent on international
results. With more money, diving can implement more programs, etc.
In my opinion, getting more boys in the sport and raising the level
of junior diving and coaching are two areas that need improvement.
Robert Newberry, Dean Pullar, Steven Barnett,
Shannon Roy, Scott Weeks,Lynda Folauhola,
Rebecca Gilmour, Chantelle Michele, Loudy Tourky
In summary, I think that the system here has a good blend of centralization
and intra- national competition. The HPC’s allow for some centralization
of resources and hence are able to offer all of the things I listed
above. Having several of them allows for individuality and differences
in the programs. I am enjoying working in this environment and
I am looking forward to the challenges presented in the next 18