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Stinley's avatar

Any tips on how to teach my daughter to dive into the swimming pool?

Asked by Stinley (6206 points ) June 2nd, 2014

My daughter is 12 and is a fabulous swimmer. She’s tall and long and lanky and she seems to glide through the water with no effort at all, passing all the little swimmers in her class and swimming club. However she has a big problem with diving. She belly flops badly. On Saturday the teacher got her to dive three times and she did get better and managed not to belly flop for two of them. I suggested that we go swimming and she could practice diving, now that she’s beginning to get the hang of it. It went badly… she belly flopped 6 times out of the 9 times she dived in and was sobbing after the last one because she couldn’t do it. I did say to her that she used to do belly flops every time she tried to dive so she has improved from 0 to 5, which is a great improvement but it was falling on deaf ears mainly because she was upset.

I have a feeling that part of the problem is a mental block she has – ‘I can’t dive’ – and also a problem with technique. I’m not a diver and have no good tips on how to suggest improvements to her technique. Her teacher is a bit rubbish, she mainly goes to the class to get the exercise and practice, but I will have a word with him to ask if he can help with any tips. But I would like to try and help her too so I’m looking for help with diving and getting over mental blocks!

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51 Answers

Buttonstc's avatar

I can tell you the basic method we used for very young children when I worked as a camp counselor. I don’t know of any reason why this wouldn’t work for an older child as well. (Ours were K-Grade 2)

We started them out diving from the side of the pool and when they could do that without any problems we moved them up to higher boards.

Generally speaking, where the head goes, the body will follow. To avoid belly flopping, we had them start with their hands BEHIND their ears, and clasp their thumbs together. This over-corrected to avoid them raising their heads at the last minute.

The other thing we did was place our arm gently in front of their waist and then just tipped them gently in. There was plenty of time later on for them to learn to push off.

We wanted to give them the type of muscle memory optimal for avoiding belly landings; basically head down and knees straight.

My guess is that your daughter is doing the opposite of either or both of those, most likely raising the head up (a typical anxiety reaction) which leads to a belly flop.

Since she’s older, she may protest at diving from poolside rather than the diving board but it hurts a whole heck of a lot more when you’re belly flopping from 10 feet above rather than the side of the pool.

She needs to have the muscle memory of proper technique. Once she does a whole bunch of successful poolside dives without any belly flops, then she will likely do fine from the board.

Just keep reminding her not to do that last second head raise.

For a very few of our kids who were fine with poolside dives but belly flopped from the board, it was usually anxiety about the height. So we had to go back a step and have them do a bunch of dives from poolside but with their eyes closed.

Then after they were quite used to that, we told them to do the same (eyes closed)
from the board.

Oh, I forgot to add that before that final step, we had them jump numerous times from the board eyes open but feet first so they got used to the sensation and do it enough times so that it was routine rather than fear-inducing.

Then we had them do feet first with eyes closed so they realized that they really didn’t need to see where they were going since gravity took care of that.

And finally we had them do head first with eyes closed from the board. Obviously we kept reminding them arms overhead behind the ears.

Obviously, they eventually graduated to eyes open and constant reminders to keep head down.

Hopefully some of this may be helpful for you and your daughter.

So, hopefully some of this will be helpful to your daughter.

JLeslie's avatar

She stands at the edge of the pool, water depth should be at least 8 feet. Any less and don’t do it.

She needs to keep her head tucked the entire time. She bends over with hands in front (over her head) fingers together, and falls forward into the pool hands/head first. Explain that her hands help break the water and tucking her head does too. If she lifts her head she will get smacked by the water.

When she gets comfortable with that she can focus on straightening her legs as she goes in and pointing her toes.

As she progresses she can start from standing straight up and making an arch more in the air as she dives in.

Good dives have little to no splash and go straight in the water.

Later, if she wants to learn a racing dive that is a different thing. I would not start with this sort of dive, because she is more likely to get smacked by the water and there is more to think about then just falling into the pool.

If she has taken some sort of dance during her childhood it really helps. You can practice it a couple of times and show it to her. But, again, make sure the pool is deep enough, especially for you, since I am going on the assumption you weigh more than her and will go deeper into the water. You don’t need to demonstrate it though. My dad taught me and I have never seen him dive ever. I get compliments on my dive all the time, but it really has to do with the legs and toes I think.

JLeslie's avatar

I want to add that she is belly flopping because she is lifting her head to see where she is going, and probably is not just going straight down. When I first learned to dive I wound up basically in a hand stand position as I went into the pool. If you watch professional diving that is their position too, straight down. Commonly when diving is done just for fun people don’t dive straight down, and this can confuse people who are new to diving on how to do the proper form and how to avoid belly flopping.

If she leans over the pool the water is very close, so she is just getting used to going in head first.

I never had to be told when to close my eyes, that was nteresting to read in the first answer. I always close my eyes under water period. My eyes shut before my head gets in.

dabbler's avatar

(Does she want to dive?)

JLeslie's avatar

Sorry for multiple posts, I found this video which might be helpful. It’s slightly different than my suggestion, but still good. It shows her hands together to break the water and what happens under the water. This video is working more towards a racing dive, or the for fun dive I spoke of.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Yes. I taught it this way with immediate 100% good results. (not professionally; we just had lots of kids visit and swim in our pool). Have the child stand at the edge of the pool and squat. Have her put her hands in front of her with her head tucked between her upper arms. You lean over her and sort of hold her thighs and tell her to just fall head first into the water. After a few times have her stand, bend over at the waist and again, fall in head first. That’s really it. She’ll start standing more and more and before dinner be on the low board.

ucme's avatar

Best way to begin is to clasp the hands, arms straight above the head, bend at the waist & basically “fall” in.
Repeated practice perfects the technique.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

@ucme That’s the way we taught the kids too.

Stinley's avatar

@Buttonstc hands behind the ears is a good tip, as is eyes closed @JLeslie. I didn’t know about diving straight down as it does seem to be a racing dive the teacher showed her. She’s only going from the side of the pool just now – there is no diving board. I haven’t seen many diving boards in local pools except when there is a separate diving pool.

Head down is something that the teacher said and she then did do the slightly better dives, so I will remind her about that.
@MollyMcGuire am I standing behind her? Which part of the thigh – front or back or side?

Stinley's avatar

@dabbler well, that is a good question and i tried to put that into my OP. She does want to dive but she doesn’t want to fail at diving so she’s caught in between.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

@Stinley Yes stand behind her. You’ll feel where you need to support her; you are helping her legs not to hit the side of the pool as she goes in. She will progress quickly.

Stinley's avatar

@ucme yes, I think that’s another key message – stay bent over

ucme's avatar

Yep, the natural arc of the body then propels you into a dive, can’t fail.
My first ever dive on a springboard was also my last, timed it all wrong & the board slapped off my arse, dumping me into the pool like a bloody catherine wheel, never again :(

Stinley's avatar

@JLeslie I will have a look at the video when not at work. I like the idea of seeing what happens underwater

If there are any more videos that anyone know of then I’d like to hear about them. i have looked at YouTube for them before but I didn’t get very far…

@ucme ouch :-( You’ll feel for her pain when she belly flops…

ucme's avatar

@Stinley Lets have fun with this, when you tell her these tips, inform her you asked on Fluther & Tom Daley helped you out.
Let me know her reaction :D

CWOTUS's avatar

Is she trying dives as part of her swimming (race) start? Because the excellent techniques that @Buttonstc describes for “show” type dives, and even @JLeslie‘s good safety advice about not diving in less than 8’ deep water, do not apply to dives for a racing start. In fact, the only thing that prevents a racing start from being a belly flop is that in swim racing the legs are used to push off horizontally – as strongly as possible – to get the longest “flat dive” possible at the surface of the water. If there were no movement along the diver’s axis in that case, the racing dive would be a belly flop.

JLeslie's avatar

Even racing dives should be taught in deep water. I’ve noticed that pools now start races in the deep end; when I was a little girl the boards were in the shallow end, sometimes just 3 feet of water! Why anyone ever thought that was worth the risk for a schoolage swim team is beyond me. People do get seriously hurt, including paralyzed and dead, from diving accidents in shallow water.

johnpowell's avatar

I couldn’t dive from outside the pool. I tried and tried and tried. So I just started from the steps inside the pool and worked my way up. It only took a few days to be able to go off a diving board.

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell How old were you? The problem with the steps is they are in the shallow end. For older children who weigh more and have more strength in their legs it can be dangerous. Better to kneel on the edge of the pool at the deep end.

johnpowell's avatar

Probably about 13. I’m also tall and lanky. We aren’t talking diving head first. Just a shallow dive.

Stinley's avatar

@CWOTUS from what the others are saying, it might be better to try to get her confident in the deep dive then move on to the racing dive? As she’s a good swimmer, the racing dive will be more useful. I don’t think she’ll ever want be a show diver and being able to dive in and get a good start would be the goal here.

I would never allow her to dive in at the shallow end. They have ladder steps at the deep end so if we try the squat start and that’s still a problem, we could try from the step.

@johnpowell how do you dive if not head first? Though that was kinda the definition of diving? Well it is for me and that’s what I’m talking about!!

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell I just worry someone who belly flops so much does not have good awareness of where their body is in space. Unless she really has had no real guidance at all about what form she needs to maintain to dive. Some children have very good awareness and some don’t. Adults too. Some people seem to have a problem from what they know they want to do and their brain getting the message to their limbs correctly. I see it in Zumba class every day. Some adults just are not coordinated and can’t copy someone putting their right foot in and take your right foot out, do the hokey….

@Stinley He means not diving straight down to the bottom.

Stinley's avatar

@JLeslie she’s the not very coordinated type…actually to be fair, she’s graceful but is getting used to having shot up to 5’8“in the last year!

JLeslie's avatar

@Stinley Since she is so tall I really recommend she kneel on the side of the pool or just bend over and just fall straight into the water hands and head first then the rest of the body follows so she gets used to going under and coming back to the top (if she bends from standing she needs to have her hands go first and then the rest of her body follow. Some kids when learning jump of the side in the bent position and go straight down in the water toes and hands almost at the same time. I hope that makes sense). She has too much time from her height to look up and screw it up. She needs to get used to going under, knowing how that feels and coming back up to the top. She lifts her head probably to see where she is going. Diving is done almost blind. I was very young when I learned and I worried about coming back to the top in time to breath. You might ask her what specific concerns she has? My father was in the pool when he taught me, and he was able to get me and help me back to the side. I still was doggy paddling when I learned to dive, I couldn’t really swim well. I think I was 8.

If she does it from kneeling, out a towel under her knees or some sort of protection for her knees.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow. Well, as @JLeslie says, start in deep water, of course.

I just had my kids stand at the edge of the pool, bend forward at the waist and just tip themselves in.

Throwing yourself headlong at something is pretty counterintitve, you know? Her instincts are sayin “Are you crazy?!”

Just have her tip in, and when she’s comfortable with the fact that her head won’t hit the bottom, watch out!

johnpowell's avatar

@Stinley :: I mean when you dive to swim across the pool instead of something like diving from 10M where you go straight down. I can easily dive into a meter of water and not touch the bottom.

dabbler's avatar

Maybe @johnpowell‘s style is like a racing start, rather horizontal. World-class swimming happens in shallow pools and the swimmers get nowhere near the bottom off the start.

(glad to hear she wants to do this, but needs help overcoming the fears)

Stinley's avatar

Last night we looked at the video that @JLeslie linked to, and she seemed to like it. We pointed out to each other that the diver straightened her legs as she entered the water. I also mentioned to her about the head down and she did get a bit upset (‘I was keeping my head down!’) but she seemed to understand when I said that because she is so long, her head has time to come back up again during the dive. We looked at the diver in the video with her arms tight by her ears and thought that doing that would help keep the head down. I also said about trying to do the deeper diving first then moving on to the more shallow racing dive.

I will take her swimming on Sunday again and we will try to put some of this in practice. Thanks for help so far.

JLeslie's avatar

The video makes it look like the swimmer progresses 1,2,3 quickly through the different stages. The reality is an individual might have to practice a stage 20 times before they move to the next one. It might happen over a few days, not in one session.

Also, keep in mind the closer she is to the water the last chance bad form will cause her pain. Going into the water is the same as jumping onto the ground. The farther up you are, the worse a bad land can hurt you. That’s why starting kneeling (either one or two knees) on the edge of the pool will help avoid the smack of a belly flop. Her hands making a point to break the water will be right at the waters edge from the start. Or, if she bends over at the waist from standing and first enters the water with her hands from not very high above the water.

She might confuse “head down” as not being head tucked. Your head is literally tucked under. When you are upside down (think handstand) your head straight ahead might feel “down” but in diving your head is tucked. If you stand straight up and look forward and then put your chin down to your chest so you are looking down at the floor, that is what is meant by head “down.” When you dive, your world is a little upside down and that can feel very odd at first. She might feel looking down at the pool as she goes into the pool is head down, but that is not tucked enough.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would think getting her comfortable with throwing her self into the water head first would be the first step. After that, when she isn’t afraid anymore, then you work on specific techniques. As it is, right now, all she can really think about is, “Is this going to hurt?”

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Right. Pain reduction is key. Fear of the pain causes her to be nervous and tense and more likely to screw it up.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right, so she certainly can’t concentrate on straightening her legs or tensing her body or altering the degree of the dive until she’s past that.

JLeslie's avatar

Right. That’s why I wanted to point out each stage might take a little while, especially if she tends to be unaware or not in control of her body. I took ballet, and everything I did in life I straightened my legs and pointed my toes. The man where my mom used to take me to ride ponies when I was very little told my mother, “your daughter obviously takes ballet” because I would point my toes as I swung my leg around to mount the pony. It was second nature to me, but not to most people. I only have to be told once, point your toes, and I won’t make that mistake again, but it did take me a while to get the hang of keeping my head tucked, and to not be afraid to go head first into the water. It’s a lot going on at once.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ve been diving for as long as I can remember….my dad encouraged us to do tricks on the diving board, like do a hand stand on the edge and flip on over into the water. Probably drove my mom nuts.

JLeslie's avatar

LOL. I eventually did all that stuff too. Flips and back dives, and I figured them out on my own. The only thing my dad really decided I should start doing was the diving. I remember the day very clearly, even though I was so young. I don’t know why he decided to teach me that day. I don’t think I have ever seen my mom or dad put their heads under the water. They both can swim, float and tread water though. My mom swims every day.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I remember clearly the day I learned to swim. I was about 4. I started drowning. I’ll never forget that panicky disorientation. Suddenly my dad was there and saved me.
I was swimming within the next 2 hours.

I thinking learning how to swim is one of the most important things we can teach our children. I started on mine at very young ages. They were all swimming by the time they were 3. My oldest was such a freaking daredevil. She was jumping off the board when she was just 2. It was quite a sight to see, that tiny kid up on that big long board.

One time we were at an indoor pool. She said she was going to jump in the water. I said, “OK, but then you have to get yourself out.”
She jumped, and started bugging me to pull her out. I said, ‘You got yourself in, you get yourself out.”
A couple of girls were there and they just thought that was the meanest thing anyone had ever said to their kid.

Buttonstc's avatar

Just to clarify a few points of what I wrote. The pool we used did not have dive boards at the shallow end (a stupid idea if I ever heard one). And our kids were litttle more than dog paddlers because they were so young and one of us was always already treading water in the deep end awaiting them.

The eyes closed was really only used for kids with a tendency to belly flop. We wanted to short circuit that asap so that pain causing fear wasn’t allowed to become ingrained.

As was mentioned, sometimes you need to go back a few steps and then master each step before proceeding.

At this point, the specific TYPE of diving is not as important as just breaking the habit of the last-minute head raise causing the belly flop.

If you study how elite athletes do ANY sport it becomes obvious how important it is to develop muscle memory, hence the constant repetetive practicing to develop proper technique.

Since your daughter is still getting accustomed to her recent growth spurt, it’s no surprise that she is having some difficulty. Thats why it’s critical that she first works on having good diving experiences (meaning no fear of pain from belly flops) to instill in her the muscle memory which takes over and replaces the former anxiety.

After this is accomplished then the type of desired dive can be refined from that.

I don’t know if closing her eyes will help. It did for our kids who were belly flopping (maybe less than 10% of the group).

But there has been a lot of helpful info throughout this thread so with some practice I’m sure things will improve for her.

When I first began working at this camp, I was initially surprised to see such young children diving from the boards but after a summer of working with them I realized the importance of starting them when that young before they can develop any bad habits.

Before allowing them in the deep end at all, they were required to swim the width of the pool unaided before earning that privilege. It didn’t matter how long it took or how good or bad their technique
was.

And if a kid was too afraid of diving or didn’t want to learn, nobody was forced to, but it’s amazing what effect a few days of watching every other kid in their group do it will have on motivation :)

JLeslie's avatar

@Buttonstc That last part is so true. Peer pressure at its best.

Stinley's avatar

She went to swimming club last night and I asked the organiser to do a bit of diving at the end. They did 2 dives. She did ok, first was better than the second but not too bad. She did it from a standing position so I will take her back that step to a crouching start. She’s being very brave about the belly flops – I think she can see that she is progressing and wants to get on and master it now.

I think that pointing her toes is also a good tip @JLeslie I will mention that to her.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Does she feel self conscious having to learn this in front of a bunch of kids her age who already know how to do it? Can you get her some place private and teach her yourself?

Stinley's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t think so. The others in her group weren’t that great anyway – some of them didn’t even try to dive. There was no pressure on her to do it either. I will take her again on Sunday myself though
@Buttonstc So I’m going to have to go through this with my younger daughter now?? OMG, not sure I can cope, she’s even more of a drama queen!

One thing that the swimming club organiser said last night (he’s just a dad who is keen on swimming, their teacher was sick) was that the pool level comes high up – the water level is just 10cm or so below the ground level – and that this might make it harder to get enough height in her dive and the extra time that brings. I did suggest a different pool on Sunday but she said she’d prefer the normal one, so I will go with the familiar for now but think about a pool with a bigger drop if things aren’t progressing

Dutchess_III's avatar

The earlier they start the easier it is to teach them @Stinley. So your younger daughter may be easier, actually, not harder. I taught my kids to dive at about the age of 5.

JLeslie's avatar

I wouldn’t bother with the pointed toes yet. You are still in the “I hope I don’t belly flop” stage. Don’t give her too much to think about. Belly flopping is the hand, arms, and head, and once that is automatic to her after enought practice then you can focus on form. Pointed toes have to do with it being a pretty dive, we are not goung for pretty yet, just practical.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Head down, arms out and down, fall straight down.

Buttonstc's avatar

Your daughters are two different people. As I mentioned, the kids who has problems were a small percent of the group as a whole so your other daughter may well be in the 90% who get it right away.

And once your older daughter experiences enough successful dives with no belly flops, that muscle memory will start to become automatic so teaching the rest of the techniques should probably come more smoothly.

For now, just work on keeping the head tucked however you can. Once she gets over that stumbling block, it should be smooth sailing.

Just another thought here: have you filmed her while diving yet. If not, perhaps seeing herself might help to convince her that avoiding that last minute subconscious head raise is important.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK, I’m Drunk Fluthering. What we all NEED to do is hie ourselves over to @Stinley,‘s and he needs to find a private pool and each of us Jellies needs to get 15 minutes with the kid, by ourselves, no interference. Everyone can watch, but they can not suggest. Their turn will come. That’s what we need to do.
~The End~

JLeslie's avatar

Listen to @Dutchess_III just tip forward head first into the pool, actually hands first, no push off with the legs, no jump.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, thanks. No jump. Just tip. Hands first, in the “dive” position….then….fall over…and she’ll find out it doesn’t hurt. At all. And she can adapt from there.

Stinley's avatar

Thank you all. Loving the drunk fluthering @Dutchess_III and wish the logistics were do-able! Ya’ll fancy a trip to Shakespeare’s county??

I shall report back on Sunday

Dutchess_III's avatar

I have a headache.

Stinley's avatar

i’ll try and be quiet

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