Better the DEVIL you KNOW

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Team Meeting time
Image taken at Skydive Perris by Dennis Sattler

It’s that time of year. The annual reshuffle of teams and team members. People leave teams to join other teams, and teams ask people to leave, putting out the same PR spin as celebrity split-ups (undertones in italics)

“It was a mutual decision” (Throwing his Cookie on the packing mat at Nationals was the last straw)

“We couldn’t find dates with overlap” (We didn’t look very hard)

“It’s been great but it’s time to move on” (It was time 6 months ago but we had to make it through the World Meet)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking; we remove the weakest link – hey presto! – now we will reach our dream average! But, much of the time, it’s better to stick with the ‘devil you know’ Beware of the pitfalls of blithely replacing a team member. It seems like the quick fix (or it may seem like a very long fix till which you’ve been counting down the days!). But time and time again it’s been demonstrated that the best way to progress in scoring is to keep the same team line-up. It’s okay to have a skydiver on the team who isn’t as good, or who has a different approach – or even a princess! It is important to respect each other, and if you really don’t like someone, you’re probably not going to go far. But you don’t have to be bosom buddies, as long as you can agree on a common goal and buy into the team plan.

The Devil You Know may be better than the Devil You Don’t
Image: Christy Frikken coaching

Advantages of the Devil You Know

Management & Communication

It may be easier and more efficient to manage the disadvantages of the ‘weakest link’ than cope with a set of new challenges you have yet to evaluate. For example, if you have a team member with a slightly lower performance level, it can be very useful to work on personal skills in the tunnel during the off-season, rather than just drilling blocks and randoms. Very rapid progression can be achieved and the benefit will be seen when you start 4-way or 8-way again.

If you have someone whose attitude sucks and it’s blocking the team, it may be productive to work on removing this obstacle via plain speaking. This can be done in a ‘rock meeting’ format, where everyone speaks uninterrupted while holding the ‘rock’, which is then passed to the next person. If the problem is so bad you’re thinking of axing a team member then at least talk to the person first, and explain the extent of the problem. This can be done by team members, or it may be useful to ask your coach to get involved. At least it gives them a chance to address the problem and work on their behavior.

If the problem is just that the team member is ‘different’ then remember, this may be an advantage, teams where everyone is too similar can tie themselves in knots. It may be better to work at accepting each other as you are, valuing your differences, and avoiding winding each other up – however tempting this may be!

Experience flying together counts for a lot
Image: SDC Rhythm by Wageman Skydiving

Gain in Performance

If you have a team member who is not performing as well as the others, bear in mind that a lot can be changed in the off season, without doing a single jump. Homework, visualization, other skydiving and tunnel, skills training – and simply the time to digest the learning of the season. Many teams to start on a higher average at the beginning of the year than when they left off, if they plan the down time accordingly.

What if you want to leave?

There is also the example of a team wanting to keep the same line-up apart from one person who wants to leave. If you are the person who wants to leave, then it’s worth bearing in mind that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side.

It may be better to be patient with your Problem Child than start again
Image by Wageman Skydiving

Disadvantages of the ‘Weakest Link’ Policy

What Replacement?

With whom do you replace the ‘weakest link’? 90 per cent of times your replacement will have as many disadvantages as your previous teammate, and you don’t have that time flying together. The tempting ‘angel’ who is going to take you to paradise may well turn out to be Lucifer in another jumpsuit!

Time and Energy

Unless you have someone clearly in mind, to find a new team member you need to study history, contact potentials, and arrange tunnel and/or jumping tryouts. This is all time and energy that could be focused on improving what you have.

Loss of Continuity

It usually takes another 50-100 jumps (or more) with a new team member to regain the standard you were at before the change. In 8-way, especially if you replace people every year, it is really hard to progress to a higher average, you spend a long time covering old ground.

Then What?!

Ultimately, if you continue a policy of replacing the weakest link, sooner or later it will be YOU!

What do you do then? – Axe yourself?!

Image: SDC Rhythm by Wageman Skydiving

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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