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A 3-Year-Old Swimming 50 Meters Twice? Just a “Life Skill” With Video

Note:  Orginally published by Swimming World Magazine.  See link at the bottom for original article.

WATCHING a 3-year-old jump into a pool and splash around the water is nothing new. But to see a child of that age swimming the length of a 50-meter pool twice is a rare sight to behold.

Bruce Wigo, the CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, met the White family at the Hall of Fame complex in Fort Lauderdale and captured this video of 3-year-old Henry White jumping into the pool and swimming 50 meters unassisted. Wigo also talked to the boy’s parents, Eric and Sylvia, about their desire to make the Whites “a swimming family.”

His father, Eric, said this video doesn’t fully encapsulate how much his son enjoys the water. The parents have dozens of videos of Henry showing no fear as he climbs to the three-meter springboard and jumps off. The love of the sport was passed down from the mother to her children, the oldest of whom is 5-year-old Erica. Olivia, still a toddler, is likely to join her older siblings into the pool soon.

“Nurturing plays a big part, but it’s also genetics,” Eric White told Swimming World of his children’s affinity for the pool. “We started swimming as a family in March 2011, but before that when my wife would bathe the kids, she would tell them, ‘kick, kick, kick’ while they were in the bathtub. When they transitioned to the pool, it was nothing more than ‘kick, kick, kick.'”

Discussion of Henry’s ability to swim the length of the pool will be inevitably coupled with discussion of his skin color, and Eric White is fine with that. In an age where organizations such as USA Swimming and ISHOF are implementing programs to reduce drowning rates among minority children and bring more minorities into the sport, White knows his son could be viewed as an inspiration to other black children around the world.

“You can’t ignore the history of the sport,” White said. “If my kids are fortunate to compete at high levels, I’d be proud of them as a parent, and if they can bring along kids that look like them, I’d be proud of that, too.”

Henry was recently a part of the Black Heritage Meet in Raleigh, S.C., where he was the youngest competitor and completed a 25-yard freestyle in 1:19.38. Obviously, times are not important at this point in Henry’s swimming career, and Eric White says a love and familiarity with the water is what makes him happiest.

“First and foremost,” he says, “it’s a life skill.”

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What To Include In A Dryland Training Diving Facility

USA Diving currently lacks a world class dry land training facility in the country although many clubs and entrepreneur coaches have established several excellent facilities but below the standards of the major international countries. The main reason is that the foreign countries have their trampolines, springboards and pits sunken in the ground. This is good for diver safety, aids better coaching techniques and much more advanced for hand spotting and overhead harnesses.

Requirements for a ‘world class’ dry land training facility are:

4 – 8 x .5 meter springboards – (boards sit on the fulcrum – fulcrum attached to the concrete ground and concrete cut away at end to enable board to dip into ground)

4 x trampolines – (sunken into the concrete ground)

1 x sunken foam pit – (approximately 2.5 – 3 meter depth) – 1 x .5 meter springboard and 1 x 1 meter platform at end of pit. (Some countries’ have a hydraulic platform that goes from .5 meter to 3 meter’s in height to allow for different standards of diver).  If too difficult to cut concrete for pits and trampolines a great alternative is to simply raise the floor around the equipment and apparatus (provided there is ample ceiling hights).

At least 3 springboards and 2 trampolines must have overhead harnesses for spotting of the diver to learn new and difficult dives. This comprises of pulleys and ropes and a strong steel support overhead is recommended.

A large gymnastics area is also required to enable stretching, gymnastic practice, somersaulting and sports specific exercises.

Hanging wall bars required for core stability work and mirrors recommended in this are for divers to practice dry workouts. Some facilities also have sprung floors in a small area for tumbling practice.

Yards vs. Meters vs. Meters

Every wonder why competitive swimming has three (3) different courses of play; short course yards, short course meters, and long course meters.  And why are there two different “mile” races, 1650-yards and 1500-meters? And for the record, a mile is closer to 1600-meters or 1750-yards. 

America is the only country on the planet using the “English” system of inches, feet, and miles (OK, technically Liberia and Myanmar are often listed as sad-sack English unit users). Interestingly, even England utilizes the metric system. In the 1970’s the United States made an half-hearted and unsuccessful attempt to convert Americans to the metric system. From gallons to liters and from miles to kilometers, Americans resisted the change. In track and field, running tracks were converted from 440 yards to 400 meters; however lengthening all of the nation’s swimming pools from yards to meters never caught on; it is extremely prohibitive to say the least.

USA Swimming’s current leadership is currently making another push toward the metric system. Spring Nationals are to be competed in 25 meters, while the summer Nationals will continue to be in 50-meter pools. The NCAA experimented with a similar plan; however abandon the plan shortly thereafter.

Related to yards vs. meters, USA Swimming’s Senior Swimming Committee previously recommended to stop hosting the spring Nationals altogether. National Championships competed in yards have no comparison to other times in the world or world record possibilities. Even from a marketing standpoint, it is difficult to explain to sponsors why there are two Nationals every year.  There is only one World Series, Super Bowl, or NBA Championship. USA Swimming’s initiative failed, but many believe the Spring Nationals are not truly a National Championship because so many eligible competitors do not elect to attend due to their proximity to the NCAA Swimming Championships, many of America’s finer athletes opted not to attend the USA Nationals due to missed school, financial, and motivational reasons.

It is not expected that 25-yard pools will be obsolete in the near future, but forward-thinking Owners should consider a “stretch” pool with a bulkhead to accommodate multiple race course configurations for yards and meters.  Other design possibilities exist, including a 25-yard x 25-meter pool, but the flexibility of pool length and even flexibility of water depth, though initially expensive, may be of paramount importance in the future.

World Class Diving Facility

A world class diving facility in the 21st century has forced changes in diving pool designs in the past 15 years. This is largely due to the advent of synchronized diving and also because of an increase in International competitions around the world forcing Countries to either build new pools or renovate existing facilities to better standards if they wish to host a major event. 

Minimum requirements for a world class facility can be sketchy but if we compare the top pools in China, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Mexico and Germany, USA is actually languishing. To have a ‘world class’ facility for diving comparable with these top nations, this would be the requirements. 

Diving Pool: competitive end 

3 x 3 meter springboards

2 x 1 meter springboards

1 x 10 meter platform

1 x 7.5 meter platform

1 x 5 meter platform

1 x 3 meter platform

1 x 1 meter platform 

NOTE: To have a world class training acility it is recommended to have all platorms 3 meters wide but priority should be 3m, 5m, and 10m platforms.

Many diving pools these days are now adding additional springboards on the opposite side of the pool to cater for learn to dive sessions whilst elite training is happening at the competition end of the pool. This also is a benefit for when National Training Camps and international meets are being conducted at the facility. At least 3-4 x 1 meter springboards and 2 x 3 meter springboards would be recommended on the opposite side.


The Importance of Dry Land Training

Diving in the 21st Century has developed to a new level of excellence. In order to win a high level competition, an athlete must perform high degree of difficulty dives with the highest quality. Consistency and precision are the indicators of high quality dives and for a diver to perform at this level, the answer is dry land training.  

In order to control body position and perform a graceful and precise difficult dive, a diver needs good body awareness and excellent spatial orientation. This is an essential ability for a diver. The way to improve and enhance this ability is to open the eyes and use vision to spot the water and see reference points during the somersaults. Visual spotting helps the diver develop better judgment of his/her body position, somersault location and somersault speed in the air. This will enhance the body’s awareness and spatial orientation. After the diver masters visual spotting and correct come-out techniques, the diver will become far more consistent and precise performing these hard dives.  

Modern indoor dry land training has taken the sport to a new level and has raised the bar in training techniques. It has also allowed far greater number of dives to be performed in training in a shorter time frame and has of course provided safety for the diver whilst attempting these difficult maneuvers’. Dry Land is also part and parcel of a competition requirement now and at every meet and in particular, at the senior and international level, many venues that previously hosted international competitions had them taken away and a facility with modern dry land facilities were chosen. It is now standard even for the host of the Olympic Games to have a dry land area for training despite the Games only running for 16 days. 

Indoor Dry Land training is now a common practice in the sport of diving and any new facility that is built these days must incorporate an indoor dry land facility for training programs, club training, hosting of national and international competitions and for domestic and international camps.