Gearing Up - November 2011
One of the few constants in life is change. I fell in love with skydiving when I took that first step into freefall 13 years ago. It changed my life forever. I was hooked on the sport, working manifest on the weekends to pay for AFF. After increasing jump numbers and gaining experience, I became a USPA coach, then a videographer. But I wanted more from the sport. So, in 2002, when the opportunity to join the USPA staff presented itself, working in my field of communications, I eagerly accepted. My passion became my career and essentially my life. Now, here I am, nine years later, moving on from what I truly believe is the best job in the world. Why? Because change is good.
USPA has seen a lot of changes over the past few years. Five years ago, headquarters relocated from Alexandria, Virginia, 50 miles south to Fredericksburg. We welcomed a new executive director in 2008, as well as a few new staff directors since. The state record program is booming, as is media coverage of skydiving, and the past couple of years marked some of the safest for skydiving in history.
During my tenure as director of communications, our team has strived to change the face of our magazine, website, manuals and publications to provide a fresh and innovative look. With every Parachutist we deliver to press, I still think back to the excitement I had as a new jumper receiving my issue in the mail.
Over the past nine years, USPA’s communications department has redesigned Parachutist and added several new sections. We debuted three new websites, and another is on the horizon. The Skydiver’s Information Manual is now available in four different formats (print, web, download and smartphone app), and USPA distributes four monthly electronic newsletters to keep jumpers of various skill levels informed. The ways in which we communicate are changing, as well, and USPA is using social media to reach its members in new and effective ways. Thanks to the innovation and continuous efforts of the communications team, USPA is more transparent and accessible to its members than ever before!
We’re all in this together. Most of us at USPA Headquarters are dues-paying members just like you. Parachutist would not be the success that it is today without the content and photo contributions of its members. USPA is every one of us, and our organization is what we make of it. Have a question? Ask us. Want to see change? We’re listening.
The winds of change are blowing again, and the time has come for me to hand the reins over to a new director. I’m looking forward to my next chapter professionally, whatever that may be. I am excited for personal growth and also pursuing some of my skydiving goals.
And although I’m leaving the USPA staff, I will continue to be a devoted and active USPA member. I’m looking forward to once again opening my mailbox to find my new issue of Parachutist, or exploring a new design of the USPA website, downloading a new app or reading an update on Twitter or Facebook. And to my 33,000-member skydiving family, I look forward to being on a load with you in the future, and I hope that you will welcome the changes that a new director of communications brings to USPA.
Shonda Smith | D-26264
Casa Grande, Arizona