Safe Space

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Creating a safe space helps everyone learn, be more relaxed, perform better, and have more fun! Photo by Julianne Grau

Keeping the FUN in the FUNdamentals by Creating a Safe Space to Learn 

Having a safe space to learn is important when approaching anything new. This is especially true in skydiving, where the new stuff is paired with elements that can be dangerous if not performed correctly. 

A safe place to learn starts with the environment. The people, background noise, things around the room, and general vibe can have a huge impact on someone’s headspace and capacity to absorb new information. Creating a calm but constructive environment, with minimal distractions allows us to better understand and retain the information needed for progress. 

Creating a calm, constructive environment with minimal distractions helps us understand and retain important information. Photo by Julianne Grau

Lots to learn

One of the coolest things about skydiving as a sport is how much there is to learn! As anyone who has received their A license can tell you, graduating is just the beginning. Now you need to learn how to fly with more people, ones who perhaps can’t fly as well as instructors. You need to learn different ways to exit, new ways to take a dock and way more fall rate control than you ever expected. You’ll learn about all kinds of directions you can go with the sport, like flying with huge formations of hundreds of people, or flying in a seated body position. You’ll learn about tracking, and head down flying, and wingsuiting, and the paths to becoming an instructor.

You might want to do one or all of the above. Each one requires more learning. If you find yourself at a drop zone that can create a safe space to learn it will be much more enjoyable! 

If your students are having fun on the flightline that’s a good sign they are relaxed and in a safe space. Photo by Julianne Grau

What is a safe space

How do I know if I’ve found or created a safe space to learn? To me it boils down to one thing; the fear of making mistakes must be removed from the environment. You have to create or find a place where it’s okay to mess up. Learning involves a lot of messing up!

If both the student and the teacher can see mistakes as stepping-stones instead of roadblocks, you have a safe space to learn. When you have a safe space, a funny thing starts to happen. Once the fear of making mistakes is removed, the mistakes seem to happen less often. 

Be clear with your expectations of the jump, focus on what matters
Photo by Julianne Grau

Focus on what matters

If you are a coach or instructor creating the space, be clear and concise with your expectations. There are safety things that really matter, there are things you might be looking for the student to pass the jump, and there are details that, while they would be great to see, don’t affect the safety of the jump at all. For example, don’t beat your student up if their back flip went sideways, let them know in advance it doesn’t have to be pretty. Focus on the things that matter; altitude awareness, getting unstable and getting stable again, pull time, and landing.

When the fear of messing up is removed, you remove a lot of tenseness from the prep work and that removes a lot of tension from the skydive. When we remove the stress, we can learn and have FUN at the same time. 

FUN! When we remove stress we can learn and have fun
Photo by Julianne Grau, over Skydive Spaceland San Marcos

Be kind

Even in a safe space for learning, the first step to being really good at something is generally being really bad at it. Dealing with mistakes kindly is the key to maintaining the safe space you created. No one likes getting yelled at or punished for something that could have been a teaching moment. If someone messed up and you still had fun on the jump, let them know you had fun first! Then, kindly touch in the points of growth. If someone really screwed up and genuinely scared you, touch on the safety and more serious aspects in private.

Don’t embarrass them in front of others, that is unnecessary, and not constructive. We don’t know what we don’t know. Your student will probably appreciate the lesson if you do it in a way that shows you care and don’t just want to make them look bad in front of others. In a constructive environment, they will hear you and you might save a life. If you yell at someone in a public space, they’re not going to listen or learn. You may lose their respect and ability to teach them anything in the future. 

Make any serious safety debriefs in private to help the student be receptive
Photo by Julianne Grau


The thing about learning is that we are all doing it. Students, new jumpers, old jumpers, instructors, and even sky gods are still learning. If we can create a safe space to learn it creates a better environment for every single one of us. 

Happy faces from relaxed skydivers feeling safe to make mistakes
Photo by Julianne Grau, over Skydive Spaceland San Marcos

Meet: Julianne Grau

Julianne is a freelance AFF Instructor. She loves attempting things others think are impossible, especially teaching humans how to fly. She is in her 4th year in the sport and has 1,400 jumps. If she’s not helping someone improve their flying skills, you can find her 1001 feet above a cloud on a high pull, or in her wingsuit. Julianne has a passion for helping people grow and loves encouraging responsible new skydivers to grow in the sport. Julianne excels in creating a safe environment for us all to learn and have fun. She likes to write long rants on the internet in an attempt to keep us all safe that sometimes turn into magazine articles. Julianne currently doesn’t have any sponsors but if anyone thinks she’s cool she’s totally open to discussions.

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