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International, independent, e-magazine on skydiving, BASE & tunnel

Teamwork Tips

A skydive team is like a rock band — by John Baggaley
A skydive team is like a rock band — by John Baggaley

So, you’ve joined a skydive team? You’ve taken the exciting step from fun jumper to competitor. Congratulations! You’ve just complicated your skydiving life by a factor of double the number of people in your team, at the very least.

Rock Bands

Skydiving teams are a bit like rock bands. They form for a variety of reasons; some for fun, some with high ambitions and some hoping to play a few gigs, impress their friends and grab some groupies. Like bands, teams generally include people with strong egos that may or may not be matched by talent. They have to work very tightly together to bring off a good performance.

Also like rock bands, the members can have strongly held but very different, convictions about the best way of doing things.
Most significantly, they often have no formal leader, so often everyone voices opinions on all decisions – sometimes very loudly! And just like rock bands, the conflict this can cause tends to surface when the pressure is on. Classically, groups play happily together for years, then start to fall apart just after they sign a record deal, with the possibility that they might actually make it big. For skydiving teams, the tension will often erupt at or just before big competitions, like Nationals or World Meets.

There are a number of things teams can do to avoid exploding, imploding, falling apart or just fading away. In this monthly column I will outline some of these suggestions. Let’s start with three simple ideas – they might not all appeal but they have all proven useful.

1 Have a Contract

In an ideal world a contract should be written down and signed by everyone, so there’s no question that everyone understands what they have agreed to. This is especially appropriate if the expected spend is significant. For weekend warrior teams this may seem overly formal, but even if it’s not in writing, the team should discuss in detail, and agree on their aims, level of commitment in terms of time and money, and what behaviours are expected, such as timekeeping, response time to team emails/texts, commitment to 'homework'. Getting all this clear up front can save a lot of angst further down the line.

Storm — by Gary Wainwright
Storm — by Gary Wainwright

2 Make a Plan

Agreeing a written plan at the start is very useful. No matter how obvious it seems to you, our assumptions will not be the same as everyone else’s, and your concept of 'just common sense' could be a teammate’s idea of pointless. The more detailed your plan, and the more everyone buys into it, the more likely you are to succeed.

3 Have a Coach or Day Captain

On a busy training or competing day, if everyone gets involved in every decision, only tiredness, frustration and poor. Either have a coach who handles these things, or nominate a rotating 'captain of the day'. This person makes decisions and delegates tasks, such as meeting times, when to call a break, who is communicating with manifest, what dives to do, and so on.

Next Month

Outlines some of the likely bumps on the road ahead, with strategies to reduce their impact.

If you have a team issue you'd like discussed, or suggestions for future topics please leave them in the comments box below.

belbin team models