Pay attention to improve your diving

Attention is the ability of an athlete to keep on task; to keep your focus or concentration.

When one mistake can make the difference between a medal and a missed dive, the ability to focus your attention and use it positively is a crucial attribute for divers.

With that in mind, British Diving and English Institute of Sport (EIS) Performance Psychologist Laura Cosgrove has put together an article on how you can practice mapping your attention at home, to improve your mental strength when you’re back on the boards.

Laura has adapted Nideffer’s attentional model for a diving audience, referring to the four quadrants of attention.

What is Nideffer’s attentional model?

In 1976, renowned sports psychologist Robert Niedeffer released a model of attention in sport, proposing that attentional style exists along two dimensions: width and direction. Width ranges from broad to narrow. Those with broad attention can focus on a large range of things, while those with narrow attention are focused on a limited range of cues. The direction of attentional style varies from an internal focus to an external focus.

Attention matrix for diving

Examples of diving situations from the four quadrants could be:

  • External and broad: during a diving competition, monitoring the order of divers to know when your turn is.
  • External and narrow: concentrating on coaching cues (verbal and non-verbal), doing a dive, focusing on a specific technique point.
  • Internal and broad: considering dive order for a final, deciding on a media plan for an interview on pool side.
  • Internal and narrow: visualising dives, rehearsing arm swings, doing a body scan to manage emotions, breathing exercises.

Mapping attention and choosing where to place it

Remember that your attention is either internal or external, but it can move quickly between each quadrant.

There is no better quadrant to be in; only one that is more useful for whatever task is at hand.

While usually our mind naturally steers us towards one, we can choose where to place it if we have a good gauge on which is the most useful quadrant to be in for certain scenarios.

Use the following steps to map your attention and practice it for diving scenarios:

  1. Draw the attention grid on this page on a large sheet of paper
  2. Think about as many different diving scenarios as you can and write down which quadrant is most useful to use for each scenario. Examples of scenarios are training, competition, learning new dives, performing easy dives, reacting to a mistake, supporting teammates.
  3. Take time every day to practice switching your attention between quadrants, so you can then apply the same technique for diving scenarios.