General Diving Strategy and Etiquette

Our goal is to put up the most points possible and to have fun!

Balance between High DD and pretty dives is key.

List Progression

This is an idea of what a general list progression should look like for a diver throughout a career.

In general our goal is to go in the water hands first for better entries much easier to control splash with our hands.

-voluntary list - voluntaries are a group of 5 dives that are 9.0 dd or less when added up.Technically a full voluntary list is learning one dive from every category (front, back, reverse, inward, twister). Maxing out voluntary DD is an easy way to gain some extra points - A lot of more experienced divers make a the mistake of not maxing out the voluntary DD to eek out a few more easy points.

-Optional list - Other dives that do not have a DD cap

-1.5 tuck list

-1.5 pike list

-2.5 tuck list

-2.5 pike list

Fronts are generally ahead of the curve, for example since fronts generally come more naturally to people. If you have a 1.5 list you will probably be doing 104b or 105c to accompany the rest of your list.

These are general rules of thumb that are well known in the diving world. They are not the only way to do it but a general idea of progressions and how to score the highest. For example if you are not very flexible you may skip right to the 2.5 lists, or if you are having trouble with outs you may do 104 instead of 105 or 204 instead of 203

List Strategy

It is important to take into account what the team needs when you are putting your list together in order to give your team the best shot at winning. Ideally it is good for you to get practice doing your optionals in a meet. However, if the diver on the other team has a season best score of 250 and your best is 260, it’s probably not a good time to be testing out new dives. The likelihood of you doing very poorly or failing a dive is probably pretty high. A lot of athletics is mitigating risk and learning to take high percentage shots.

Researching the competition is almost always a good idea, unless you know you are a really anxious person, in which case your coach or another teammate/parent should help you. There are mental aspects to diving, and if you are dealing with anxiety some mental training can help you.

Also going into every single meet you should have an idea of something that you're trying to accomplish. Maybe it's beat your personal best or maybe it's have consistent hurdles and take offs. But try to have something that you're working towards besides just winning. Generally it should be something that you and your coach have been working on during the previous week at practice or something you're trying to improve upon from the last meet.

6 Dive lists (High School Varsity NY)

Every week is a new category

1st dive must be under 1.8 DD (vol)

Dive DD can exceed 1.8 but it will be capped at 1.8

ex 104c is 2.2 if done as first dive it would be 1.8 DD

The final 5 dives must cover 4 of the 5 dive categories and there is no limit to DD

The first dive does not count toward one of the categories

For divers that have full 11 dive lists, I recommend competing your optionals as much as possible! Your first dive should be your vol and all of your other 5 should be optionals. The more you compete them, the more likely you will do them well under pressure when it really matters at the end of the season.

If you do have a full optional list, this makes your life easier during the season as well because your list pretty much stays the same theoretically, and the only dive that should be changing is the first one. If you don’t have a full optional list you should be competing the voluntary or the optional prep for the category.

You should always have the end and the end goal in mind which is to go as far into the postseason as possible. Sectionals -> States -> and then placing in the top 16, top 8 etc. By using the dual meets earlier in the season you will set yourself up in the best position physically and mentally to do this.

11 Dive Lists (High School Varsity NY)

These lists in high school are really complicated but here is the low down.

First off depending on the size of the meet and how good you are compared to your competitors (again research is key) you may need to be worried about cuts. I know that generally at sectionals after the first 5 dives they cut to 24 and then to 16 after 8 dives. This means that if you think you will be anywhere near the cusp you should be front loading your list with your best dives. I think that this is always a good thing to do personally but some divers prefer to end on their favorite dive. That’s fine as long as you make the final round!

The list must contain 5 voluntary dives that must total a DD of no more than 9.0 (9.0/5 = 1.8; which is why the 6 dive meets start with a vol under 1.8). There must be one dive from each category.

Just a quick reminder that any dive can be a vol as long as the cumulative total is no more than 9.0

The last 6 dives have no DD limit but again there must be one dive from each category and since there are 6 remaining dives you must choose to double up on one category.

For 6 dive meets there are no breaks but for 11 dive meets generally the meets are split up into 3 rounds. The order of the dives DOES matter. And if you don’t have that figured out beforehand the judges will reject your sheet.

Round one is 5 dives and must contain 2 voluntary dives

Round 2 is 3 dives and must also contain 2 vols. Further, in the first 8 dives you must have done at least 1 of the every category, for instance you cannot save all of your reverses for the last round.

Round 3 is 3 dives and must contain 1 vol and the remainder of your ops.

Below is a sample list that I wrote up for a diver of mine last year. (Voluntary dives are denoted with the v)

Round 1

103b v


201a v



Round 2

5221d v

301c v


Round 3



401b v

General Strategy: 6 Dive Meets


I always like warm ups to be quick and painless, just feeling the boards and getting in the groove. This is not a practice! I recommend some bouncing to get the feel and the timing then 2-3 hurdles and maybe 1-2 back presses tops then one of each of your dives that you will be competing then get out and dry off. Hopefully you don’t need any preps for the dives you are competing. If you do then you should only be doing one. You should be pretty comfortable with the dives you are competing. If any of your warm up dives are totally failed or if you really need another one to feel confident, then do it, but usually warming up too much in my opinion can be bad because divers tend to get in their heads about things.

For 6 dive meets, aka dual meets, the atmosphere is generally pretty light and low pressure. Usually you have your whole team there supporting you which is awesome!

(Tell your team and any spectators to cheer for you - it helps your scores!)

Make sure you are ready to go and don’t get caught by surprise as that will cause unnecessary stress. I would recommend at least 2 races before the diving event begins you should be down at the diving end of the pool stretching visualizing and going through your pre-meet routine. (aka getting in the zone). You should know what dives you are doing, and you should know what order you will be doing them in. You should also know what order you will be in for the competition.

Next you will generally have time for 1-2 warm up jumps. A lot of people use this as time to do one more dive that they are going to do in the meet. I would advise against this. First it takes away from the mystery of the meet. Generally the spectators and judges didn’t get to watch your warm up, and they don’t know what you will be performing in the meet. Also if you do a good one in the warm up and then a bad one in the meet, you and everyone watching will be disappointed. Second if you do a bad one, now you are in your head or embarrassed about a bad dive before the meet has even started.

Before the event starts you will also have a meeting with the meet referee. Listen carefully, and be respectful. This is the person that will be scoring you, so be nice! Generally they just say good luck and ask if you have any questions,and tell you that if you are distracted during a dive that you can ask to redo it. (Camera flash, fire alarm, plane crashing into the pool etc.)

When the meet starts make sure that you know who is in front of you. As soon as they leave the board you should be adjusting the fulcrum and standing behind the board and ready to go. Do not get on the board before they announce the dive because if something is wrong and you get off of the board, technically that is a failed dive, although that rule is not always enforced.

After your dive, swim directly to the side of the pool exit and listen to your coach if you have one, and then forget about that dive and focus on the next one. Good divers have short memories. Doesn’t matter if the last dive went down for a 9 or a 2 - you can’t do anything about it now.

After the meet be sure to congratulate your fellow teammates and opponents; diving is a small community and sportsmanship goes a long way. Finally if you have time, thank the judges and ask if they saw any themes that you should work on. Not only will they appreciate this, but they will also usually tell you what they would like to see more of. This will help you in future meets!

Find out your score and look to see what you need to work on at practice the next week. A good way to do this is to take the score total of the dives before they are multiplied by the DD. If your totals are in the range of 18-20 except for an 11 on one dive, then you either need a lot of work on that one or you shouldn’t be competing it.

General Strategy: 11 Dive Meets

These meets are a whole other animal. They are generally very long and they demand your attention and concentration over a sustained period of time, which can sometimes be as long as 4 to 5 hours.

If you are going to compete well and to the best of your ability it is good to have a strategy going in.

Before the day of the meet you should know by heart all of the dives you are doing, including the order. Your list should also be printed and signed already if possible so you can focus on the meet the next day.

You know yourself best, but before the meet you should be eating something. Try to eat at least 2 hours before warm ups so you have time to digest and feel good. Fruits and vegetables are always good choices, along with some carbs.

Be prepared with plenty of water, dry towels, an extra suit, extra dry clothes, your shammy, and my favorite is headphones and music to get yourself in the mood. Light snacks are also a good idea.

If it is in your power you should arrive at the meet venue at least 30-60 mins before warm ups start. Again this is to put yourself in the best position to be relaxed and ready to go. In the time before warm ups you should be going through your pre-meet routine. An active warm up and jumping jacks followed up by some light stretching is a great way to get started. Listening to music always helped me relax and get in the zone.

Before you get in the water and while you are preparing you should be running through positive self talk and visualizations in your head. Assume the body movements, posture, and mindset of a champion no matter your skill level. I always think it is good to spend a few minutes alone visualizing your whole list going perfectly!

Since there are probably a lot of people at this meet with you, I think it is good to remember not to get too distracted. Remember you are here for a purpose. Also some people do better with a little more socializing. Whatever works best for you. Also remember that since this this is a big meet things are a little more intense. There are generally 20-50 divers on 2 boards at these meets. So know when the warm ups start and be ready to get in line asap once they open up.

Similar to the 6 dive warm up I would recommend some dry bouncing to get the feel and the timing then 1 hurdle (to save a turn), then one of each of your dives for the round that you will be competing. Then get out and dry off. Again if something is really bad do another, but only if you need another. If you make it to subsequent rounds you will have time to warm up those dives.

When it is getting toward the end of each round pay attention and be ready to get on the board asap when the round ends so you can be first in line for the next warm up.

During the meet make sure you know who you are after and also the diver that is 4 or 5 people before them so you can start walking up to the board before hand.

Things to do at meets and between dives

  • Be mindful, friendly, and a good sport

  • Have fun

  • Observe other divers and coaches

  • Be positive

  • Want the best for your competition because that will make you better and force you to perform at a higher level

  • Stick to your routine best you can

  • Keep your cool no matter what avoid large mood swings if possible

  • Wait till the meet is over to celebrate and congratulate yourself

Not to do

  • Eat after every dive

  • Count your score

  • Tell people your score or their score

  • Leave the pool deck for extended periods

Next Level

As a college coach I think that anyone who is thinking about diving at the next level; college and beyond, would be very desirable recruits if they knew all of this and took it to heart. Knowing strategies for scoring well and competing optionals as much as possible will set them apart from the field in the future as well as making them much easier and more fun to coach.

This blog post is available as a document at the link below if you would like to print it or share it.

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