Overcoming Hitting the Diving Board

Diving is a very safe and fun sport. Most people go through an entire diving career without any serious injuries or accidents. However, if there is one hazard that can wreak havoc on a diving career, it’s hitting the board.

Usually when this occurs, the impact is minor and doesn’t result in a serious injury. More often than not, a diver will hit the board with his hands or feet; it is very rare to hit the board with your head.

However, it really makes no difference where you connect with the board. Hitting it is incredibly scary and the resulting fear may prevent you from attempting the dive again. If you want to grow in the sport of diving and continue to excel, you will need to know how to handle this situation.

Here are some tips to help you regain the confidence you may have lost so you can get back up on the board.

Go Back to Basics

After you have hit the board, you will experience a variety of emotions: pain, confusion, and fear are all very common. But it is important to not let the emotions determine the success of your diving. Instead, try and think logically about the situation and your performance.

First, get a clear understanding of what went wrong in the dive. Try to figure out exactly what error you made, so that you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

An experienced coach is absolutely necessary to help you here. A coach will not only explain the exact error you made, but will also provide you with useful advice and comfort to help you regain confidence.

Hot Tip: Reverse Come Out

To prevent hitting your hands on the board on a reverse 1 ½, try coming out of the dive with your arms tight to your body. Look for the water, grab your hands, and drag your arms up the length of your torso, keeping them close to your body before reaching them over your head.


Hitting the board is often the result of an error on the takeoff: Leaning in the hurdle or back press; having your head in the wrong position; or not jumping your feet out away from the board.

To correct these errors it is essential to work on the ever-present fundamentals, including hurdle, takeoff, and back press.

Here are some drills that can help:

  • Jumps: Work on both forward and backward jumps, concentrating on the position of your body on takeoff.
  • Dives: Perform multiple simple dives in the tuck and pike position, focusing on control, distance from the board, and the arms on the come-out of the dive.
  • Preps: Work on somersault preps on the 1-meter that simulate the same action needed to perform the dive. Focus on the takeoff, the arm position, and the distance from the board.


Another great way to get comfortable with the dive again is to try it on the trampoline, in a spotting belt on the dry board, or in a wet belt. This will take away the fear of hitting the board by allowing you to perform the dive in the safety of a harness.

With the guidance of a coach, you can decipher and pinpoint the exact error you are making and work to correct it.


Videotaping your dive is also a great option. This will allow you to more clearly see exactly what you are doing wrong so you make the necessary corrections. Watching video of other divers can also help you learn the proper technique of the dive.

Amazingly True Story

At the World Cup Trials in February 2010, Nick McCrory, a freshman at Duke University, performed a 407c off 10-meter. During the rotation he hit the platform and failed the dive. Although uninjured, McCrory was deeply impacted by the experience.

One month later, McCrory had to perform the dive again at the NCAA Championship’s. He later told Swimming World magazine that to prepare for this test, he focused on the multiple times he had performed the dive correctly, instead of thinking about the accident. At the NCAA competition, he succeeded and performed the dive for 10’s.

Reliving the Dive

After hitting the board, it is natural to relive the dive in your mind. This meticulous thought process can be useful if applied correctly, but more often than not, it causes serious problems.

Usually, hitting the board only occurs after performing it successfully a number of times. But it is easy to convince yourself that you have “forgotten” how to do the dive safely, essentially creating a block for that dive in the future.

To make sure this does not happen to you, try taking your mind out of the dive altogether. This is much easier said than done, but there are a couple of tricks that can help:

  • Think abstractly: Concentrate on something completely unrelated to diving: a favorite song; a beautiful sunset; the muscles in your legs…anything that is not connected to the dive. By taking the mind elsewhere, you will free up your body to perform the dive you know how to do.
  • Pinpoint focus: Focus on one particular aspect of the dive: The arms in the hurdle, your toe point in the dive, your head position on takeoff. This will make your mind less likely to drift back into a state of fear or uncertainty.

Have Confidence

It takes a great deal of confidence to get back up and try the dive again, but in order to succeed, you have to just gather your courage and go. On your first attempt, take extra pre-caution and jump way out; re-familiarize yourself with the takeoff and trust your ability to do the dive.

Once you have repeated the dive successfully — even if you are out in the middle of the pool — the feeling of accomplishment will dwarf any insecurity you may have experienced.

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