So, You Wannabe an FS Coach…

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That smile is the reason to become a coach!
Photo by Jason Now Call

If you’re wondering about becoming a formation skydiving coach, Julianne Grau answers the inevitable questions:

  • Should I become a coach? 
  • When am I ready?
  • How do I start?

There are few things more rewarding than growing yourself as an athlete in the sport of skydiving. Learning to fly is something we have been told is impossible our whole lives, yet here we are with a license to do just that. 

The path to becoming a coach looks different for each individual and isn’t for everyone. If you have really been enjoying the mentorship of experienced jumpers, taking every chance to learn the fundamentals of skydiving that you can, and you want to start giving back to the community, becoming a coach might be a great way to do just that.

Requirements 

There are basic requirements for getting your coach rating. In the United States they are very minimal; 100 jumps and a B license. Some people take years to get the jump numbers necessary to take the coach course and some people take a season.

When considering getting your rating, focus less on jump numbers and more what you have to offer a new jumper.

Photo by Nick Lott

Skills

Ask yourself if you have the appropriate flying skills:

  • Have you jumped with some newly-licensed jumpers who can’t quite hold a slot, maybe slide all over the sky and you were able to hang with them the whole time?
  • Could you identify the issues they were having in freefall and do you think you have helpful advice? 
  • Are you getting super-proficient at both falling quickly and slowly on your belly? 
  • Are your docks clean?
  • Are you always where you want to be on a skydive?
  • Have you’ve been a part of many well-organized, successful jumps?
  • Do you have the capability to calmly, professionally debrief a wild skydive while staying encouraging? 

Learning looks different for everyone and coaching can be hard! You have to be able to maintain a positive demeanor. 

Photo by Chad Hall

I once heard a coach debrief a student with this, “Sorry I couldn’t get to you, it looked great from above.” This wouldn’t have been as big of a deal had it not been a paid coach jump. If people are going to pay to jump with you, you need to have something to offer them. “I couldn’t get to you” is not acceptable.

Video debrief

Being able to wear a camera is also a critical tool for debriefing and learning. The students need to be able to see their bodies in freefall so they have a visual of what to fix. You can tell them “more arch” until you’re blue in the face but unless they see the visual of their body, they won’t really understand what you want from them. Most dropzones have higher requirements for wearing a camera than getting a coach rating, so keep that in mind.

Photo by Chad Hall

When are you ready?

When I knew I was ready was when I was kind of doing it already. I found myself as the most experienced jumper on a lot of jumps. I had around 250 skydives, a camera on my head, the flying skills to perform on any belly jump from 2-16 people, the videos to prove it, and I was jumping with a lot of newly licensed jumpers. I was keeping things safe, making good choices and had good tips for them. The manager of my DZ took notice and encouraged me to get my rating. It was a clean transition. I was ready. I never had to tell a student I was coaching, “Sorry, I couldn’t get to you.” It has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined, helping others grow in the sport I love so much.

Learning to track, photo by Nick Lott

Stepping stone

Getting a coach rating can also be a very important stepping-stone to becoming an AFF Instructor. This certainly applied to me… the AFF Instructor story is here


Working in Skydiving Series

Working as a jump pilot

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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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