So, you wannabe a freefly coach?

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Alethia Austin is a full time freefly coach with around 4,00 jumps amassed over 20 years in the sport, but mostly since 2014, when she started ‘hitting it hard’. She quickly became a leading light in freefly coaching and is much in demand worldwide, because of her energy, high work ethic and effective teaching skills.

We asked Alethia to help others follow in her footsteps…

Alethia Austin, by Whit Milam 

Do you work at one DZ or multiple DZs? 

I’m a self-employed freelance coach, so I work all over the world. Spain, US, Mexico, Portugal, Norway, Belgium, UK, Sweden, Africa are a few of the areas I’ve worked at in the last 2 years. My current home drop zone is Skydive Spaceland Houston in the United States.

Brief career history (years, places, job, one line for each)

  • Music supervisor in Los Angeles: creating and licensing the soundtrack for movies & TV
  • Marketing: Amsterdam, Netherlands & US: building up of brands & management of marketing
  • Marketing: Director: Skydive Spain, Skydive Algarve, Skydive Hibaldstow: 5 years, rebranding the trio of DZs and running the marketing for all 3
  • Yoga teacher: 10 years teaching around the world
  • Full time freefly coach: Coaching for 5 years, full time for 3
  • LSD Skill Camps: creator and owner, running these camps for 6 years
LSD Bigway Building Up at Skydive Spaceland
Photo by Daniel Angulo

How long have you been a freefly coach?

I started coaching while working in Spain, about 5 years ago. It started out as just a casual thing I wanted to do for people in town at the DZ. Then it became a serious full time gig.

What does that role mean… what do you do?

I teach people who already have a foundation of freefly to do it just a little bit better in some way, whether through their body inputs or following skills or their mental and physical approach to flying. 

When did you decide that was your goal?

For me, it happened really organically. I hadn’t set out to be a coach, I was just doing something I loved and trying to help contribute to people’s experience in some way. After running my LSD Camps for a few years and working Spain events, I started getting invitations to work events around the world. Feeling quite like a fraud, I said yes to these events but didn’t quite understand why. It took me some years to understand why I was getting requests to work. It was at that point that I thought “Ahh, okay, so I have something to offer that is unique in this thing and it seems like it’s welcomed.” At that moment, I embraced my style and the opportunities and just went for it.

How long did it take you to reach professional coaching status? 

Before I even understood that was happening, actually. I think my case is rare. I didn’t yearn to be on event posters, or yearn to be a coach. I simply was doing my life in my own Alethia way when the opportunities presented themselves to me. I’d say I was coaching for a few years here and there and then in the next breath I was working 20+ events around the world with sponsors. 

What qualifications do you need to achieve to be in that position? 

Actually, you don’t “need” any, fortunately and unfortunately. But knowing what I know now, you should absolutely have thousands of jumps in your pocket spanning across several years in the sport to really understand the weight of what you’re doing in terms of safety. Not only that, you should have thought about leading, and leading scenarios, and conditions and what those mean for you and what they’d mean for different leading scenarios, and how you’d approach those. And you should feel pretty dang confident that when you have 6 people staring at you and giving you their full confidence that you’re going to keep them safe because you’ve engineered a safe dive flow, within the groups ability and your ability to lead it, in the unique DZ and weather conditions.

Alethia leading an angle jump at Skydive Cuautla
Photo by Diego Duvel

What is the ‘normal path of progression’ to that level? Did you follow it? 

I’d say a general path to progression would be something along the lines of: make thousands of jumps, a lot of those as a student, a lot of those getting coaching by many different coaches, jump in many different dropzones – as many as possible, in different weather conditions and unique DZ conditions, lead many jumps for friends, lead many jumps in many different scenarios for many different levels at many different locations out of many different airplanes as a way to start to consider the role as a coach or load organiser. 

How much does it cost to reach that level?

In my own experience, I spent a lot of money traveling around to events as a student, a lot of money jumping as a follower, and a lot of money leading for free. 

Was it easier or harder than you expected? 

Again, I think my way into this was a different way, but for me, it was very easy to ‘become’ a coach, but it took a lot longer to become a good coach. And that process is never ending.

Why did this line of work appeal to you? 

So many things, but mostly it meant I could share my energy with people, which is a true joy for me. And I could do this in an element I love, and do it with people I really understand and vibe with, and I could continue to be in the act of something I’m so passionate about. And it kept me off my laptop, for which I am grateful for. 

What satisfaction/reward do you get? 

When someone I’m working with either at an event or as a one on one has that moment that clicks, it really makes me feel a sense of pride and an excitement for them. There are so many days I think “I can’t believe this is my job” so there’s so much more satisfaction than just that moment, but it’s a pretty great thing to see. 

It’s important to spend enough coaching time on the ground. Photo by Barb Zermeno.

What are the best points?

Getting to work my passion for energy and wellness into a day of coaching. Helping people. Stoking people. Leading a jump where everyone is tight and we’re in a flow. Sunset jumps with a great group or student. Working with friends and enjoying that community. Seeing people light up in the sky or on the ground. Working at new places around the world. Meeting new people. 

What are the worst points?

Bad weather days. The dangers. Egos. 

What safety considerations do you need to bear in mind? 

Oh, this would need to be an article in itself. So many people in the US are rushing and trying so hard to become a coach/LO. But, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of understanding about what comes along with that role. When people sign up to fly with you at an event or a day of coaching, most of them show up and put their full trust in you for the day. They haven’t looked at the weather conditions, they’re not thinking about opening spot or other groups on the plane or levels of the other people in the jump. They’re just showing up and expecting their coach to have it all covered. Which, naturally, most of us do. But that doesn’t come without some “ON” switch that gets turned on by experience, understanding so many factors involved, conditions, scenarios, predicting the outcome of jumps based on seeing a pattern due to skills and groups flying, and having backup plans for freefall when doesn’t go according to plan or on the plane when clouds have struck, or whatever the case may be. I can’t stress enough how many safety considerations there are to being a coach and/or  leading jumps. It’s so much more than I knew going into it. 

How do you keep the people you are responsible for safe? 

Work within my leading skill level and within the group’s ability. Stay away from complacency. Be a student and speak to my senior coaches about any and all things that are a grey area/have arisen as a unique thing. Keep learning myself. Overthink every scenario ahead of time. 

Who taught you the most along the way?

I’ve been so lucky to have great teachers in my skydiving career. I’d say Tex has helped elevate my leading awareness the most out of any of my peers, however. Being able to rap about all the things, all levels, all scenarios with him and tap into his brain has really pushed the borders of my awareness much more than before. 

Do you have job security? 

Does anyone, really? As Alethia, yes, I’m quite capable of being secure in my ability to earn. As a skydiving coach, it looks like it so far. Ask me again in a few years. If you’re looking for a career where you can say you’re earning X per year for X days  of work, this might not be for you. 

LSD camp, Mexico 2021
Photo by FFRacoon

Did you ever do a desk job? Could you go back to one? 

I have been mostly a work from a laptop at home kind of person in my life, and as I run events, I’m still a bit at the desk, so to speak. At this point, I don’t believe I could be in another industry outside of skydiving, however I believe my role will evolve many more times, happily. 

Tell us a particularly memorable day / event / interaction / season. I’d say working in Botswana at the EPIC Boogie,  overlooking the salt plains and wildlife (landing near rhinos is quite a thing!) is going to have to go down as pretty dang memorable and special. (It’s still happening, by the way, definitely recommended!)

Is it as glamourous a life as it looks?Traveling round the world jumping at all the best places, being one of the cool kids…. 

I’m on my third fully stamped passport in terms of personal travel, so the glamour of new places is more of a mainstream in my life, with or without coaching. Traveling around the world, living out of a suitcase, sleeping in different places, is sometimes very glamorous and exciting, and sometimes takes everything in you to maintain energy, routine, and presence. As far as being a cool kid, don’t believe the story this role will have your ego believe. We’re still all on the same level playing field, no title or role will ever mean someone’s value is worth more. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to become a coach

Don’t chase it. Do the work. And then do some more. Get coaching. Be coached. Dismiss your ego. Be humble. Try less hard to be a name. Stay authentic. Do some more work. And if you can’t find your place, just keep doing what  you love  in the sport. There’s always something to learn, and someday those lessons will come in handy as a coach. 

What do they need to consider before trying to become a coach? Is it easy to bite off more than they can chew? 

You definitely don’t want to get recognized before you have the ability, skill, understanding to back it up. Consider your motives. 

What problems did you encounter and how did you overcome them? 

I haven’t encountered many problems. It’s been mostly smooth sailing, which I attribute to working within my skill set and knowing myself and what I will/will not accept as safe. 

Any advice how to make it work financially, for someone wanting a career change but without much funds? 

I think for most people who don’t have a padded piggy bank but want to coach full time, you’re going to really have to build up that clientele and work calendar, so there might be some thin times ahead. Maybe going part time to help keep some sort of flow coming in whilst building up that earning potential. 

LSD camp, Mexico 2021
Photo by FFRacoon

What qualities does a person need to do your job well? 

Personable. Excellent communicator. Good people skills. Solid flying / leading skills. Switched on kind of person. Safe. Knowledgeable and experienced in skydiving. Energy management (self and others). Strong personality. Leader. Decision maker. Quick thinker. Good listener. 

Do you ever see someone doing your job badly? How does that make you feel? 

Sure. Most of the events I’m working and the events that I run are with some of the best leaders/coaches in the world, so I’m exposed to high level coaches mostly. But, at the dropzones on an off day, I’ll see people LO’ing/coaching from maybe an ego standpoint , or coaches who really shouldn’t be doing it as they clearly don’t really have the things we’ve spoken about to be a safe leader. 

You make it look so easy – but what background work/prep goes into that?  

I have spent decades perfecting my self care / wellness routine, so I’m pretty good at just being whole as a human already. That background and passion is present in my job in the sense that I eat well, maintain a positive mental makeup, I nourish my body with sleep and care, I take care of myself physically, I am present with my energy and protect it, I get enough sleep and I very much limit anything toxic for my body, including the post jump drinks or final party shenanigans. All this means that I have that high Alethia energy even on my work days, when I’m 15 events deep into the year, haven’t been home in weeks and am taking care of 6+ people per day for 14 hour days. 🙂 It becomes easy because it’s all just an extension of my normal life. 

What’s the bottom line most important thing to remember about your role?

You are to a degree responsible for other people’s lives for a time being. I’d like to add a second one: Everything is temporary, so this thing is a blessing for the time being.

How do you feel going to work in the morning? 

Super stoked! There’s nothing like it. 

What does your future look like?  

I always have a lot of different projects happening at once. I never know where they end up, so I just continue to work on everything with love and passion. In my life that’s translated to a lot of beautiful, blessed opportunities. If there’s something that’s constant in my life, it’s that around the corner there’s always something new coming up for me. I stay open to possibilities and move through them with gratitude. That’s not a bunch of hippie jargon, it’s simply the way my life has gone. 

Where can our readers come and get some of your awesome coaching?

I would LOVE to see some of your readers!  Come fly with me in Egypt at Spread The Wings boogie in December. It’s an amazing crew skydiving above the pyramids in Egypt! We jump, we explore, we eat, we celebrate.

😍

What other events do you have coming up?  


Puerto Escondido for private coaching or LSD Bigway in Mexico December and January. Coming soon will be Panama, Brazil and then back to Europe for some summer events. Hit me up on Instagram or Facebook for event pages! 

Alethia Austin’s group training for Project 19 at Skydive Spain
Photo by Adrian Daszkowski

Anything to add? 

Don’t be in such a rush or desperation to get somewhere that you miss the whole life that happens along the way. It’s the tiny moments in between the big ones where life really happens. Enjoy the journey. And thanks for your contribution to life. You’re doing great. 🙂 

Thanks so much for talking to us Alethia

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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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