Get solid with dive safety skills

 A young woman dives headfirst into a pool safely

While diving is an important skill for students to learn, it can become dangerous if done incorrectly. As a teacher of swimming and water safety education it is your role to equip students with the skills and understanding needed when performing a dive. All students should be aware of the potential dangers and encouraged to only dive into clear water, free from any obstructions and when they are aware the water depth is sufficient for diving.

To ensure the safest possible dive when teaching it is important to instruct the students to lock hands, lock head and steer up.

Locking their hands one on top of the other, with the thumb and little finger of the top hand wrapped over the bottom hand, prevents the hands being forced apart when they hit the water and in turn protects the head and neck from any unexpected impact.

Diving safety is further enhanced when the head us squeezed between the outstretched arms, with enough pressure from the arms to ensure the head is locked in this position. This helps to ensure the neck and spine are aligned and protected as much as possible.

Steering up refers to students using body and limb angles, so their pathway is towards the surface. This should be done as soon as the student enters the water, so the maximum depth reached is decreased along with the risk of impact with the bottom of the pool. To aid steering up towards the surface students should bend back the hands at the wrists, arch the back and lift the arms and head.

There are many progressions that can be taught to ensure safer diving, some of these include:

  • Push to glide – students adopt the ‘lock hands, lock head’ position, completely submerge and push off from the wall.
  • Push to glide, steering up – Using the push to glide skill but upon departure from the wall the student steers up towards the surface. Encourage students to maintain their dive position until their hands break the water surface. Hoops can also be used at this stage to highlight the pathway the student should be taking and add a sense of fun to the skill.
  • Sitting dive – Students sit on the pool edge with their feet against the pool wall. They lock their hands and head and dive into the water. The student’s feet should push back against the pool wall when they dive to prepare them for the next progressions and discourage deep diving.
  • Crouching dive - Students crouch on the pool edge with one foot forward and one foot back, curing the toes of the front foot over the edge. Weight is transferred from the back foot to the front foot and the student ‘tip’ forward into the water, pushing against the pool edge with their toes. Once the students enter the water the steering-up technique should be used. Once students gain confidence encourage the feet to be placed together, with toes curled over the pool edge.

More information about how to teach the safest diving techniques can be found in the Austswim Teacher of Water Safety Education manual.


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