Rating Corner | Improving Your Speech Habits
by Jen Sharp
One of the simplest ways to become a stronger instructor and a better leader is to change ineffective speech patterns. Three common habits can cause a noticeable lack of clarity. Once coaches and instructors correct these habits, they instantly add power and confidence to their lessons.
One More Time: Have you ever heard a coach or instructor suggest that a student practice something “one more time” and then when the student makes a mistake, ask them to do it another “one more time”? While the coach or instructor may not realize they are saying “one more time” multiple times, the student is acutely aware, because they are expecting to finish practicing. The instructor loses credibility when this happens. So instead of “one more time,” simply say “again.”
Pronoun Problems: Often a coach or instructor, with the intention of being polite, chooses the wrong pronoun to soften giving directions. For example, in a debrief, a coach may provide improvement points in this manner: “Next time, we need to make sure our legs are out more.” While misusing pronouns might be good for waiters aiming for a good tip at the end of your meal, it is not good for skydiving instructors aiming for clarity. So instead of “we” or “our,” simply say “you” and “your.”
Cue Words: Many newer rating holders conduct lengthy ground preps using paragraphs-long monologues to convey something simple. Eventually, they may tire of such long classroom sessions or face time pressure to meet loads. As a consequence, instructors end up cutting down the practice portion of ground preps or skipping major sections altogether. However, by utilizing cue words, a coach or instructor can shave several minutes without sacrificing the effectiveness of the student’s practice session. For example, if a student needs guidance or correction or forgets what comes next in a sequence, a coach should simply state what is required (“coast before docking”) instead of explaining the mistake and its implications at length.
Changing speech habits takes a conscious effort. You can increase your awareness of your speaking patterns by videoing and then evaluating yourself conducting a ground prep. Using “again” instead of “one more time,” using “you” instead of “we” and using cue words instead of detailing mistakes are three simple ways to instantly improve your instruction and provide clear leadership to your students.
Jen Sharp | D-17516
USPA Coach Examiner, Tandem Instructor Examiner and AFF and Static-Line Instructor