Helping the Blocked Diver

Dr. Alan Goldberg
When a diver is blocked he or she very quickly loses a perspective about what is and isn’t possible. The fears and frustrations that are normal parts of the learning process begin to get blown out of proportion and soon the diver has developed tunnel vision which is focused only on the performance difficulty. With confidence fading away, words like can’t, never and impossible are used by the diver to describe the dive and their ability.Since belief is one of the most powerful determining factors in performance, divers are limited most by what they believe is possible. It is frequently crucial for the coach to intervene at this level to challenge some of the faulty beliefs that get built up around the block. Unless you can change your diver’s belief system and what they think they can do, your other interventions will only lead to frustrations.Telling a diver that they have nothing to be afraid of, or that all they have to do is believe in themselves will not work. Instead, try the following:

1) Help the diver get in touch with other blocks or “impossibles” that they have successfully overcome. Every diver has to face their fears over and over again as they progress in the sport. Have your diver remember, in specific detail, other obstacles they have overcome or dives they have mastered.

2) By-pass conscious resistance by the deliberate use of a metaphor or story telling. Because conscious fears and anxieties are so powerful, several well-designed stories (true or false) of other divers who overcame similar self-limiting beliefs will frequently serve as a catalyst to get the athlete unstuck. For instance, I like to tell my athletes the story of the “5 minute miler” a high school senior who was so named because he ran his first five races of his senior year between 5:01 and 5:06. He didn’t believe he could possibly break five minutes. In his sixth race, he ran a 5:02, and the coach ran out to the track and excitedly yelled “John, you did it, 4:59; you finally broke the barrier.” The coach had arranged with the opposing coach to fudge the actual time. After this, the runner consistently broke five minutes. Such a story, as it is interpreted by an athlete, will cause them to begin to see that beliefs and barriers are self-imposed.