Hand-spotting in Diving

When first learning how to dive, a coach may physically assist a diver by using his/her hands. This technique is called hand-spotting. When most people first learn how to dive head-first into the water, they are hand-spotted: A parent or swim coach physically lifts the person’s legs into the air. In essence, hand-spotting helps divers get into the correct position for a dive.

Although it is not used often in diving, it does come into play intermittingly. Here are some reasons why a coach will choose to use this technique, as well as how it can benefit divers.

When to Use Hand-spotting

Hand-spotting is used only sporadically. It is mainly to assist younger divers learn how to dive. Younger divers weigh less, and are thus easier to physically manipulate and assist through hand-spotting. This technique is primarily to help divers learn these four specific dives:

  1. Standing forward dive: A coach will physically help a diver enter the water at the correct angle. The coach ensures the diver keeps their legs tight, and has the correct hand and arm positioning upon entry.
  2. Back dive: The coach will often stand on the end of the diving board in front of the diver. He/she holds the diver’s mid to lower back, and helps them arch into the water. This extra assistance helps the diver physically learn the dive, as well as giving them a boost of confidence.
  3. Reverse dive: Hand-spotting is very commonly used with this dive. The coach will stand on the end of the diving board behind the diver. He/she will help the diver jump out and away from the board. At the same time, the coach will assist in initiating rotation off the board.
  4. Standing somersaults: Similar to gymnastics, diving coaches commonly help divers perform a standing somersault. By using his/her hands, the coach can assist the diver in the rotation. As a result, the diver is able to perform the flip with greater confidence and ease.

Why it is Used

The main reason a coach will use hand-spotting is safety. Coaches want to ensure the safest possible environment for their divers. Hand-spotting is a technique that helps them accomplish this task. Hand manipulation helps a diver learn how to initiate rotation, and also maintain an adequate distance from the board.

Another reason this technique is used is to teach a diver the correct skills needed to perform a dive. For example, the proper arm and head position is critical in performing a reverse dive. By assisting the diver on the end of the board, the coach can slow things down and emphasize proper positioning.

Hot Tip: Communicate Concerns

If as a parent, you do not want your child to be physically touched, make sure you speak to the coach. Most coaches use hand-spotting only sporadically, and could easily use a different method that better suits your comfort level.

How to Hand-spot

The way most coaches hand-spot is by placing one hand on the diver’s mid to lower back, and the other hand on his/her legs. By placing their hands this way, the coach is able to manipulate the diver’s body into the correct positions. Here are examples of how a coach can use hand-spotting to assist a diver with five different dives:

1. Forward Dive

While standing behind the diver on the board, the coach places one hand on the diver’s mid-torso and the other hand on the diver’s lower legs. When the diver begins the dive, the coach will physically help the diver get his/her hips and legs into the air.

2. Back Dive

There are two ways a coach may assist a diver with a back dive.

  1. Back arch: The coach stands in front of the diver, places one hand on the mid back, and the other on the stomach. When the coach’s hands are in this position, he/she will help the diver arch into the water backwards.
  2. Physically lift: The coach stands next to the diver’s side (either side will do). He/she places one hand on the mid back of the diver, and the other on the lower legs. In this position, the coach will physically lift the diver into the air, supporting the entire weight of the person. This can be useful when teaching the diver the correct way to perform a back dive tuck, for example.

3. Reverse Dive

Standing behind the diver, the coach will place one hand on the diver’s mid back and the other hand on the diver’s shoulders. When the diver initiates the dive, the coach will physically lift the diver in the air and assist him/her in performing the dive safely with the proper distance and form.

4. Standing Somersaults

On dryland, the coach may place one hand on the mid back of his diver. When the diver jumps, the coach supports his/her back with the one hand and swings the other hand around to the diver’s upper thigh, assisting in the completion of the somersault. Additionally, the coach may physically lift the diver so he/she has a stronger jump into the air.

5. Armstands

On dryland, the coach may use his/her hands to help a diver get into the correct position. He/she may then also hold the divers legs with one hand and mid-torso with the other. The goal is to correctly show the diver proper body positioning while balancing in the armstand.

If a diver is learning how to press into a handstand, the coach may place one hand on the midsection of the body, with his/her other hand assisting the legs up into the air.

Useful Technique

Hand-spotting is a useful tool for coaches. It is not often used, but is very helpful for assisting younger divers learning difficult techniques. It is important to remember that the primary reason any coach should use this skill is for the safety of his/her diver. When used in this manner, hand-spotting can be beneficial for both coaches and divers alike.

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