A Salute To All Instructors
by Ed Scott
We need to give acclaim to the often-unacknowledged heroes of skydiving, those 6,392 members who hold a current USPA Coach or Instructor rating. More than half a million people in the U.S. make their first skydives every year. Nearly 28,000 of them go on to make additional training jumps as they aim toward their A licenses. USPA rating holders are directly responsible for the safe outcomes of every one of these jumps.
The student landing safely and unhurt is the ultimate goal of each training jump, of course, and the highest responsibility of the rating holder. Added to that priority, the rating holder is also trying to ensure that the student learns new skills while building on and reinforcing earlier skills and knowledge. And finally, the rating holder wants to end the day with a motivated student eager to come back, learn more and become a licensed skydiver. Day after day, our cadre of coaches and instructors meet those goals, delivering students safely to the ground having met a training objective and highly motivated to jump again. Throw in the usual DZ conditions—high heat and humidity in the summer, breathtaking cold in the fall and winter, changing cloud conditions, sudden shifting and gusting winds, unpredictable students—that force constant decision making on instructors and coaches, and it becomes obvious that it takes a special person to face this immense responsibility head-on and perform well.
And they do perform well. Each year nearly 7,000 new skydivers join USPA and 4,000 earn their A licenses. Every one of them advance to that point under the instruction and guidance of instructors and coaches who fulfill their roles well: The tandem instructor who, instead of giving a thrill ride, gives the tandem student motivation to make a solo jump. The AFF, IAD or static-line instructor who spends hours not just teaching but instilling confidence. The coach who works to ensure that every student continues learning and improving their skills.
Yet the only media attention our instructors and coaches seem to receive is the negative kind generated by the rare student accident, injury or worse. Though each one is tragic, student fatalities are low both in number and as a percentage of all skydiving fatalities. On average, students account for three of the 23 annual skydiving fatalities. And though all rating holders are working every day to bring that number down, it is far lower than 25 years ago—1992—when there were 11 student fatalities, which made up 41 percent of that year’s total. (Frustratingly, injury data for students is incomplete, an issue which the board of directors is looking to improve.)
We all owe deep appreciation and grateful thanks to our current ranks of instructors and coaches for their diligence and professionalism. They help make skydiving more accessible to the general public and keep our planes filled with skydivers. If you don’t have a rating yet, consider earning one. See if you have what it takes. Earn a rating and begin giving back to the sport that has enhanced your life. My guess is you’ll find a lot of satisfaction in helping turn out safe new skydivers.
Ed Scott | D-13532 | USPA Executive Director