Planning a Team for Next Year

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The Nationals are over, you’ve either just taken part or you’ve never done it before. Either way, you’re on the hunt for a new 4-way skydiving team.

How do you find your teammates, work out a training plan and make sure you meet your team goals? 

Finding teammates you can have a laugh with makes training more fun
Photo: NFTO Team during the World Cup in South Africa, 2019 by Martin Martinez


This is where it all starts. Let’s take a look at some of the common criteria you might be looking for when selecting your new teammates:

Previous History

Many new teams start with a core of previous friends/ teammates. This is always a good place to start as you know where you stand with them and you most probably get on with them already!


Finding a good teammate is more than just a colleague. For the vast majority of us, this is our hobby and our passion. Getting on with your teammates is super-important, it helps you gel, gain skills more quickly and most likely, put in a good performance under pressure during competition. And let’s face it, it’s too much money to be spent if you are not having fun. Look for someone who has that right combination of drive, commitment and team ethic. You don’t have to be a stoical selfless angel, but you do have to be able to recognise the good of the team to be able to fit in. Finding 5 like-minded skydivers isn’t always the most important part of team building. Often it’s the differences which come together to make the most successful team. You need many different attributes such as strength, exit technique, speed of turning, accuracy, timing and seeing the team rhythm.

Finding 5 like-minded skydivers isn’t always the most important part of team building. Often it’s the differences which come together to make the most successful team

Having a good relationship with your teammates is gold 🙂
Photo courtesy of NFTO

Team Activities

In addition, you need teammates who are great at admin, being leaders, managing social media, coaching, sourcing sponsors, keeping the peace, strategising and more. Often one teammate will be the most skilled. They can offer their skills on player-coach or the in-coach for when their external-coach is not available. There’s often a teammate who is perfect for organising the finances or the calendar.


There is no point having a super-experienced teammate if they are not able to commit to the training plan in terms of time or money. Likewise, you need teammates who won’t get frustrated when you all can’t give that extra 50 skydives or 2 hours of tunnel time.


This is always a fractious subject, however, it needs to be discussed. It’s very rare to find a team where no one is wearing a weight belt. There will always be one or two teammates who are heavier than the rest. The lighter people will end up wearing a weight belt to compensate for fall-rate. Having an even fall-rate allows individuals to adopt a neutral body position giving them the range to increase and decrease speed to adapt to specific randoms and blocks. If you are the sort of team that means business and are targeting medals, then maybe you need to be accountable to each other with fitness and weight targets.

Let’s face it, it’s too much money to be spent if you are not having fun

You might want to be accountable to each other with fitness and weight targets
Photos: NFTO fitness training in the down time


What do you do if there is no team to join or viable candidates at your local parachute center? Then, you have to look further afield. It might be worth putting a post on your Facebook profile saying you are on the hunt.

You can ask the friends you’ve made at other DZs if they know of anything or search for “Meet and Greet” type events. Often it’s the local dz load organiser who is in the know and runs them. Being willing to travel will definitely widen your options!

You don’t need to be a confident socialite at the centre of every party with all the connections to find the right skydiving team, but writing straight-forward down to earth emails will definitely help.

NFTO training at Skydive Algarve
Photo by Simon Brentford


Working out how often you are going to train, with whom and how much to spend is often the most challenging part of team building. It’s often a case of the lowest common denominator, who has the least ability to commit their time and money.

When you’re working out if you can commit, you have to be brutally honest. There has been many a team who have broken up with just a few weeks to go before nationals because one teammate ran out of money or annual leave.

Creating a team plan should include the following:

  • Total number of skydives you want to do and when.
  • Tunnel time and when to do it.
  • Selection of the right coach if he or she is not already a player-coach. His or her cost per day and also what happens when the weather is bad.
  • Use of single or double skydiving rigs.
  • Choice of packing for yourself or using packers.
  • Budget – Work out what this is all going to cost – and then see if this amount is practical or if you should adjust the wishlist. Include within the plan all the extra ancillary costs such as accommodation, association membership, nationals registration, petrol, evening meals, reserve pack jobs, etc – the list goes on.
  • Which competitions you want to enter – a local dz 4-way comp, SkyLeague, the Nationals, European Skydiving League, etc.
  • Team Goals – when setting the team goals, such as an average, winning a medal at the Nationals, etc – examine it based on previous experience. It’s important to find the right balance between being realistic, attainable and not pie-in-the-sky.
  • Picking which category you want to enter (eg A, AA or AAA) might on the face of it seem like a simple decision, but not always. For example, if you think you are a second season AA class team, but only have a budget of 30 training jumps and a new Rookie teammate then actually, perhaps A class is a better choice. On the other hand, one thing you don’t want to be accused of is entering a class which is too low and then being thought of as a cheat. Think if you would feel proud if you won a medal in that category or feel as though you should have aimed higher. 

It’s important to find the right balance between being realistic, attainable and not pie-in-the-sky

NFTO training for the UK Nationals at Skydive Hibaldstow
Photo by Martin Skrbel


It’s well worth doing some trials at your nearest wind tunnel before committing to a full year of training. It’s a great way of working out if you have compatible fall rates, want the same thing and come from a similar background. Make sure you find a coach to hire for that session (a max of half an hour should be enough). They can offer an honest and external point of view of who should take which slot and if you are compatible. The trials are also a great place to get a feel of each other’s commitment, personality, goals and passion.

Try to structure the trials so that you get to see everything a potential teammate / team are capable of. Here’s a few examples of how to structure it:

  • An all-random jump – e.g. A-E-M-Q.
  • A jump where you have to show how good your 360s are – e.g. 15-7.
  • A 2-way jump where you practice side-slides and 180s.
  • If there are multiple jumpers involved in the trials, you will need to wear your diplomatic hat at the end of the process. Saying someone is rubbish and therefore hasn’t made the cut isn’t going to help you long-term. The world of skydiving is small enough that often if you decide against a potential teammate during one season, you may find that you end up working with them during another season. So don’t burn your bridges!


If someone asked you to spend £3,000 on a snazzy HIFI or TV, you’d want to test it out and have a good think if this is really what you want. Joining a skydiving team or picking a new teammate is no different. Really consider if you can work with these people, do you stand a good chance of achieving your personal goals and is it going to be a pleasurable experience?

Really consider if you can work with these people, do you stand a good chance of achieving your personal goals and is it going to be a pleasurable experience?

Having a good team vibe and solid commitment means mistakes are met with humour not recriminations
Photo by Simon Brentford


It’s important to bear in mind the plan will probably have to adapt to the lowest common denominator, ie, the person with the least resources. It’s really important you all examine your personal finances and time correctly before committing to anything. It’s not fair if a teammate cancels a weekend because they have run out of money.

Having a separate bank account for your skydiving funds is a great way to isolate your team spend. But making that money go further is also worth some thought. For example:

  • Being willing to camp at the dz to save on money.
  • Timing when you train can really make a difference during your competition. For example, if your team has a budget for 100 jumps – you have a 50 jump camp planned in February at Skydive Algarve, then you have 50 jumps planned for the following 6 months over some weekends, the learning will not have been as intense and there is a risk of peaking too early. It’s better to compress your training with some winter tunnel, a few weekends of training springtime, then your main camp around May or June.
  • If you are using packers, pack the last skydive of each training day.
  • Offer tunnel coaching at your local tunnel in return for better team rates.
  • Run a public sports fundraiser. NFTO did it in 2018 to great effect.
NFTO on #Cloud9 🙂
Photo by Simon Brentford


It’s so very easy to over-stretch your funds when setting out the team plan. For example, you agree a team plan of £3,000 for the year, but then decide to schedule in an extra meet and 3 days of additional training. That’s easily going to cost another £500, but it may well be the case that someone on the team is already giving 100% of their available funds to do it. This can easily cause friction and resentment, so avoid it if you can.

Likewise, on the other side of the coin, imagine a few training weekends where the weather has been bad – actually, don’t imagine it, we’ve all experienced it! It’s easy to allocate that training money elsewhere in your life. When the rest of your teammates then decide they want to schedule in an extra team training weekend to use up that budget and you don’t have it anymore, it’s also going to cause enmity.

NFTO scoring 32 points during Round 7 at the UK Nationals, 2021


Here’s our top ten Dos and Don’ts when creating a team plan: 

  1. If your training starts in the springtime, really make the effort to save your pennies up in the autumn. Condensing your team training into just a few months is going to hit your wallet.
  2. It’s better to do less jumps, but employ the use of a coach, rather than just winging it (pardon the pun!).
  3. Make sure your booties have Shoe-Goo on them. Losing a bootie midway through a day can be costly.
  4. If you can afford packers, do so. It makes your learning so much more efficient.
  5. Ask the manifest of your dropzone for a routine. E.g. if it’s a 5 load cycle, ask to be on loads 1 and 4, which gives you adequate time to debrief and dirt-dive.
  6. Commit to the weekend. Imagine a weekend at your local dropzone – it’s common to see teams heading off mid-afternoon on the Sunday. No one wants to be home late on a Sunday night but it’s worth going the extra mile to make sure your jump plan is realised.
  7. Likewise, if you’ve got great weather, don’t wear yourself out trying to do more jumps that the team has the capacity to do. The last few jumps will most likely be a waste of money with little progression.
  8. Take the time to really learn the randoms and blocks you are doing in your class. Thinking of them as letters and numbers are much quicker to recall and say in freefall than their full name. Delegate someone to generate a daily draw and spend 10 minutes each evening visualising how it might work. You can sign up for a Dive of the Day on SDC Rhythm XP’s website.
  9. Create a spreadsheet with notes on what you have to do both on exit and in freefall for all the randoms and blocks. If you’re a more advanced team, you may need another column explaining the hill-move too.
  10. Lastly, if the plan you’ve created looks daunting, unmanageable or generally scary, the odds are that it is. Make sure everyone is sold to it and that it’s checked over by an experienced coach to see if it’s realistic.


When you are having your team meeting where all the important parts of this article are discussed, you need to be honest about what you want, and you need to listen to your teammates. Doing this is really going to help you develop a sense of teamwork and some super-close friendships.

Photo by Rob Lloyd

This article was originally published on Skydive Hibaldstow’s blog in two parts – Part 1 & Part 2.

Further Reading by Simon…

Mind the Gap by Simon Brentford
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Meet: Simon Brentford

Cameraman for team NFTO since 2015
5200 Skydives, 1000+ BASE jumps, FS & WS coach
UK National Champion 4-way 2004 (as point with Wizards), 2018, 2019, 2021 (as camera)
UK National Champion 8-way 2019 & 2021 (as camera)
UK National Champion Speed skydiving 3 times
4-way at World Cup, Saarlouis, Germany 2011
Speed Skydiving at Mondial, Dubai 2012 (came 6th)
4-way Female at World Air Games, Dubai 2015 (came 5th)
4-way Female at World Championships 2016, Chicago, USA (took Bronze)
4-way Female at World Championships 2018, Gold Coast, Oz (took Silver)
4-way Female at World Cup 2019, Eloy, USA (took Silver)

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