World Peace Skydive
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Fourth article in Dan's series, on training for peak performance, extracted from his much-loved book, Above All Else…..
In skydiving and other High Speed Precision Sports (HSP Sports) there are two diametrically opposed qualities. By definition, high speed implies high adrenaline. When you are racing down a ski slope, around an auto track, on a motocross trail or through the sky your heart is pounding and the adrenalin flowing. But to maintain control and maneuver your specific “course” at the highest speed possible, your mind must be very calm.
Things are happening at an incredibly fast pace. Within fractions of a second you need to be able to recognize adversities that require you to alter your plan, or advantages that allow you to push yourself harder. You must instinctively make the decision that produces the best results. There is no time for extended analysis or deliberations.
As you increase your speed, you squeeze the same amount of information into less time. For this amount of information to be instantly absorbed and the correct decision made, you need to be calm, VERY CALM, in an almost meditative state. The faster you go the calmer you must become. The common error for many HSP sport athletes is that they don’t establish the necessary level of calm. Our adrenaline is pumping and we love it. We come out of the gate, kick it into high gear and try to hold on. In formation skydiving this may work for a few seconds, or if you are really lucky for an entire jump. But you’ll never get through the meet without blowing up.
To put yourself right on the line every time in competition, you need to have a proven process that you have practiced and had success with in training. This process must be specifically designed for your particular endeavor. The skydiving teams I have coached have had great success using The 4 Cs approach.
Being on the line begins with a very calm mind. The common tendency for new skydivers, as well as competitive skydivers, is for their arousal level to begin increasing from the moment they board the aircraft. It continues to build, accelerating to the highest point as they prepare to exit. It seems ridiculous when their coach tells them to “calm down”. It’s just not natural.
For skydiving teams to exit the plane with the calm mind necessary to perform at their best they need to start establishing that calmness several minutes prior to exit. Sit back, slow down and relax your breathing. Don’t give any thought to the technical aspect of the moves you are about to perform. Visualize only the feeling of the jump when you are right on the line. Remember the effortless ease that the jump has when you trust your instincts and allow it to happen. Remind yourself that it is going to be easy. When you are calm, focused and free of all distractions it will happen automatically, as you trained it to.
When you are calm, focused and free of all distractions it will happen automatically, as you trained it to.
As you begin to climb out of the plane, take another deep breath. When everyone is in position for the exit, the person giving the exit count looks around to see that everyone is ready. Pause for a moment as together the whole team takes one more deep breath, one last reminder to stay calm. All eyes are in. Your minds are calm. You are together as one unit. The exit count is given and you go.
The team hits the air, locks the exit formation down on the wind and immediately establishes laser clear eye contact. The sense of calm in combination with direct eye contact allows us to broaden your view and expand your air awareness. You see everything that is going on with the team. You easily recognize perfect moves or problems almost before they start. Not only do you see and are aware of everything that is going on, you see that our teammates are aware as well.
This eye contact and awareness establishes a much higher degree of communication. It enables you to actually see what your teammates are thinking and feeling and to make instant decisions together. If you recognize that a teammate is over the line, you can calm him down with just a glance. If you realize a teammate is scared and flying cautiously, you can pump him up just as quickly.
This eye contact and awareness establishes a much higher degree of communication.
In order to maintain this level of communication during the jump, use a formation where the eye contact is easy as a cue to remind yourselves to stay calm and to communicate. Practice that cue in the dive preparation and the calmness will happen instantly when your eyes make contact on the jump.
You are aware of everything that is happening. The team’s communication enables you to “talk” and make decisions together instantly. You recognize any glitches and can instantly decide and communicate how to fix them. You recognize when you are on your game and can decide together to pick up the pace. This communication establishes a level of control that allows the team to adapt instantly to any situation.
This communication establishes a level of control that allows the team to adapt instantly to any situation.
It is this control that justifies complete confidence in yourselves and the team. With control established and recognized, you must then choose to be confident. Choose to fly fast and hard. This is a very conscious decision that is made in a fraction of a second. Recognize the team has control and then choose to move with as much power as you can continue to control.
Recognize the team has control and then choose to move with as much power as you can continue to control.
With proper training you will apply the maximum amount of power you can control instinctively. But it won’t happen on its own. Like any other athletic instinct it requires extensive repetition. Whenever the team demonstrates control, you must answer by choosing to fly at full power. With enough practice the team will nearly always be under control and you will instinctively be moving at full speed.
When your team begins training it may take the first ten seconds or more of each jump to work through the 5 Cs process and to put the team on the line.
For more advanced teams that are disciplined about following this method, it will be different. You will be able to transition through the process of starting off CALM, immediately establishing COMMUNICATION, recognizing CONTROL and CHOOSING to fly with CONFIDENCE in one second off the plane. All you will have to do is let go of any distractions and focus on calming your mind. The rest will happen automatically. It will have become instinctive for you.
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