Some delirious people say there is only one real training facility in the South, unfortunately that's not true. People, do your research before investing in subpar training by subpar instructors, anyone can buy a rating but the ultimate goal is to earn it." - Austin Davis,
Completed Skydive University's AFF Instructor Rating Course July 2014
Skydiver Austin Davis received his AFF Instructor Rating here at Skydive University, and although DeLand had a little rainy weather to offer now and then–it didn't hold back the process in the least. In just a few days he completed the AFFI course, working one-on-one with Rob Laidlaw both in the air and on the ground.
We sat down with Austin for a quick Q & A sesh to gain his perspective on the course and see how things went – don't miss his video eval posted below...
So, first of all, you traveled to FL to get your AFFI rating – and there are a lot of skydiving outfits that offer it – What made you choose SDU?
"I've heard a lot of good things about Rob over the years, and I decided I didn't want to go somewhere where you basically just hand over a thousand bucks and get your rating without really learning much."
What's one of the most valuable coaching techniques you learned in the SDU AFFI course...
"The different ways to teach...and more importantly ways not to teach. Like don't give your students too much information, coach by showing them just what they need to know. The less they have to think about – the better they will perform – and the less mental confusion and white noise they will have up in the air."
How bout the top 3 things you took away from this course, either as a skydiver in general or from an instructor perspective?
"As a skydiver? Confidence. Flying your body confidently and just getting in there, being aggressive and doing it."
How about as a coach or instructor?
"The psychology of coaching is something huge that I don't think I would have learned anywhere but here. The number one thing I learned as an instructor is the importance of instilling confidence in your student and their jumps; letting them know...telling them straight up that they're going to do it, they're no doubt going to go out, do it right and be successful."
And the last of your top 3?
"The thing about not giving students too much to think about – avoiding so they can be clear-headed and confident in the next step. If anyone psyches themselves out - they'll lock up either mentally or physically and that just can't happen in skydiving."
Instructor stuff aside, did you come out of this a better skydiver in general?
"I'd say I'm a significantly better solo jumper after working with Rob, yes."
So how would you describe Rob to others?
"Well, Rob's one of the best skydivers around – he's incredibly experienced and incredibly educated in the sport... and in coaching and teaching in general. A great canopy pilot, a ninja at tunnel skills... and I guess an all-around skydiving ninja in general."
Tell me what it was like having Rob play the "student" in your practice and evaluation jumps. How is he at pretending to be an inexperienced skydiver?
"Actually, he's surprisingly pretty good at pretending to be a bad skydiver. I think he's had 4,000-5,000 jumps where he's played a student."
What sort of things was he doing up there?
"He'd ball up into a ball, spinning. Then he starts spinning on his back and belly, just being unpredictable really. I learned to quickly read, predict and react to a student's body language - if he starts dipping a shoulder or arching or moving erratically, I need to react and it's all about getting in front to correct any bad patterns and give direction."
How do you go about that?
"When he's on his back spinning - you've got to fly in, stop the spin, roll him back over, and start giving hand signals."
Check out the AFF Instructor Rating "Cat D" Evaluation video below to see Rob and Austin in action...
Wrap up the course for us in a few words...
"Although the AFFI course is intense - when it comes to evaluation, you're ready. My 1st evaluation jump was most relaxed I've been the entire time, and I did about 8 or 9 practice jumps. It's all because along the way, Rob instilled confidence with the skills he taught - and I just felt calm. No built up pressure, so I didn't psych myself out. I didn't really even know we were on to the first evaluation until I realized we had a video guy coming with us."
That surprise wasn't intimidating?
"Not really. The footage helps with scoring for things missed during the live evaluations – but doesn't hurt your score. The video helps increase your score if there's something on the playback that Rob didn't catch in the air."
SDU Update! We checked in after Austin's first week as an AFF Instructor on his home DZ––The Jumping Place in Statesboro, Georgia. He's excited to have his rating and hopes to transition from doing Tandems to mostly (if not all) AFF. As it turns out, Austin jumped headfirst into the AFF Instructor game and worked with about 8 or 9 students over the weekend alone. But it was nothing he couldn't handle...
"I felt really confident and ready for it. So far I really haven't had any bad students – but when one comes along, I'm prepared for that."
A big thanks goes out to Austin for letting us profile his AFF Instructor Rating experience on the SDU blog. If you want to know more about the ratings we offer at Skydive University, explore the site or Contact Us today to request or sign up for an upcoming course at our home DZ – or you can also reach out and request a coach or a course near you.