The constant evolution of skydiving makes it a challenging and engaging sport to be a part of. Remarkable displays of skillful creativity become a part of our collective goals, as the disciplines we pursue reach out into new territory and mingle together in previously unstudied forms. This forward momentum is built upon countless thousands of tiny increments – as because that is what it takes to possess the physical skill and mental depth to strike out past the edges of the map. There is no substitute for the experience of years spent absorbing and re-applying the lessons skydiving can teach you, but as we have grown and continue to grow as a community – we have also improved at passing that information on to others.
Thanks to the formal processes in place and the sophistication of the technology we use, our sport is both accessible and safe to learn. Once involved, however, the onward paths towards your goals can become tricky to navigate. The routes of further progression can be staunchly formal, mystifyingly oblique, and anything in between. In some places and some situations, you are micromanaged to the point of hindrance – in others you are cast adrift while laden with responsibility.
Skydivers who have built their coaching and organising abilities over many years grow increasingly aware of both the true scale of the work and the importance of passing on what they have learned to others. Tora Tora has been running successful and popular skydiving events for many years, and has a valuable contribution to make to the progression structure for aspiring or current coaches and load organisers. Along with significant contributions from highly skilled and vastly experienced professional skydivers Domi Kiger, Will Penny, and Tora Tora’s own (much missed) René Terstegen – the Coach Masterclass seeks to offer a valuable and relevant bridge to those seeking to develop their place within the sport.
Co-creator Jasper van der Meer joins us here to share some of their plans…
– no real way to learn how to become a good freefly coach and load organiser. Once you get the go-ahead from your club or national organisation to function as a coach, there are then no further steps to aid with development. Quit often the coaching positions on a dropzone are occupied simply by those with the highest skill level, but little attention is paid to the many other abilities and qualities leaders and teachers must possess.
The only path towards establishing yourself in this area is first by working hard on your flying skills, but then to learn by doing – and hopefully, at some point become good at it. Working as a coach and load organiser is busy and demanding, with long hours and many moving parts to consider and watch over the whole time. It can take many years of doing this work to become truly excellent, but with the Coach Masterclass we are aiming to bring together some of the most highly experienced professionals in the sport to provide insight and structure.
During the early stages, new coaches are often highly concerned about their own performance – if they are doing a good job or not, what their own flying looks like – and if they are cool enough. The goal is to be both skilled and confident enough in your flying, safety, communication, and your overall self-worth as a coach that you can focus completely on leading and teaching, and set aside internal concerns about your status or image.
you need as much of your attention and energy available to pass on your knowledge and skills to others. Personal functions – your flying, safety, and awareness should be automatic. Not an easy thing to achieve, and guidance from those in our sport that have been working this job for many years is highly valuable not only for individuals seeking to be involved but by contributing to the connective tissue of how things function – effectively helping to build a recognisable way forwards towards what can seem impenetrable and mystifying when you are new.
We learned from running the Coach Masterclassthat an important part of what we should be doing is guiding people correctly towards embracing how much they don’t know yet. This has a lot to do with the absence of structure regarding what kind of qualities and skills you could have and should have as a coach. Many coaches we have met over the years actually know very little about teaching methodology. When we do modules about sports education and didactics we encounter how little this ground is covered in much of the training for skydiving. For most of our attendees, an important takeaway from the Coach Masterclass is an impression of all these things they don’t know but should know about – and this is constant throughout what we are trying to achieve.
of not only our previous workshops but everything we have learned from running events over the years. We began incorporating feedback forms for participants, anonymously, for both positive and negative feedback on the coaching they have received. Usually we forward that feedback to the coaches, which is not always easy to do – but presents clear opportunities to learn. We usually already know the coaches we bring in for Tora Tora events quite well, and the occasional problems that do arise are more often due to a mismatch in personality between the coach and the group for example, but understanding the dynamics of this is also part of enjoyable and productive camps and boogies.
I do see in the skydiving world quite a few aspiring coaches that don’t have the flying skill or awareness that a coach should have. The structure just isn’t there for them to know what they need to know about teaching students and telegraphing their skillset before they get going. We have been trying to develop a simplified version of this in Holland but it is just something that is slow to get off the ground officially – plus every country has its own different rules and regulations.
but a week-long course where we try as best as possible to convey ten years of practical experience. Our goal is that when people go back to their dropzones, they have a much deeper and more nuanced understanding of how much goes into being a good freefly coach and organiser – and who does and does not qualify for the role. Attending the Master Class doesn’t necessarily mean at the end you will be a great coach, but you will gain insight and access to the required box of tools you can apply to what is going on at your dropzone. You will also gain valuable self-awareness about areas you need to work on to be confident and comfortable calling yourself a freefly coach – able to recognise your strengths, but also the areas in which you still want and need to grow.
Tora Tora’s 2022 Coach Masterclass takes place from 9th-14th October at Skytime Castellon in Spain. The event is full, but dates for 2023 will be announced soon. More information can be found at www.toratora.eu