Choosing High School All-Americans in Diving

Filming and Editing The Compeition Are Important!

2009 NISCA High School All American Selection Committee
2009 NISCA High School All American Selection Committee. Photo: Don Mason/NISCA

Imagine a diving judge only being able to watch the end a front approach and hurdle, and having one individual cover their eyes as they are watching the diver enter the water, all the while having another person shake the judges’ head back and forth.

Now imagine having to adequately, and fairly score a contest with these distractions!

Many times that is what the NISCA High School All-American Selection Committee feels like while reviewing and scoring DVD’s submitted in consideration for All-American status.

The reason for this ... inadequate filming and editing of the diving footage.

What is NICSA and Choosing All-Americans

The NISCA High School All-American Selection Committee is tasked with choosing the top 200 high school divers - 100 girls and 100 boys, who will receive All-American awards. These divers represent the top 1% of all high school divers in the nation who compete in interscholastic competition while in grades 9-12. The process to this end involves reviewing submitted applications and DVDs that include individual competition footage, scoring that competition, and then ranking each of the divers.

NISCA, which is an acronym for the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association, chooses a committee of up to 20 former divers and coaches to review this diving footage, and just as in a real meet on the pool deck, score the divers and their DVDs over a three-day period.

Good DVDs vs. Bad DVDs

Scoring between 500 to 600 divers is not an easy task, and the wide variety of videos only complicates the process.

On the pool deck during a competition, all the variables are essentially the same, and the judges all view the divers under the same conditions.

Not so during this process, and the discrepancy between good and bad videos can affect the overall scoring. As with most athletics contests, despite the contradictions and problems, the athlete with the best performance usually wins, and in this case, those divers who should be included on the All-American list, for the most part are.

There are cases though, in which the video footage does affect the overall score by as much as 70 points!

Common Video Mistakes

Here are a few of the more common mistakes made by those who are filming and editing the competition footage:

  • Poor lighting quality.
  • Zooming in too tight on the diver.
  • Camera too far a way from the diver.
  • Bad angle for viewing the diver (the footage should be shot from the perspective of the judge).
  • Camera is looking down onto the diver (instead of being on the pool deck).
  • Hand held camera (the camera should be on a tripod).
  • Camera follows the diver instead of standing still.

The only way to create the perfect video and DVD is to control all the conditions that surround the contest. This is not going to happen, but in order to create a level playing field – or in this case a smooth water surface, here are guidelines that will help each diver, coach, parent, or video expert eliminate many of the errors listed above, and create the best footage and DVD possible!

Diving Video Best Practices

Here are a few of the best practices that should be used when filming a diver and editing the footage. While the impetus and focus of these comments is pointed toward footage used in a DVD application for High School All-American, these ideas can be incorporated for tapes sent by a prospect to a college coach.

The Camera Angle

The best angle to use while shooting diving video is to get as close to the perspective of the judge as possible.

While many times parents, coaches, or videographers, are not permitted to film from an ideal location on the pool deck, it is important to understand that any angle other than that seen by the judge has the effect of putting the diver at a disadvantage.

Whenever possible, avoid taking the video from in front of the diving board (generally nearer to the shallow end of the pool), or from an angle looking down on the diver.


Bad lighting on a video is a killer! Everything from having the entire scene washed out in a white light, to having shadows so bad that the diver appears to be a silhouette, can be a disaster for those judging the footage. It is a good idea to scout the location of the competition to see where the best place for filming is, instead of either moving during the competition, or hoping to correct the mistake during the editing process.

Many pools have large open windows and if the light is streaming in, it can be very hard to get a good clear picture.

Avoid shooting the camera into the these windows, not only can they make the overall lighting too bright, the diver may “disappear” into the light during the dive. Also try to avoid shooting where the camera films the diver as they move through dark spots. Again, the diver may “disappear” into the shadows or dark area.

If the footage does turns out to have problems, there are solutions. Many editing programs have tools that allow the user to adjust the brightness and contrast of the footage. Do not hesitate to use these tools, or if you feel uncomfortable, contact a professional for help.


When I refer to the scope of the footage, I want to get the point across that the diver, the pool, and the diving board need to be in the picture. By including each of these aspects, it will eliminate the common mistake of allowing the diver to move in and out of the picture frame. Judges give scores based on the overall impression of the dive, and that means a broad perspective, taking into account all facets of the dive. By focusing in on just the diver with a tight shot, many elements of the dive may be missed, such as height, distance from the board, etc.

It is also very hard to follow a diver with a tight shot unless you are an experienced professional, and if the diver moves out of the camera shot, it will detract from the score.


I don’t want to harp on a particular issue, but I am – scores are based on the overall impression of the dive! The timing of the footage can be a distraction. Starting the filming process a split second before the hurdle, or cutting off the end of the dive before the diver is under the water will generally make it hard to get a good overall impression of the dive.

Two good practices to use when both filming and editing footage are:

  1. Take more footage than you think you need. Film the entire contest if you need to! It is always easier to remove un-needed footage than it is to add it in.
  2. In the final product, try to allow at least 8 seconds between the time one dive hits the water, and the approach and the hurdle begin on the next dive. This allows time, just as in a real meet, for the judges to enter their scores


In a nutshell, get rid of it! This includes both camera shake, panning with the diver, and zooming.

The best way to avoid camera shake is to use a tripod (best practice), or something (a rail or ledge) to stabilize the camera. Watching a performance by a diver when the camera is shaking or bouncing is extremely difficult!

Referring to the section on Scope, the idea here is to include in the footage: the diver, the diving board, and the pool, specifically the area where the entry will occur.

Panning and zooming with the diver is acceptable as long as it does not effect the overall impression of the dive. The better practice though, is to keep the camera in one spot, without any movement. I have yet to see a judge get up and move closer to the edge of the pool to “zoom in” on the dive!

One final note about movement, don’t use cell phone cameras!!! They are unstable because they are not mounted, have poor quality, and usually result in a blurry diver!


Always make sure to label the DVD. Don’t be that one diver who has a great performance, but does not label the disc and gets disqualified!

Make sure that the DVD has a physical label on the front, and either use an editing program to add the name, address, competition and date to the DVD, or have the diver hold this written information in front of the camera before the contest.

Although it is not required, many editing programs allow transitions to be added in between dives that will alert the judges to the dive being performed. This is a nice added feature and it definitely adds to the “overall impression” of the DVD.