Becoming a coach isn’t for everyone, and the path to achieving the rating is different for everyone. If you enjoy the mentorship of experienced jumpers, take every chance to learn the fundamentals of skydiving and want to start giving back to the community, becoming a coach might be for you. There are few things more rewarding than growing as a skydiving athlete.
USPA’s basic requirements for working toward a coach rating are to have 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. More important than jump numbers, though, is considering what you have to offer a new jumper. Ask yourself if you have the appropriate skills:
- Have you jumped with newly licensed jumpers who couldn’t quite hold a slot and maybe slid all over the sky, but you were able to stay with them? Could you identify the issues they were having, and did you have helpful advice?
- Are you getting proficient at slowing and increasing your fall rate while on your belly?
- Are your docks clean, and are you always where you want to be on a skydive? Have you been a part of many well-organized, successful jumps?
- Do you have the capability to calmly and professionally debrief a wild skydive while staying encouraging?
Learning looks different for everyone, and coaching can be hard! You never want to be in the position to have to say to a student, “Sorry I couldn’t get to you in freefall.” If people are going to pay to jump with you, you need to have something to offer them. Be honest with yourself about your skill level. “I couldn’t get to you,” is not acceptable.
It’s also helpful for students to be able to see film of themselves in freefall, so they can more easily visualize instructions. For example, you can say, “More arch,” until you’re blue in the face, but they may not understand what you want from them without the visual. However, if you want to wear a camera as a tool for debriefing your students, most drop zones will require that you meet industry standards. USPA recommends that skydivers hold at least a C license (minimum of 200 jumps) before jumping with a camera. For jumping a camera with students, SIM section 6-8.F states, “A skydiver should have extensive camera flying experience with experienced jumpers prior to photographing or videoing student jumps.
- At least 300 group freefall skydives
- At least 50 jumps flying camera with an experienced jumper”
So, if you want to offer video debriefing as a coach, you may need hold off until you’re ready.
If you’re the type of jumper who prioritizes safety, makes good choices and has developed belly skills, chances are you can make a clean transition to getting a coach rating. Be honest with yourself about whether you’re ready so you never have to say, “Sorry, I couldn’t get to you.” Helping others grow in the sport through coaching can be more rewarding than you’d ever imagine, and it’s the first stepping stone to becoming an instructor.
Julianne Grau | D-40369, Coach and AFF Instructor
San Antonio, Texas