JaNette Lefkowitz, C-35536, receives the 2022 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service “For raising the level of skydiving worldwide as a top-class competitor, prolific coach, developer of educational materials and organizer of high-profile events, and for working tirelessly to create a strong community for both men and women in the sport.”
For those who are fortunate enough to enjoy skydiving, they quickly realize that it’s unique among other pastimes for what a huge role the community plays in the sport. When you get your license, you not only become a skydiver, you become part of a group whose members seek to lift each other up and help each other flourish in whatever direction they choose. There is no sport or hobby where this happens more than skydiving. And as soon as JaNette Lefkowitz began in the sport, she embodied that selfless effort to help others be their best.
Lefkowitz is one of three skydivers awarded the 2022 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service. Her husband and longtime teammate, Steve Lefkowitz, presented the award and highlighted her numerous accomplishments during the 4-way formation skydiving closing ceremony at this year’s USPA Nationals at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois.
As a competitor, JaNette Lefkowitz reached the highest level in the sport. She is a world champion in women's 4-way FS and a multi-time national champion in FS events including 16-way, 8-way and open 4-way. In fact, she is one of just three women who have won the USPA National Championship in open 4-way.
Lefkowitz loves skydiving and loves competition, and she quickly recognized that the scarcity of women in leadership roles in the sport is a problem to be addressed, not a natural condition to be accepted. Early in her career, she helped lift the level of women’s skydiving through multiple women’s state record jumps in Florida and Illinois. Empowered to do more, she started the Women’s Skydiving Network along with teammate Christy Frikken. Founded in 2016 with the goal of growing the number of women in skydiving and providing a support network to help them achieve their goals, it has since grown to include more than 3,600 women worldwide. The WSN’s accomplishments include mentorship programs, scholarships for women earning their instructional ratings, women-focused events and the Highlight all-women demo team, which performs high-visibility jumps across the country.
In addition to the Women’s Skydiving Network, Lefkowitz has devoted countless time to providing resources to help all skydivers. She was instrumental in the creation of the Rhythm Skydiving 101 and 401 apps, which together have been downloaded more than 35,000 times. These apps provide practical instruction on everything from A-license study guides to gear checks to fall-rate control to 4-way block technique, and the vast majority of the content is completely free.
JaNette Lefkowitz is also a founding member of SDC Rhythm XP, which as a coaching organization has sought to raise the level of the FS community through countless tunnel and skydiving coaching events around the country. At any given USPA Nationals, easily half of all teams have had some degree of coaching from Rhythm generally and Lefkowitz specifically.
The WSN, the apps, Rhythm and all the medals are high-profile and easily enumerated accomplishments. But anyone who knows her knows that there is more that makes her such a wonderful part of the community. It is the example she sets as a warm and deeply caring person. During the height of the COVID pandemic, Lefkowitz personally ran numerous webinars to provide instruction and to help keep skydivers feeling connected to the community when they couldn't be together physically. As those in coaching know, when you’re a coach, you often find yourself doing much more than helping people with their technique. You are a therapist, counselor, cheerleader, matchmaker, conflict-resolution facilitator and a motivator. Countless times, Lefkowitz stayed on the phone late at night, donating her time to help students with their personal challenges. Countless times, she sat in the corner of the Skydive Chicago hangar talking with someone about their goals, conflicts or setbacks and how to overcome them. And this spans beyond skydiving. What greater gift is there than to hear a student tell you, “My life is happier and healthier because of your example and influence.”? Many of Lefkowitz’s students have said exactly that over the years. It may be less tangible than her many other accomplishments, but her endless generosity and genuine caring is what most sets her apart.
During his award speech, Steve Lefkowitz underscored JaNette Lefkowitz’s wide-ranging influence by asking the members of the audience to stand up if she had ever influenced them positively. Everyone there stood and cheered! It was a fitting acknowledgement of her expansive role in making the skydiving world a better place and a poignant show of why she is so deserving of this award.