Gymnastics vs Diving- What Sport Should I Choose?

Dymnastics to diving

Many gymnasts will hit a crossroad when they get to 8th grade in the sport. The dream of competing in the Olympics as a gymnast is over and they begin to think about their sports future in high school. The great thing about being a strong gymnast is that it transfers well into other sports.

Some of the top sports that gymnasts will move into are diving, cheer leading and dance. In this article we’ll dive deep into the transition from gymnastics to diving.

Many gymnasts will transition from gymnastics to diving as they approach high school. The core strength & strong foundation built by gymnastics will help you excel in the pool as you make the switch to diving. The biggest hurdle will be getting used to landing on your head when you dive into the pool instead of your feet.

In this article we’ll explore why many gymnasts make this switch at or before high school. What the practice and time commitments look like for diving in comparison to gymnastics. We’ll also share some success stories of gymnasts that made the switch and experienced great success as a high school diver.

Gymnastics to Diving Infographic

Why Do Gymnasts Switch To Diving

There are 2 main reason that a gymnast will switch to diving.

#1 – Gymnast Burn Out

Gymnastics starts at a really young age for most gymnasts. Even as early as 4 or 5 years old. As you advance through the levels you’ll quickly start practicing 8-12 hours per week.

These practices are long normally 4-5 hours per day. Gymnasts love these practices as the excitement of reaching the next level engulfs them. But after years of this many gymnasts start to burn out. When a gymnast hits levels 7 & 8 they will be practicing between 20-25 hours per week.

Tired Gymnast

These hours of practice are year round with little down time. The pressure of school work, social time and other sports can be overwhelming.

Once the heavy workloads of 7th and 8th grade homework come into play many gymnasts will find themselves at a crossroads. Will they continue to pursue their dream of becoming an Olympic or College gymnast or will they explore other options.

Here’s a quote from a coach that coaches both gymnastics and high school diving.

“I tell all my gymnastics classes on the first day that if they live in Tumwater, there’s diving at the high schools and I’m the coach, …I thought CeCe was a lovely gymnast, but it hits a lot of girls around eighth grade that if they’re not going to make the Olympics it’s a tough sport to stay with.”

Heather Wilder ~ Diving coach at Tumwater High School District & Also Black Hills Gymnastics

#2 – High School Sports

Only a small percentage of schools offer gymnastics. If your closest high school doesn’t offer gymnastics you’ll be forced to travel out of your city to participate.

At this point you have 2 options you can continue on with your competitive club team and attend your local high school. Or you can travel outside of your area to attend a high school that offers gymnastics.

Side note – Most high school gymnastics teams are a step down from competitive gymnastics with your local club.

High school is an important time for growth and building friendships. Many gymnast want to participate in a sport where they can be around their high school friends.

The great thing about being a competitive gymnast is your core strength and gymnastics skills give you an edge on the competition if you do end up switching sports.

What Is The Time Commitment Of Diving Compared To Competitive Gymnastics

Competitive gymnastics teams will practice 4-5 times per week for about 4-5 hours each of those days. In comparison diving club teams normally practice 2-5 times per week and the practice is normally 2 hours per day.

The Toughest Part Of Making The Switch To Diving

“They can’t get over having to ‘land’ head-first. Gymnasts are used to landing on their feet, ……Divers are daring, nervy and a little crazy, like stunt people in the movies.”

Heather Wilder ~ Diving coach at Tumwater High School District & Also Black Hills Gymnastics

Gymnasts spend years and years landing on their feet. The idea of landing on their head doesn’t come naturally at first. Over time gymnasts can conquer this fear.

The fundamentals required for diving are very similar to gymnastics so the body control and core strength will give the gymnast a huge advantage over someone just trying out for the diving team with no background in gymnastics.

Once you get over the fear of landing on your head the skies the limit for most gymnasts who turn divers.

Similarities & Differences Between Gymnastics and Diving

Gymnastics and diving have many similar attributes especially when it comes to in air mechanics. There are a few things where they differentiate.

Two Main Differences

Take Offs 

In high school gymnastics will be taking off from a springboard.  The springboard requires specific timing and rhythm.  The gymnastics floor is completely stable so timing and rhythm aren’t as important.  


We already discussed how gymnast need to learn how to land on their head which is the opposite of what they’ve been doing in gymnastics.  But another part of landing while diving is creating as little splash as possible. This is a skill that takes many years to develop. 

Another sidenote is that a flexible back in gymnastics is considered an attribute but in diving that attribute could actually cause more harm than good.  

It’s more important for a diver to have a strong firm back as they enter the pool.   Having a loose flexible back could cause serious injury if you land in the pool out of position.  

Visual Spotting Is Important In Both Sports

I’ve always wondered how gymnast and divers are able to flip and rotate (sometimes 2-3 times) and then always know when to stop flipping so they land in the water at the appropriate time.  

This skill is called visual spotting.  The athletes will look for visual objects in the gym or pool two spots they know how many times they rotated. This is one skill that translates very well from gymnastics to diving.   

In fact both sports use trampolines to work on this scale as they advance into higher levels. 

A Success Story of A High School Gymnast

CeCe Pennella is a standout diver from Black Hills High School. She transitioned to diving in the 8th grade. She was torn on which sport to choose as she approached high school.

“I was getting into a rut, ….I knew I wanted to do a high school sport but the only other option I could see was cheerleading.”

CeCe Pennella

He gymnastics coach convinced her to try diving and in a short time she found herself competing at the top level of the sport.

The work ethic and dare devil attitude from gymnastics plays a big part when you start competing in high school diving. You’ll be doing acrobatic flips off platforms, high dives and spring boards.

The degree of difficulty is very high and there is still a strong chance of injury. Gymnasts make great divers because they’ve challenged themselves with doing dangerous stunts day after day.


It can be tough for a long term gymnast to give up her sport in favor of another like diving. The benefits of being on a high school team and competing with your classmates is a big draw. In the end if you competed at a high level in gymnastics you will do very well in the sport of diving.

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