Springboard and Platform Diving/Beginner advice


Hi Fantastic Mr. Trapp,

I have a 9 year old who has been asking about learning to dive for the past 18 months (her interest was pre-Olympics).  She is a bit of a daredevil and a level 3 gymnast.  She is unusually flexible (although that makes her perhaps less strong).  

She started a learn to dive class but did not want to continue after the third week -- the deep water made her nervous, and she felt like she couldn't catch her breath.  

She still very much wants to dive but I can tell she just isn't comfortable yet.  I'm wondering if you have any advice about programs/things we can do to help her get more comfortable, so she can participate in the lessons she seems to really want?  We have the option to continue (with support from her instructors) or to try again another time?  

Thank you.

Hello Fantastic Diving Parent -

Whenever I get news kids in this age group, I always find out their level of being safe/comfortable in deep water by having them do the following skills.

1. Show the ability to have eyes open under water by diving off the side of the pool, plunge down about 6 or 7 feet and retrieve an object off the bottom of the pool. Divers need to show me they can plunge that far head first and are willing to have their eyes open while they do it for safety reasons. If a kid swims under water with their eyes closed, they may go in the path of another diver causing an accident. They need to know where they are under water relative to where the boards are.

2. Demonstrate the ability to tread water or dog paddle. This is so when they surface they can hear me and then swim to the side with their head up to look where they are going.This is also for safety reasons.

I do not know what pool she dives at but it is probably at least 12 feet deep. Kids her age do not need to be able to touch the bottom of a pool this deep but they do need to be willing to plunge about half way. It sounds like this may be her problem. Also, diving pools look very large to someone this age and it can be intimidating.

When new divers cannot do the above mentioned skills, I tell the parent to enroll them in a swim class (or take private lessons) until they can do these required elements. She most likely needs to develop her lung capacity through aerobic swimming and practicing going as deep as she can. One way to do this is practice a surface dive. A surface dive is done by gliding off the side of the pool with arms stretched overhead. After gliding a few feet with the head facing down, the next move is to bend at the waist, lift the legs straight up so you are now vertical and then swim as deep as you can, then surface. Swim back in with the head up doing dog paddle or treading water. Have her start in the shallow end retrieving an object of her choice and then gradually move down the pool to where it is deeper ending up as close as she can to the depth of where the diving boards are.

Hope all this helps. Good luck and keep diving!

Springboard and Platform Diving

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Tom Trapp


I can answer any questions pertaining to all levels of springboard and platform diving including : beginner lessons, intermediate, advanced, high school, Junior Olympic, AAU, Masters (Adult), Collegiate and Senior diving. Questions about training, technique, competitions, dryland training including trampoline and dry board.I can answer questions about how to judge/referee diving events.Also questions about how run, direct and administrate all different types of diving meets from novice events through Olympic Trials.I am also available as a consultant and expert witness for legal cases involving diving. I cannot answer questions about swimming (how to dive off a starting block) or SCUBA diving.


3 time U.S. Diving National Team Coach. Coached World, International and National Junior Olympic individual and team champions. Collegiate level experience (Junior College and Division I).Chairman, U. S. Diving Region 10 and Northern California Diving Associations. Professional diving referee, judge and meet director including U.S. Diving Junior and Senior Nationals, National Qualifying events and Division I collegiate events including the 2010 Men's NCAA Division I Diving Championships. Head Referee for the Big 12 and ACC Conference Diving Championships.Competition Director for past NCAA Men's Division I Nationals and numerous Pac 10 Conference Championships.In 2010, attended the FINA Junior Olympic World Diving Championships to take the International Judging Certification Class which was successfull completed.

U.S. Diving. AAU Diving. Professional Diving Coaches Association. FINA.

B.S. in Recreation and California Teaching Credential in Physical Education/Aquatics. U.S. Diving Safety Certified Coach.

Awards and Honors
U.S. Diving National Award of Excellence. Northern California Diving Association Coach of the Year. U.S. Diving Region 10 Coach of the Year

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