4 Strategies Swimmers Can Learn From Divers

4 Strategies Swimmers Can Learn From Divers

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Take home points
1) By observing the diving culture, swimmers can hold themselves to a higher standard with feedback and visualization to improve technical quality in the pool
2) Though energy systems are very different, swimmers can learn from the high standard of technical execution in diving
3) Despite being an early specialization sport, most divers have a background in gymnastics and dance before focusing on a single sport. Swimmers can equally benefit by participating in other sports before specializing

Swimming and diving often co-exist as step-siblings, living in the same location but at times having little in common besides the water and minimalist attire. Despite these differences, there is actually much to be learned from the world of diving to apply in swimming, both in and out of the water. In this post, we’ll explore specific areas in which swimmers can learn from divers.

1. Feedback
In fairness, swimming has become much more progressive in recent years with the frequency of video feedback. Certainly, many coaches would have loved to be more involved with video in the past, but technology limitations have been a factor. Video feedback after dives has long been a more regular part of the diving culture than in swimming, largely due to more opportunities since there won’t be dozens of divers diving simultaneously. We have written several previous posts on feedback and video in swimming, all of which discuss the many sub-topics that have emerged in this realm. (See How to Provide Swimming Feedback for compilation of sub-topics)

2. Quality vs. Quantity
Volume is forever a controversial topic in swimming. This point is not to suggest that all swimming must be fast, but instead that every stroke should have a purpose. You don’t see divers slopping through dives “just to get some yardage in,” largely because the technique is the sport itself. While it would be an unrealistic standard to expect every single swim stroke to have the precision of an elite dive, there is no doubt we can all do better at the pool as coaches and swimmers. Admittedly, this is not a true evidence-based assertion, but instead one that can be conceptually applied.

3. Visualization
One side benefit of having time between reps in diving is there are more opportunities for mental practice. As such, divers learn discrete visualization skills at a young age. This is not by accident, as literature has repeatedly shown that mental practice can improve motor learning in many different contexts. However, because the sports utilize completely different energy system balances, the emphasis on mental skills versus physiological development will differ. Still, there are many opportunities for visualization to become a more integral part of swim training, with stroke skill acquisition, dryland/rehabilitation technique, and race strategy.

4. Athletic Diversification
Most divers become divers after a start in gymnastics. And even if diving is their first sport, they will almost inevitably engage in some tumbling or gymnastics program on land. In fact, diving is one of the few sports in which early specialization can be valuable to success. The longer a diver stays a gymnast, the longer he or she will also be exposed to various forms of dance, adding more athletic diversification at a young age. With many swimmers being pushed into full time specialization, we must also realize the value of giving kids the opportunity to develop generalized motor skills and deload the swimming muscles through participation in other sports.


Unfortunately, there are no formal studies comparing the two sports. We are left to some creative thinking and inference to find learning opportunities. That said, an examination of what happens near the diving well can help us better use the tools we already have through technology, programming, teaching, and the encouragement to let young swimmers sample other sports in their early years.

Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

Originally Posted August 1, 2015

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