The Rating Corner

Teaching Landing Patterns Using Backward Chaining

In the USPA Coach Certification Course, candidates learn a strategy for presenting material to their students called “backward chaining.” This method involves presenting concepts from the end result, working backward step by step and then putting the concepts together as a whole. Backward chaining works particularly well for teaching landing patterns, because skydivers naturally work backward (from where they want to land) when deciding on their landing approaches. more »

Relax, Arch, Neutral

Skydiving teaches its participants to expect the unexpected. To go with the flow, we use planned spontaneity, a method of balancing intense, detailed preparation with creativity and flexibility. Just like when we need to deal with unexpected issues in our daily lives, we often must make split-second decisions when we’re skydiving, sometimes with only a partial picture of the situation. One simple technique that is easy to remember and execute and applies priorities correctly to almost every situation is RAN: relax, arch, neutral. more »

Rating Dilution

Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator. Schoolteachers and parents capitalize on children’s inherent desire for accolades, and institutions expand on this system by rewarding achievement. Sometimes, the dangling carrot is not even financial compensation; a mere title suffices. more »

Foolish Risks

Maybe it is boredom, maybe it is ignorance of the rules and the additional danger placed on all of the participants, or maybe it’s just a case of trying to be cool and awesome. But each year, tandem manufacturers and USPA hear of tandem instructors who have violated the rules created to make tandem skydiving as safe as possible. more »

A-License Cards

USPA has offered two versions of the A-license card for more than 13 years, yet some rating holders are still confused about who can sign for the various items listed on them. The answer depends on which card you decide to use. more »


Imagine an instructor holding a bottle of water. He asks a student if he is thirsty, and the student replies, “Yes.” The instructor then pours the water into the palm of his hand and tries to hand it to the student. Of course, the water goes everywhere. more »

How to Make a PB&J

News flash: Being an eloquent communicator is not a prerequisite for being an excellent coach or instructor! In fact, the biggest mistake instructional rating holders make is equating teaching with talking. While having a solid body of knowledge is imperative, giving all of it to the student at once is like offering him a drink from a fire hose. Instead, you should reach, not teach. In other words, you should have a specific goal in mind for your students to achieve during any cognitive or psychomotor lesson and then help them get there. Instead of thinking of your lesson plans as topics, think of the specific actions students should eventually be able to show you. Start with the end. That is, instead of saying, “Today we’re going to talk about malfunctions,” try something like, “By the end of this session, you will show me at least three times how to properly perform canopy emergency procedures.” more »

The 2013 AFF Standardization Meeting

It’s a safe bet that on March 30, there was not a single AFF Instructor Rating Course being conducted anywhere in the world. That’s because every current AFF Instructor Examiner was in the same room in Daytona Beach, Florida, attending the biennial AFF Standardization Meeting. Members of this dedicated group traveled to the meeting from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America and all parts of the U.S., including one examiner who drove 50 hours almost non-stop from Arizona to make it on time. more »

Treating Tandem Students Like Students

For a tandem instructor, the day can get pretty busy (and even a little monotonous) when there are lots of students waiting to jump. However, the key word here is “student.” Each person gets to have only one first skydive, and the focus of that skydive must be the student’s experience, from start to finish. Tandem skydiving is a student training discipline, with Federal Aviation Administration requirements that instructors must meet with every student. Federal Aviation Regulation 105.45 states the following: more »

New Instructors

Earning an instructional rating in any discipline is always a great accomplishment. A jumper who proves that he has the teaching ability and air skills necessary to pass the certification course and work with students has already exhibited hard work and commitment. However, the jumper should really consider achieving the rating as just the starting point. more »