Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
In my time as a coach I have been very privileged to work with many skydivers from all over the globe, from all different backgrounds and cultures. And in that time I have had the opportunity to observe, listen and learn from all of them. One of the most powerful lessons that has been reinforced time and time again, is that in order to help someone improve you must get to the root of what is holding them back – whether mental or physical in nature – or both. Accurate, targeted skill analysis all the way back to the underlying issue(s) unlocks the key.
I have also learnt over the years that no two people are the same. In other words the only way to help someone is to get to the bottom of their own personal story, their challenges, their mental and physical state, and their own history and experience at the time.
We can do a better job of leading each person to their own unique pathway to success, and leave the stereotypes at the DZ gates
Yet somewhere along the way we have started to stereotype people and stop treating them as individuals. Here are some of the more common examples I have heard or have been told about…Stereotype 1
A young dude on the DZ swoops in hard and fast, low and just escapes injury.
It’s always a concern when someone comes close to an injury – the pilot may be 'in the corner' for any number of reasons that if not identified, could put them in the hospital. By broad-brushing the landing into a category such as age or attitude we rob the pilot of the opportunity to talk about what happened in that particular circumstance, to figure out what went wrong and to learn from it.
A visiting jumper has a rough land__ing at a new DZ.
Without asking, you likely won’t know if this person has been having ongoing problems with their landings at their own DZ, they may be doing great at home. Any skydiver coming to a new place for the first time may experience some issues assimilating the new location – different sight picture for patterns, different elevation, different rules, crowded skies, you name it. Whilst identifying where a person normally jumps may help identify some of the potential differences, no progress will be made if that person’s ability to improve is written off without follow up and support.
A small, female skydiver has a less than stellar landing. This example has been thrown round a lot lately.
Comments heard – from both men and women:
There are so many reasons why any one person may have a sub-optimal landing, and there are far too many to list here. Yet these stereotypes are thrown out there regardless of the circumstance. The idea that an entire group of people (old/young/male/female/big/small) display the same traits under canopy is certainly not in keeping with my observations. In fact the idea sounds incredulous to me, yet we still seem to be hearing it.
The idea that an entire group of people (old/young/male/female/big/small) display the same traits under canopy is certainly not in keeping with my observations... the idea sounds incredulous
And worse still, the more these myths are perpetuated at dropzones, the more a new skydiver is likely to believe them and lower their expectations for their own performance and potential; no student should turn up for their first jump already thinking they can’t land their parachute. It's clear to me that this form of stereotyping does not encourage growth, it does not suggest that there is a pathway to improvement for the individual and, most importantly, it bypasses the real-time opportunity for valuable targeted individual skill analysis.
If you see someone have a shaky landing, take the time to ask them about it: what were they working on, what did and didn’t go right, give them an opportunity to talk it through and draw some conclusions, maybe with the help of what you saw too. Don’t assume you know what their deal is, each pilot deserves the conversation and the opportunity to learn. Let’s foster a culture of constructive feedback and discussion. We can do a better job of leading each person to their own unique pathway to success, and leave the stereotypes at the DZ gates.
Whether you are an instructor, coach, mentor, teammate or friend, if someone is struggling with some aspect of their skydiving, ask and listen; see if you can help them get to the root of the problem and encourage them to strive to be better. Every jumper deserves that and can get there with the right skill analysis, encouragement and support to create sustainable change.