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
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
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.