Personal Boundaries

Working with students is challenging in many ways. Instructors have a lot of responsibility to ensure that they thoroughly train and properly supervise each student on every skydive. To do this, instructors must also interact with students on a somewhat personal level. Training and harnessing students—especially tandem students—often requires instructors to get very close to them.

According to one study, most people’s personal boundaries with casual acquaintances or strangers are about three to four feet. So it can be uncomfortable for skydiving students to deal with someone invading that space, especially when combined with the jumbled nerves that come when making a first jump. So instructors need to handle the invasion of personal space in a professional manner. A little explanation beforehand goes a long way toward educating the student about what to expect during the gearing-up process and the jump. While gearing up a student to ensure the proper fit and adjustment of the harness, an instructor should also exercise care to respect the student’s concerns and personal boundaries.

Additionally, instructors need to avoid sexual harassment and inappropriate personal contact or language. Thankfully, most drop zones operate in a professional manner with a focus on safety and quality customer service. But there are still some drop zones that seem to operate without much concern for professionalism or worries of offending students. No consumer expects to walk into a business and immediately get subjected to foul language, sexual innuendo, off-color jokes or blatant sexual harassment. So why do some drop zone owners and instructors simply say, “We are skydivers,” and think that this explanation makes it acceptable?

Sure, skydiving has a colorful history with many unusual characters, and the sport does have a storied past. But that was then, this is now. Our students deserve the highest level of safety and training possible, and they also deserve the same level of respect and professionalism when walking onto the drop zone that they would receive from any other professional business.          

Jim Crouch | D-16979 | USPA Director of Safety and Training

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