(sung to the tune of "Ghostbusters")
"Is there something wrong... in your local pool... driving you
to distraction... makes you feel like a fool. They get up on the
board... and then go no-where... Just freeze in mid-hurdle... Lord
it just ain't fair."
If you've coached diving for any length of time you probably know
THAT song all too well. Balkers can try the patience, sanity and
teaching skills of even the most experienced coach. After you've
exhausted your teaching bag of tricks with threats, yelling, pleading,
bribing and sit-ups, all to no avail, who can YOU call?
In this article and those that follow I'd like to provide you with
some strategies for balk busting. Some things that you can do before
you get "slimed" by the frustration that balkers usually heap on
Strategy #1 - Change GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) to Good
Stuff In, Good Stuff Out
Any diver who is blocked by fears and consistently balks is a master
of this GIGO strategy. That is, whenver they think about the dive
in question they continuosly "feed" themselves a steady diet of
mental garbage, (ie. "I can't do it," "I'm going to be too close,"
"I'm going to kill myself," "God, I'm so nervous," "what if I balk
The garbage doesn't just consist of words but also includes negative
imagery, visual and kinesthetic images of what they don't want to
happen. With this kind of negative imagery and internal focus the
diver's muscles get tight, breathing gets shallower, confidence
disappears and proper concentration becomes impossivble, The end
result, or "Garbage Out" of all this is a balk.
In order to interrupt the self-perpetuating cycle of the balk,
(one good balk leads to another), try the following at-home and
At Home: There are three ways that you can intervene to
interrupt that balk. First, help the diver understand GIGO, and
that the specific negative words and images that he or she regularly
uses actually maintains the balking problem. Find out exactly what
self-talk and images the diver is using them by asking them to teach
you (mentally) HOW to balk the way they do.
Second, help them begin to slowly reprogram this "garbage" with
"good stuff". One way to do this is to have them make little signs,
on 3 x 5 cards which state exactly how they want to be, feel or
act, AS IF it were true ie. "I love my reverse and a half," "I go
into my hurdle with power and confidence," etc. The diver is then
instructed to phrase these signs positively (not "I don't balk"
but "I take it up smoothly and powerfully") and put them up around
their room, in their changing bag, school notebooks, wherever they
are assured of seeing them frequently.
Third, have them mentally rehearse the dive they are having problems
with 15-20 times before they go to bed each night seeing and feeling
what they want to have happen.
At The Pool: When a diver balks he or she is mentally focusing
on the wrong cues as they climb the board and prepare to go. Since
your divers can only concentrate on one thing well at a time, you
want to begin to assign them other more performance enhancing cues
to focus on when they prepare to dive. In order to not balk and
execute successfully, what kinesthetic and/or visual cues to they
have to be focusing on?
If you can five them something to feel or look for (usually no
more than one of each), this proper focus will distract them from
the thoughts that are maintaining the balking.