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milehigheric

Student Retention post A license

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This post comes off the back of our regulatory body, the APF, who is currently brainstorming ideas to help improve student retention after obtaining A license. I understand our training and licensing systems vary in some aspects but if nothing else some outside perspective would be helpful.

I guess my main questions are -

-How big is this problem, are post A license students giving up often at your home DZ?
-What is the cause behind their decision? Time, money, licensing regulations and restrictions, people, instructors ..the factors could be endless.
-What are dropzones you jump at doing to help the problem (if there is one locally)
-Should we bother? Skydiving isn't for everyone, maybe we shouldn't try and keep people in the sport?

One suggestion so far has been to lower the threshold for novices to jump with others. Currently in the Australian system novices are not allowed to jump with other unqualified persons until completing the majority of their 'BRELS' (a training table which requires demonstration of certain relative free fall and canopy skills). As I understand it USPA does not have an equivalent restriction and A licensed jumpers can jump with others after being signed off. If a similar system was imposed in the US how would it be taken? If you couldn't jump with others before completing another training table would you see this as discouragement to continue jumping?

Anyway if you have an opinion on the matter I would love to hear it!

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Can you be more specific on what the requirements, the thresholds, are for Australia? Specify what BRELS are?
As you already know, here in the U.S., A license can jump with any other licensed jumper. What would be helpful to those who don't already know is what's required of your jumpers to meet the same.

Pre-licensed students can only jump with an accompanying AFFI, Coach or D-licensed jumper approved by the DZO.

Here are two A-license checklists (DZs are free to use either one or the other) that students are required to know and do in order to gain that A license and earn the option of jumping with any licensed jumper.

IMO, people are going to come and go at will and there's not a lot we can do to entice people to stay. The exception to that is when their decision to leave involves, DZ drama and problems with interpersonal relationships at the DZ. This is a DZ culture thing and the DZs that have the friendliest culture have the best chance of retaining young jumpers, IMO.

DZs, individually, have their own retention problems caused by that exception. It's might be tough to get info on these things from DZs....few are likely to admit to these kinds of problems.

The most common reason for leaving that I have seen is costs. The cost of gear, traveling and the slot. Some DZs, those that require paid Coaching, add to that cost factor.

Yes, we should try.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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The certificate B training table (or B-RELS as it commonly known by) consists of a series of 10 stages. It is a very similar layout to AFF in that each stage outlines certain skills that need to be demonstrated before moving to the next. It is a key requirement in order to be eligible for a certificate B.

In short, our operational regulations state that Certificate A holders (deemed novices) who have not started the BREL table are only able to jump solo or with an instructor. Novices that have completed stages 1-6 can jump with one other person provided they hold a Star Crest and the jump is approved by the Chief Instructor. Novices that have completed stages 1-9 may jump with up to 3 other certificate A holders (that have passed 1-9) provided the chief instructor has approved all participants for the jump.

Just to expand on 'instructor' as mentioned above - Our system consists of only instructors (of varying level) and tutors. To reach instructor D (the minimum instructor rating) that person would have either a tandem endorsement, AFF endorsement or a static line endorsement along with meeting other criteria. I didn't mean to turn this into an APF op regs thread, but that is essentially the crux of novice transition here.

Back on topic you make some good points. Cost is always a big problem and probably not one that any regulatory body can help solve.

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I can't offer much in general, only my own story. I got my original licence from the APF years ago, but didn't jump there after that, so I guess I'm a part of the case study.

I was only traveling in Australia at the time, had to go back to Canada. I also emptied my wallet to take the course, I literally couldn't afford even one more jump when I was finished (was juggling balances between credit cards to make payments, and all of them were dangerously close to their limits). It could have been a one-time thing, just for the experience, but I got back in recently, just not in Australia.

One thing they might want to do is to mail the licences to the correct place. I asked them to mail it to my address in Canada, but they addressed the envelope to Canada Bay, New South Wales! WTF?! After waiting a couple of months I had to call and ask for a replacement, then the original one arrived long after that, with the Canada Bay address on it. Thanks to both national postal services for figuring out what to do with the envelope.

"If you couldn't jump with others before completing another training table would you see this as discouragement to continue jumping?"

No, it wouldn't.

"So many fatalities and injuries are caused by decisions jumpers make before even getting into the aircraft. Skydiving can be safe AND fun at the same time...Honest." - Bill Booth

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The best system I've seen to retain new jumpers is in place at Skydive Elsinore. They offer free coaching a few days a month and have a boogie (Bridge the Gap) once a year that is specifically targeted to new jumpers. Your first couple hundred jumps are hard and not filled with a lot of success stories. Doing a few jumps with a coach that go really well give you a nice boost that keeps up your momentum. Not unlike the golfer who can't shoot under 100...but every couple rounds he'll get a nice eagle or pitch in a birdie that refills his mojo.

You can't legislate anything that will keep people around, and you certainly shouldn't lower the barriers to entry. They are there for a reason (to protect you, and me).

The fact is that skydiving is hard. It's expensive, it's time-consuming, and more often than not your friends and family aren't going to be thrilled about it. All this combined with the fact that you're going to suck at it for at least a couple hundred jumps...it takes dedication and a love of sport.

I think a lot of people like the idea of being a skydiver more than actually skydiving, you'll lose them after 30-40 jumps 100% of the time. Let them go, we don't need them.
Apex BASE
#1816

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The time that I got away from the more expensive coached jumps 100% of the time to a time when I could jump for just the lift cost was an important turning point for me. That made things easier on the pocket book and took some performance pressure off.

I think the willingness to help by both the DZ and other jumpers is a major influence on how many jumpers view the sport. I did most of my training at a small DZ. As a student, several helped me learn to pack and the one packer that specifically took of his time to help me, I gave him some money and a pan of brownies. My DZ friends helped me progress. Recently I was at a larger DZ and a jumper with more than 200 jumps was trying to learn to pack well enough that they would trust themselves to do all of their own packing. Surprised, I asked about their packing history and training. They had paid to take a packing class and got by enough to get their own license. Realizing that they were in need of help, they asked what could be done for additional training. It was suggested they take the packing class again. The jumper had not learned well in the class and was not interested in repeating the class. But no other options were suggested. I find it hard to fault the DZ for what happened here. But had the events unfolded differently, I think the jumper would have been better off in skills and in attitude.

The most encouraging times that I remember is when someone that was part of the DZ staff asked me what my plans and goals were. Then they offered to help guide me to make them happen. Not everyone knows to actively seek out the help that they need. Sometimes jumpers might need a little extra help guiding them to their goals.
Instructor quote, “What's weird is that you're older than my dad!”

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milehigheric

-How big is this problem, are post A license students giving up often at your home DZ?



The way you've phrased it answers your own question and explains why us low number--but licensed--skydivers might be hesitating to continue with the sport.

There's no such thing as a "post A license student". We've earned the right to be referred to as skydivers--not students. We are not students any more--we are skydivers. Use the proper language to refer to us and we might be more likely to continue with the sport.

Make no mistake--those of us with low jump numbers clearly have a lot more that we still have to learn. I don't think that anyone is disputing that--certainly I am not.

But referring to someone post-A license graduation as a "student" is insulting to the time and effort they've put into this sport getting to this point and may explain a lot about why you aren't seeing as much retention as you might hope for.

People have many options as to how they spend their hard earned money--and their hard earned time. A bit more respect to those who've earned their licenses would go a long way to ensuring better retention from recent A license graduates.
"It's hard to have fun at 4-way unless your whole team gets down to the ground safely to do it again!"--Northern California Skydiving League re USPA Safety Day, March 8, 2014

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I understand what you are saying...dropzone culture can drive people away.

Personally, I consider myself a student....a student of learning. I'm learning something nearly everyday. My license is only an acknowledgement that I have made a certain number of jumps, done a minimum of performance-based activities, and passed a test of the minimum knowledge-based requirements.

You may notice that some in DZ dot com list hundreds or thousands of jumps and still list student status.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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Andy,

The levels consolidate the skills learn't during AFF and form 2 parts, freefall/aircraft and canopy skills.

The B-Rel levels summary is below:

1) Fall rate and forward movement in freefall, stall and stall recovery under canopy

2) Pinning (2 way), turning on the spot, recognising grip tension and rear riser turns.

3) Side slides, hook turn recovery.

4) Side docks, flat turns under canopy.

5) Side shot monopoles, flare turns.

6) Outward facing docks, brake turns

7) Consolidation dive, canopy exercises at tutor discretion.

8) Turning points using outward facing turns, harness turns

9) fall rate while turning points

10) 3 x 4 ways with specific objectives.
Experienced jumper - someone who has made mistakes more often than I have and lived.

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I don't believe the B-rels affect student retention. Personally I think there are people who come into skydiving as 'thrill-seekers' or bucket listers, and there are those who come in for the joy of flight or possible other motivations.

I think the bucket listers and thrill seekers, tend to move on very quickly. For the thrill seekers the buzz, wears off and it is no longer worth it.

I think the people who stick through, love to truly 'fly'. The key to retention for them, is to provide a framework where they get fun jumps in as early as possible. To achieve that you really need to encourage competent jumpers to jump with newbies. It isn't much fun chasing another newbie around the sky getting frustrated... That is why I think the proposed buddy system is good. I just need the APF to fund my jumps as a buddy:)
Experienced jumper - someone who has made mistakes more often than I have and lived.

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popsjumper

Thanks....I downloaded the APF manual again and found it still very hard to locate info....I didn't give it a good ol' college try, though.
:D:D



It's not in the OP's regs, but if you search for 'APF Manual for the Certificate B candidate' you'll get the document.
Experienced jumper - someone who has made mistakes more often than I have and lived.

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nigel99

I think the people who stick through, love to truly 'fly'. The key to retention for them, is to provide a framework where they get fun jumps in as early as possible. To achieve that you really need to encourage competent jumpers to jump with newbies. It isn't much fun chasing another newbie around the sky getting frustrated... That is why I think the proposed buddy system is good. I just need the APF to fund my jumps as a buddy:)



I can only offer my limited experience too, but here.

I've jumped solo, with newbies, and with experienced jumpers.

Solo is fun when you want to work on skills alone or just have an easy jump if you're coming off of being inactive for a bit, but can kinda suck when you just can't find someone. I do hop n pops now for those times.

Jumping with newbies can be fun and frustrating, and can show you much more clearly how you're moving in space, partly because it's multiplied by two people varying fall and closure rate. It's also nice because there's less of the "well I'm sorry I sucked" element to it because you both are trying to get better.

That being said, I know I've learned significantly more on jumps where experienced jumpers chose to jump with me. An early coached jump that didn't go so well turned into a huge learning experience because she was very friendly about it and helped me learn, in addition to having been encouraging from the first day I showed up.

Two other jumps that are some of my favorites (still made some rookie mistakes) were a coached jump where we turned simple points, and my first licensed jump on a sunset tracking dive. In both cases, the jumpers were really friendly and taught me a lot. The first about a type of exit and good technique for RW and turning points as well as tracking and other stuff. The second group about good tracking position and controls in a tracking position, among other things.

Both jumping with newbies and with experienced jumpers is a lot of fun, and each can teach you something different. I've learned to compensate and problems to avoid from newbies. And I've learned a lot more specific stuff from experienced jumpers like refining body position, good ways to control your body, good ways to spot, additional items to add to gear checks, exit positions, etc.

I don't expect anyone to jump with me and I'm not upset when they have their own thing to do or anything like that, but it's always fun to go up with someone or a group.

And I don't know if a formal framework would help or is necessary. Just good coaches or organizers makes a lot of difference. A framework might help that. Either way it's a great day when you learn a lot and get better.
well...I was going skydiving anyway. let's go.
Earn your pancakes.

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I know the main reason why I quit before was due to no body wanting to jump the newbie. Honestly its understandable, jumps cost money and if you have 30 jumps you are likely to not do well on a given jump. It seemed like most of the jumps experienced people were doing were 4+ ways and they didn't want a newbie with them. I of course occasionally jumped with other people but mostly I did a lot of solos. After a while, it just wasnt fun and I resented spending 150 dollars for a day of jumping by myself and not learning much.

Unless the DZ is very proactive, there is a very big lul in between A licensed and "experienced enough to be invited on 4+ ways". Unless of course you have tits ;]

Of course I was offered to pay for coach jumps at 75$ a jump (my ticket, his ticket, plus coach fee). But after spending thousands on gear and thousands on training I didnt feel like dumping more just so someone would jump with me.

Maybe I should have gone to a small cessna club type DZ instead.

I ended up selling my gear, took a loss on it, and moved on.

I've since gotten back into it and have a few strategies to get me past the "super suck" level. If it doesn't work out this time I will stick to BASE.



Just my experience with it.

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skipro101

I know the main reason why I quit before was due to no body wanting to jump the newbie. Honestly its understandable, jumps cost money and if you have 30 jumps you are likely to not do well on a given jump. It seemed like most of the jumps experienced people were doing were 4+ ways and they didn't want a newbie with them. I of course occasionally jumped with other people but mostly I did a lot of solos. After a while, it just wasnt fun and I resented spending 150 dollars for a day of jumping by myself and not learning much.

Unless the DZ is very proactive, there is a very big lul in between A licensed and "experienced enough to be invited on 4+ ways". Unless of course you have tits ;]

Of course I was offered to pay for coach jumps at 75$ a jump (my ticket, his ticket, plus coach fee). But after spending thousands on gear and thousands on training I didnt feel like dumping more just so someone would jump with me.

Maybe I should have gone to a small cessna club type DZ instead.

I ended up selling my gear, took a loss on it, and moved on.

I've since gotten back into it and have a few strategies to get me past the "super suck" level. If it doesn't work out this time I will stick to BASE.



Just my experience with it.



I agree with the above mentioned. I have a friend and I met him at the loading - zone and asked if he wanted to jump with us.

He later told me that he was having his last jump if we didn't ask him to join us.

He overtook me on jumps now.

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I did the B-Rels and they were kind of a pain in the ass. It was hard to get people to jump with you (doing that kind of thing), and hard to organize the four-way at the end. I went to Australia with 30 jumps, and left with about 85.. I did my last B-rel with a cool bloke.. Pricey I think. At Picton, I didn't have any trouble finding people to jump with, although we mostly did tons of atmo. Just get with a group and jump with them all day. I remember some fun fairly big atmo jumps, rows of people jumping backwards out the skyvan :)

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aeroflyer

I did the B-Rels and they were kind of a pain in the ass. It was hard to get people to jump with you (doing that kind of thing), and hard to organize the four-way at the end. I went to Australia with 30 jumps, and left with about 85.. I did my last B-rel with a cool bloke.. Pricey I think. At Picton, I didn't have any trouble finding people to jump with, although we mostly did tons of atmo. Just get with a group and jump with them all day. I remember some fun fairly big atmo jumps, rows of people jumping backwards out the skyvan :)



I heard good things about Pricey. Sadly I never had the opportunity tomeet him...

Thanks for the feedback, it appears to confirm a common thread.
Experienced jumper - someone who has made mistakes more often than I have and lived.

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Quote

I know the main reason why I quit before was due to no body wanting to jump the newbie.



This is an indicator of the questionable DZ culture I was talking about.

If it's feasible, you may want to try other DZs. Not every Dz has that problem for youngsters.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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This is a long standing problem. Some don't get that the newbs are the ones we'll be relying on to do bigger ways in the future.

I know a DZ where... you pack and when you're ready, you put your name on the manifest. The next 4 jumpers... that's who's on the load. No-one complains! That's just the way it is. Yes- it's a small Cessna DZ. But, I know of at least 3 regulars with over 16,000 skydives.

I've never made a jump there where I've walked away not learning something. I'ts on of my favorite DZ's. They have (consiously, I think) developed a culture of bringing along Newbs. They understand that the jumps only get better when the Newbs get better.

There are DZ's like this around. Seek one out. Or, call me, I'll come jump with you.
Birdshit & Fools Productions

"Son, only two things fall from the sky."

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popsjumper

I understand what you are saying...dropzone culture can drive people away.



Thanks for the reply. I should probably clarify--the specific problem that really stood out in the OP's post--referring to post-license low number jumpers as "students"--isn't something I've really encountered as a problem at either of the DZ's I jump at.

I would, however, echo what others have said though--and that is that after one has earned one's 'A', it is harder to be enthusiastic about getting out to the DZ just to do solos. Don't get me wrong--I'm sure I'll be back soon--but I did feel a let down in my own enthusiasm level shortly after getting my 'A' since solos just didn't "do it" for me anymore. Not sure if that is DZ culture or just a stage in a young jumper's career that is unavoidable.

popsjumper

Personally, I consider myself a student....a student of learning. I'm learning something nearly everyday. My license is only an acknowledgement that I have made a certain number of jumps, done a minimum of performance-based activities, and passed a test of the minimum knowledge-based requirements.

You may notice that some in DZ dot com list hundreds or thousands of jumps and still list student status.



Yes the attitude of continuing to learn is very important. Perhaps sometimes us low jumper types may THINK that we don't have much to learn on a solo jump whereas there's almost certainly a lot to still be learned on every jump--even solos.
"It's hard to have fun at 4-way unless your whole team gets down to the ground safely to do it again!"--Northern California Skydiving League re USPA Safety Day, March 8, 2014

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The main reason I've "nearly quit" and just do about a dozen jumps per season:

> I think my DZ has about the most friendly atmosphere possible, but I lack the social skills and energy to integrate properly and make friends so as to get into two-ways and beyond. This is made worse by the fact that I don't go to the DZ very often (not every month, by any means) and so am not a regular face there. Solo jumps got boring by about my third one and I just have no interest in them at all, but most times I go I end up doing three solos and am completely sick of jumping by the end of the day.

> I don't have my own transport and I rely on lifts from instructors or other jumpers, and I'm a bit uncomfortable with that arrangement. Also, my availability/motivation often doesn't match theirs, so if I miss the one week in six that I feel like a day at the DZ, because I can't get a lift, then the opportunity has passed.

> Cost... to some extent. But it's not a huge problem. I could afford a great deal more skydiving than I actually do... but I guess I just don't like it enough to want to spend more on it.

>... I just don't like it that much! I rarely check this forum any more, and don't think about jumping when I'm not there or about to visit the DZ. Maybe I'm "doing it wrong" etc. but ultimately I don't find much pleasure in it and the whole act is fairly boring to me. I get a lot more pleasure from other hobbies which most people would think are extremely tame and uninteresting - because I can engage with them more, more often, and for longer at a time. Skydiving is physically limited in this regard. On a nice sunny day there are several places I'd rather be than at the DZ.
This is also no doubt related to some of the other points above, and they all feed into each other.



*shrug*

It's not for everyone.

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We use something called "jump in" once a week we get together offer coaching and fun jumps, mentoring, Provide a safe place for newbies to ask things and locate stuff they need. Every jump is on video and it's working great. We even are working on some fun stuff with SNE that also has a jump in group. It takes time and someone to keep at recuitment (staff helps me) We believe no one should have to do a solo...... Having the time of my life and building some great friendships and skydivers along the way. Would be glad to help anyone who wants to "jump in" and help build our future airspeed team members B|

http://www.theharryparker.com/site/jump-in

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Personally, I think that once you finish your AFF you hit a crossroad.

The left turn is for those that consider skydiving a sport.

The right turn[pun intended:D] is for those that consider skydiving a way of life.

The former doesn't last very long...
"Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way." -Alan Watts

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:)
How about this one...


Jumping isn't for everyone. Once those people run out of people that they are trying to impress they don't have the internal motivation and never really experienced the inner joy from jumping in the first place.


There is no post A lic retention problem!


C

I'm tryin to point out the difference between intrinsic motivations and extrinsic factors. An example of an intrinsicly motivated A lic jumper is at a dropzone where they can't find other jumpers to jump with or every D lic holder feels that they are wasting a jump with a newbie, not worth their time so to speak...This of course sucks and is too be found at way too many dz's. Again, this is a very black mark for skydiving and I'm wasting my breath with all of you skygods out there with extrinsic motivations.

Pay it forward would ya?


And this type of question wouldn't be appearing here at DZ.com B|
But what do I know, "I only have one tandem jump."

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