Positions for Beginner Divers

Diving Basics on Which To Build Upon

woman dives into pool
Woman dives from diving board into pool. David Madison/Getty Images

Some of the first things that any beginner diver needs to master are the diving positions that constitute the basic fundamentals of the sport: straight, tuck, open pike, and closed pike.

These four positions and the skills used to develop them should be reinforced for any diver who wants to succeed, and the sooner the better. A mastery of these skills will help create the unique qualities that make a good diver – how to spin fast, aesthetics, form, balance; the list is endless.

Practice, Practice, Practice

And I can’t stress enough that these skills should be practiced on a repeated basis, whether by specifically addressing these diving positions during a dryland workout or by incorporating them into a stretching routine that should accompany every practice session.

But for any young or inexperienced diver, repetition of these specific skills will make them second nature and allow them to then move on to more advanced skills.

And these are the types of skills that can be practiced outside of the pool or dryland facility. Why is that important? Because this should tell you that these skills can be practiced at home!!!

Straight Position

Let's get one thing straight about the straight position (often referred to a layout); for any first-time diver, while you may call it straight position, you are not really teaching straight position in the sense of a dive such as a back dive straight.

The key here is body alignment and posture, learned by standing (or lying on the back) straight with the arms out to the side or in a flat hand stretching position.

Keys to Success

For younger divers, these four points will lead to success in straight position:

  1. Head and shoulders held high.
  2. Hips rolled forward to create a flat back.
  3. When lying on the back, little or no distance between the ground and the small of the back.
  4. The arms covering the ears in the lineup or stretch position.

As I said, this position is not going to directly lead to a back dive or reverse dive straight, but rather a base from which to teach forward and back line ups, proper hurdle position, forward come outs, etc.

Standing with the arms outstretched in a “T” position, the diver should concentrate on a level head and a flat back by rotating the hips forward which will tighten the abdomen and rear. Now, of course, these things (such as a flat back) do not happen overnight but come from repetition.

From here, all the diver needs to do to stretch for the water is raise their arms over their head and grab a flat hand. The same thing applies if they are in the prone (laying down) position - body like a “T,” raise their arms and whallah, a lineup.

Tuck Position

Tuck position is, needless to say, important to all divers. Not only is it important from the obvious standpoint of learning the harder optional dives, but a diver cannot learn to properly kick out of dive in tuck if their tuck is, shall we say, sloppy.

Keys to Success

For younger divers, stress these four points when teaching tuck position:

  1. Pulling the knees tight into the chest.
  2. Pointing the toes during the tuck.
  3. Grabbing each leg with a hand on the shin (not the knee).
  4. Looking over the knees while squeezing the tuck tight.

Beginner Tuck

Ask any beginner (especially young divers) to show you what tuck position is, and inevitably they will grab their legs like a bear hug, with both arms wrapped around the legs. Position their hands on each leg and their tuck will become loose and the legs will begin to spread out.

So practice early and often the technique of grabbing in the correct spot, squeezing the tuck tight and balancing in this sitting position with only their rear and toes touching the ground.

Tuck Rolls

Now your diver can balance in tuck in a sitting position, but can they hold that position while moving? Have the diver rock backward, rolling to their upper back and then back to a sitting tuck position. What happens?

More than likely they will start to loosen their tuck, loose balance and fall to one side or the other. So do you see the point? If a diver can’t squeeze tight and roll back and forth on the ground, what is going to happen when they are spinning in a somersault?

Once a diver can consistently roll back and forth in the proper tuck position with good balance, you should have some confidence that they will stay in that tight tuck during a dive. Now you just need to add open pike position to the roll and you have a forward pike out, and they are ready for their first 2 ½!

Open Pike Position

The open pike position does not usually make up the "meat and potatoes" of many dives (with the exception of some voluntary dives and a forward/inward 1 ½) but is rather a transition from the somersault to the entry.

But do not discount the importance of this skill, if you want better scores on the front or inward optional dives, learning to “pike out” of the dive will improve your chances.

Keys to Success

For younger divers, the key points to success in open pike are:

  1. Toes pointed and legs straight.
  2. Head positioned to look at or over the toes.
  3. Palms facing the direction of the spin.
  4. Keep the back as flat as possible.
  5. Less than a 90-degree angle between the legs and back.

Use a Prop

Using a prop (in this case a foam roller, although anything will do) to lift the legs off of the ground helps to teach open pike by forcing the diver to make the angle between the legs and back less than 90 degrees. If the angle is greater, then the diver will lose their balance and roll backward.

Once the diver has a basic understanding of open pike, add a transition from tuck position, to open pike position. It happens in the dive, so practice it on the ground – tuck position, open pike position, back to tuck position, now open pike. You get the idea.

Now you can add tuck rolls, and you have a pike out!

Next - Closed Pike Position

Closed Pike Position

On the flip side to open pike, closed pike does make up the “meat and potatoes” of many optional dives, and while open pike only shows up in fronts and inwards, closed pike is used in all the categories of dives.

Keys to Success

For younger divers, develop good habits in pike stressing these five points:

  1. Grabbing the arms underneath the legs.
  2. Pulling the pike as tight as possible using the arms and not the hands.
  3. Keep the legs straight in pike position!
  4. Holding the pike with both the head down and looking at the toes.
  5. Keep the back as flat as possible.

Grab Underneath

Just as in the open pike example, use a prop to lift the legs off the ground. This is important because it allows the diver to reach under the legs and grab their arms when pulling the pike tight. If the legs lie flat on the ground, the second a diver reaches underneath the legs bend, and no one like bent legs in pike, especially judges.

Another good habit to develop is having a diver practice keeping their head down and look over the toes. When the diver is spinning fast, the head needs to be down, but they also need to look over the toes for that all important visual clue (the spot) that is used in a come out.

Mix and Match

Once a diver learns these four positions, it's time to practice, practice, practice. And add a little spice by mixing them together just like in a dive - closed pike to open pike, tuck to open pike, closed pike to open pike to a stretch. Trust me, there are many, many combinations to add variety to the workout.