This weekend was the CO Women’s Belly Record attempt. We flew in two planes up to 15,000ft AGL with 24 women attempting to break a record. However, being honest, I drove out to the DZ Saturday morning grumpy, wearing my ugly face.
I realize now that not only was my bad attitude a mistake, it was ungenerous and unfair to my fellow skydiving sisters.
I drove out to Mile Hi frustrated. One of the goals of this record was to break the current record with local talent, not flying anyone in to CO. As CO does not ever boast to be “Home of the Belly Flyers”, (It’s somewhat of a dying discipline here.) many women hadn’t done much belly recently. As a place that’s constantly attracting new skydivers, we encouraged some very fresh jumpers; thus some women on the record hadn’t done much belly, at all. I wanted this record and my negativity, my disbelief that we could break this record, furthered my grouchiness.
But as the morning progressed, from our first dismaying jump, we began to make real progress. Through the heat, overbearing clouds, and challenges, our jumps significantly improved. By Sunday, it looked as if we were going to make it. We flew our radials, we flew strong, we dove hard and docked gently. The progress showed visibly in our flying. Our last few tantalizing jumps just increased the appetite for knocking out the record.
But our time ran short and weather rolled in. Some women had to leave for long commutes home, or work, or other callings. Clouds prevented us from going higher than our normal 12k AGL. We changed our plan. On our last jump, 8 women attempted a WSCR and 9 women attempted a sequential record. We did not break the big way record; it remains as our next target, our next record victim.
So obviously, I reflected
I spent some time thinking about this weekend. I came out with some takeaways.
- In a record, you cannot let any frustration rule the day; you must celebrate the success of the group. Even before the first jump Saturday, we’d made great progress in our training days on the way here. We had women who hadn’t ever had much interest in belly that were excited to participate. We had women who had worked hard to qualify for the jump. We had organizers and a support group that had faith in us. Being excited, thankful, and optimistic is the only way I’ll approach records from now on.
- If you have more experience than others, it is your responsibility to be a good role model and a solid support system. Many of us women had never used oxygen. Many of us women had not flown in a formation load. Many of us women hadn’t flown with that many women often, or even once. Many of us women hadn’t dealt with the pressure associated with not wanting to be the one to “fuck it up”. I haven’t done all that many times, but I’ve done all that at least once. In a case like this, give support and advice where you can, and otherwise, simply keep your mouth shut other than to add positivity. Being the Negative Nancy with a lot of experience is ugly.
- In something like this, team growth trumps individual growth, because I will grow inevitably. The coaches may focus on other women, the small flubs that may come may be induced by another flyer. You may not receive any specific coaching or criticism, but you should eat up every word the organizers and coaches say and apply it to yourself. Also, be your own critic. Recognize from the outside video if your position could use adjustment or your radial could be straighter. Use inside video to see when you can fly stronger and ride out or dampen waves in the formation. In the end, understanding how each person contributes to the whole team will help you grow. Soak up all of it.
- With sleep & time, comes appreciation. I hope the women who walked away frustrated yesterday went to bed, waking up to realize how much they had learned and how well they had done. I hope anything they saw as a deficit, they now realize is just an area to grow. Perhaps things they saw as failings, they now see as their first step toward bigger and better accomplishments. Sleep heals a lot. I desperately hope that all my fellow ladies know we did great things yesterday. We can’t let our ambition blind us to the immense progress we made.
Why do I get to pretend to be the wise sage behind the keyboard? Well, it’s my blog. No, it’s because I’ve been in similar places. I remember being so angry that I had to be “Approved” to be in a tunnel four-way event when I had < 100 jumps; My ego hurt. I remember being so frustrated at my first four-way camp that we could only get a couple points a dive; I didn’t want to take responsibility for my faults affecting our flying. At one point in time, I didn’t want to accept that I needed weights, that I flew with my arms, that I didn’t have enough forward drive, and that I wasn’t aggressive enough to make it in to formations. We all struggle against our ego, our ambitions, our abilities, and our personal skydiving challenges. I have before; I still do today.
I’m not a great skydiver; I’m an okay skydiver. What I am good at is realizing that
- I have a lot to learn
- I’m lucky to be around people who can teach me
So thanks for the weekend, ladies.
One last thought:
Recently, I’ve been watching my niece learn to walk. She reminds me that even though she’s shit at walking, she’s incredibly great at trying and growing and making progress. We all may be able to skydive, but we’re all still learning to skydive in some way or another, so let’s try, grow, and make progress.
Note: My friend told me that using the word “perfidy” was too excessive to use, so I changed it, begrudgingly.