Skydiving Article - Training on a Shoestring
So, you want to do 4-way but don't have much money? Do you bin
the idea? Or do you train with the resources you have and have fun in the
process?! Hell, yeah! Don't let money stop you. Michelle Meakins and friends
did a scratch team at the 4-way Nationals, spent very little but still learned,
progressed and had fun! Here she gives some tips to encourage people who fancy
competing but feel held back due to lack of funds.
At this year’s Nationals 47 teams registered. How many spent BIG budgets
on camps, tunnel, jumping and coaches? Don't get me wrong, having a big budget
is a bonus – we’d all love to have one but the question is, should not having
a huge budget deter you from competing? Hell, no!
Block Party, a scratch team (admittedly with previous 4-way experience), decided
to enter the Nationals in the AA category, yet without a training plan as we
had no money to play with and were busy scuba diving, snow boarding, mountaineering,
dancing and working! We just didn't have time to commit. We entered for the
sheer enjoyment of competing and for the social part of the Nationals.
Brace yourselves, we spent a grand total of £111 each on our training (that
even included a sandwich from Tescos), and still came away with an 8.5 average
having done NO jumps beforehand. We proved it was possible. We were neck and
neck all through the competition with two other teams who had spent a lot
of money training. We were buzzing! In fact we only invested in 30 minutes
tunnel time before the Nationals, to assess fall rates, mechanic some of the
blocks and for me to try out a new slot (point). We had lots of fun at the
tunnel and so looked forward to the Nationals, we were curious to see how
we could do. We managed a scratch team personal best and were very happy!
We proved that, even when you don't have much in the kitty, you can still
compete, learn, progress and have fun!
Many excellent articles have been written about making a training plan (search
‘training plan’ at www.skydivemag.com). Here I've focused on areas to save money.
This is a great tool. It doesn't require good weather and you don't have to
pack but it can work out expensive. Bulk time is cheaper but you have to pay
a lot of money up front. Bulk time can be shared with another team to make it
even cheaper. Split the cost. It is divided by four anyway remember – or do
8-way, it’s cheaper! Booking off peak time is good budgeting. Don't go silly
though; booking way too much can cost you a lot. Maximising prep time can be
far more beneficial to your budget. Arriving at the tunnel earlier, prepared
with a dive plan, getting a good coach, and plenty of briefing and debriefing
time will make the absolute most of your money. Book less time but get more
out of it. Most teams book far too much time to be effective, especially if
not everyone's tunnel fit.
Find a DZ that can offer you team rates, commit to a specific number of jumps
on a weekend and agree a deal. Some centres offer a free camera slot, find out.
If you don't ask, you won’t get! Once you find an exit you can do consistently,
just use that one to help you keep the rhythm throughout the rest of the jumps.
This will give you confidence, keep the dive flowing and prevents you losing
time with poor exits. See Gary Beyer’s article Training Smart (Feb. 07) and
prepare just two exits; a long one and a round one. Again, maximise briefing
time and debriefs to make the most out of the air time.
If you can’t afford a full-on camp, book a long weekend to minimise holidays
and travel costs but maximise jumps. Cost out the options of a few DZ's in the
UK and abroad, including flights, car hire, accommodation (house share is cheapest)
and jump tickets to see which is best for your team. If going overseas, book
well in advance to get cheap flights. Check your tickets, avoid being stung
by exorbitant extra baggage costs!
They are invaluable, with years of experience and competitions behind them
but they aren't cheap. Perhaps you could share a coach with another team?
This halves the fee and expenses.
Doing 8-way has the same effect. Can you negotiate a cheaper day rate? Try
the BPA roadshow's, they offer free coaching from National Champions. If there
isn't one at your DZ, ask your CCI to contact the BPA and request one. Find
out if any tunnels offer free coaching on specific nights.
Block Party had a great time at the Nationals. We went into it with an open
mind and only one expectation – to have fun! It was purely a bonus that we
achieved a great scratch team average. Who knows how we'd have done if we'd
have had more money?! Whether you are a seasoned competitor whose wallet is
now empty or an FS newbie who wants to achieve a goal – give it a go. Find
some teammates and get started, don't let a small budget put you off. You
may surprise yourself with what you can achieve. Enjoy!
We asked top competitors Sparky (Bodyflight
Storm) and Andy Scott (Connextion) for their thoughts on training on a budget:
What's more important – tunnel or jumping?
Both have their part to play in any training plan. Tunnel is a great tool for
fast-tracking the muscle memory on blocks and helping build team communication
and rhythm. However it isn't a complete substitute for jumping. You still have
to train the exit and hill – many competitions are won or lost on the hill.
Plus jumping is different from the tunnel in that you no longer have the walls
to reference off. The ideal proportion of tunnel versus jumping will vary from
team to team based on previous experiences. It will also vary depending on where
the team are in their training plan. As you get comfortable with personal and
team skills, the need to fly in the air will overtake the need to fly in the
tunnel to learn – then you will use a tunnel more to keep ticking over or drill
problem areas. In the beginning, Bodyflight Storm did a huge amount of tunnel.
However as we got nearer to the Nationals, we didn't do any as we were really
concentrating on the feeling of the jumps.
If your budget only allowed one, which would
This would depend on the team. If it was a well established team who have done
a fair amount of jumps together, you could maybe get away with just doing some
tunnel. A less experienced team would need more air time, especially considering
from a safety perspective. Remember you can always work on the team communication
and rhythm through lots of creeping and walking of jumps. This is what we used
to do before we had the tunnel!
How important are exits?
Exits and the hill moves are extremely important as they make up around 25%
of your working time in 4-way and often set the mood of the jump. Get a good
exit and the jump will get into gear much quicker than with a poor exit.
Would you recommend missing a year of competitions
and saving up more for next year instead?
No. Competition experience is invaluable and plays a big part of any training
plan. Just get everybody to buy into the same goals and expectations, and make
them achievable with the limited resources you have. Competitions provide us
with a measure of where we are in terms of our progress as well as give the
opportunity to learn from other teams. If possible you should also incorporate
competitions into your training plan, whether you turn up to compete at a Grand
Prix or whether you do the same competition draw at your home DZ. And try sticking
FUN as the number one reason to jump together and compete!
Any advice for people on a low budget?
Read up, loads of advice is available. Train your mind – get footage of competition
rounds (loads of it free on line). See your slot – look at the mechanics of
it round by round and see yourself in those moves. Don't underestimate the
value of creeping. If you can't afford to make loads of jumps or spend lots
of time in the tunnel, use the down-time to meet as a team and creep all the
relevant random's and blocks (depending on category) so that you get a good
idea of the different pictures and the role you play on the team. You will
also be able to work on the team communication and rhythm, making sure that
the keys come from the correct person. Creeping is something you can do during
the winter as well as in season and will help to kick-start your progression
as a team. Remember there is help from the BPA – coaching roadshow's are plentiful
– use the free coaching to improve your skills.