Amidst the cancellation of sports and other activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, one sport is able to continue on training almost normally thanks to the use of technology as well as innovative, alternate training methods.

Diving coach Dave Setnicker has long since used technology in the form of videos to critique and improve their mechanics, technique and performance of the divers he coaches. As diving draws similarities to dance and gymnastics, the use of trampolines can also give divers something close to a diving board, but on land instead.

Eventually, Setnicker wants to use a video conferencing app such as Zoom to be able to critique athletes in real time. But until then, the videos help him as well as those training with him.

“I can send them videos of certain dives and then they can use videos that maybe their parents shot of them to compare and let them kind of discover their own flaws and how to improve their technique.

“In one case, one of the girls I’m training in Duluth has been working on some of the exercises and drills to work on her front approach, but instead she’s using a trampoline to practice. It’s not the exact same, but if you can do it on a trampoline it should work on a diving board.”

Setnicker is also the coach and owner of Dive North, a USA Diving club dedicated to year-round diving development. Dive North operates out of the same building as the Northern Twistars Gymnastics Club, creating a natural partnership between the two clubs and their owners, Setnicker and Gwyn Roos.

“Diving and gymnastics go so well together already so some of the divers that have gymnastics backgrounds already can get a leg up when it comes to diving. At Northern Twistars, they let us use their full size trampoline with a rigging device to work on mechanics, summersault, twists. We obviously can’t do that now during this everything being closed but it’s there waiting for us.

“I’ve been working closely with Gwyn at Twistars for a bit now and she’s really excited about all of this stuff we’re doing. I’d like to see her as a diving coach with all the gymnastics experience she has. The more she sees diving, the more she can incorporate into her side of things. There’s a lot of similarities but a lot we do different as well.”

Setnicker also hopes to have a dry land diving board installed soon at their site to get things even closer to the real thing without needing a pool.

Mesabi East diver and multi-time state qualifier Kailey Fossell works closely with Setnicker throughout the school year and spends time in the offseason training with another coach in the Twin Cities. But with the cancellations due to COVID-19, virtual is about the only way any training is getting done nowadays.

“She was supposed to compete in a regional meet at Iowa State and those plans get cancelled. I told her we don’t even know if there’s going to be a season in the fall. We just don’t know yet. If any sport could be safe, it would hopefully be swimming and diving. I’m hoping the High School League will start working with the state and try to find ways to set guidelines for sports that might still be able to get up and running.”

As well as working with divers in Duluth and Two Harbors, Setnicker is also working with Hibbing’s Maddy Clusiau and Chloe Price and he hopes to train some athletes from Virginia as well if the interest is there.

When it comes to training, Setnicker says an app called Coach’s Eye helps him analyze the video he receives from his athletes. Coach’s Eye is a video recording app that is designed with the intent for coaches to analyze an athlete and add things like voice instructions or simple annotations and lines to help show where mechanics can be improved. Good for more than just diving, Coach’s Eye is a useful tool for almost any sport where breaking down an athlete’s mechanics would be beneficial.

“A lot of schools and programs are starting to buy in to programs like this. It’s not super expensive and it runs across multiple platforms. It’s a good way to get the athletes involved as well and take the analysis to a level that everyone can understand easily.”

Even without simulated diving, strength and flexibility training on it’s own is important for divers, according to Setnicker.

“We emphasize conditioning a lot. Not even so much on cardio, but just building up the core because diving really requires a lot of tightness in the core for twisting and summersaults. You also want to increase arm and leg strength. It doesn’t need to be pushing weights. Even running up and down stairs or things like that can help a lot.”

With the future of organized, high school-level sports currently uncertain, Setnicker thinks the way of virtual training may be here to stay even after things return to normal.

“I think the use of things like Coach’s Eye and video analysis, along with the alternative training methods could be on the rise for a while. I think it would take an initiative from those experienced with it to really make it more popular. I like making stuff like this available to my kids because it can help them in so many ways.”

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