Rhythm’s Guide to Team Budgeting
By Steve Lefkowitz of SDC Rhythm XP
So, you’d like to form a skydiving team and you’ve found other skydivers to join you. Congratulations! Now what? The good news is that the greatest hurdle is behind you. The next step is to come up with a team budget.
There are two sides to coming up with a team budget. On one side, there’s what you want to do. That’s a question of everyone’s goals and what kind of effort they wish to make to achieve them. On the other side, there are your constraints, which usually come down to two things: time and money.
Though you may already have an idea of how many jumps and how much tunnel time you’d like to do—and maybe even know how much you’d like to spend for the season—you still need to make sure you’ve accounted for everything realistically and that your goals and constraints match up. This guide will help you do so and develop a realistic team budget.
Step One: Commitment Matrix
The commitment matrix below can get you started. It separates each teammate’s commitment into four categories: goals, desired effort, time and money. The important thing to keep in mind here is that there are no right or wrong answers. It’s easy to think that the teammate with the biggest goals and desired effort or the willingness to make the largest money commitment is right, but the happiest teams are not those that feel pressured to rise to the commitment of the most ambitious teammate. Rather, the teams that tend to last the longest are those where all participants come as close as possible to having compatible goals and desired effort. So be honest!
Goals: Before worrying about the costs, ask yourself honestly: What do I want to get out of the sport? Would you like to medal at Nationals or do you just want to have fun with a consistent group that you can rely on to show up when you come out to the drop zone? There’s no wrong answer here.
In your goals, include an idea of how many and what types of competitions you’d like to attend. If going to Nationals is a deal breaker for one teammate, you need to know that.
Desired effort: If money and time were no object, what would your ideal jump and tunnel commitment look like? This won’t be the same for everyone. Some people would like to train every weekend and do 16 jumps per day. Others would genuinely prefer to train one weekend per month, do eight jumps per day and then enjoy a drink at the bar. As a bonus, you might want to share an idea of how much outside visualization, physical training and other mental work you’d like to commit to outside of team training.
Time: How many training days can you commit to? Often, it’s easier to think about this in terms of days per month or even camps per month. For example, you might decide you could do one three-day training camp per month. Include any competitions in which you plan to participate.
When figuring out how much time you can commit, thoroughly consider all your other commitments (family, prior commitments, other hobbies, etc.) but leave out cost for now.
Money: How much money can you spend for the season? If it helps, you might consider a cost per month and add that up.
It is extremely rare to be on a team in which all members match up exactly in all four areas of the commitment matrix. The good news is that an exact match is not necessary for a successful team. Instead, the goal of the team should be to come to a compromise that leaves all teammates happy. You may be able to meet in the middle, or you may have to agree to the commitment level of the most constrained teammate. The only right answer is the one that everyone can stick to for the whole season and that no one on the team will resent anyone else for sticking to. For those who have more time and money to commit, they should strongly consider doing “extra credit” training outside the team. They can join additional tunnel workshops and coached events or fill in for other teams as needed. This can be a great way to keep those with more resources happy and allow them to progress more quickly without putting pressure on those who can’t commit as much. Any extra training that person does only helps the team they come back to.
Step Two: Crunch the Numbers
Now that you have a rough idea of the team’s time and money commitment, you can use the budget tool below to help you decide how you will allocate those resources. Here are some key questions to help you get started:
1. How many training jumps will you make (and where will you jump)?
2. How much tunnel time will you use (and where will you fly)?
3. How much coaching will you get (and which coach will you choose)?
4. What will your competition schedule be?
Once you have a rough idea of each of these things, you can enter the values into the budget tool, and iterate until you meet the team’s time and money limits.
Where you will train—in the air and in the tunnel—is an important question that affects time, money and goals. You might get a better rate at one drop zone but end up doing fewer jumps because that drop zone runs fewer loads or requires a greater giveback commitment in return. On the other hand, you might choose a specific tunnel or drop zone based on the quality of coaching you can get there, helping you achieve your goals even if it costs more. For many skydivers, being more efficient with their time or getting better coaching is more valuable than saving a few dollars.
As a final step, it’s important to open up a calendar and put specific dates to your plan. It doesn’t matter if everyone can do one weekend per month if those weekends don’t line up with each other. Working with a calendar is a critical step in the budgeting process.
1. We said it before, but it is worth repeating: There is no right answer to the questions here. Wanting to do more is not better than wanting to do less, and no one should be made to feel bad about committing less than anyone else. The important thing is to be realistic, so you can be confident that every teammate will stick to their commitments once they’ve made them.
2. Get on the team that you are most compatible with, not the team that you think has the “best” skydivers. Compatibility is the most important component for keeping a team happy in the long run.
3. Unforeseen obstacles will inevitably come up. If everyone’s honest as they communicate their commitments, then these hurdles will be easy to overcome, because the team’s goals will be aligned. If not, trust breaks down, and it becomes difficult to come to agreement when difficult decisions have to be made.
4. Get on the most compatible team you can, but don’t let small differences in commitment stop you from joining a team and having what could be a rewarding experience. Too many skydivers have sat around with no team as they search for the perfect one. As discussed, those with higher commitment should seek opportunities for extra-credit training, and the rest of the team should encourage that.
5. Be realistic about your weather contingency percentage. We typically recommend 65 percent at most. While that may seem low, what we call “weather” really represents any number of roadblocks that reduce your jump plan from the target. They can be weather, sickness, family emergencies, drop zone issues, airplane problems and other unforeseen obstacles. If you don’t account for these things in the plan, you’re likely to end the season disappointed.
* Jumpers can download the Excel version of the following spreadsheet here: rhythmskydiving.com/download_file/156/
About the Author
Steve Lefkowitz, D-30172, is a founding member of SDC Rhythm XP. Since its founding in 2007, Rhythm has become one of the world’s top 4-way teams, earning medals nationally and internationally. The team also coaches skydivers of all levels at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois, and Skydive Sebastian in Florida and runs tunnel workshops at the Paraclete XP wind tunnel in North Carolina. The team also created the Rhythm Skydiving 101 and 401 apps and founded the Women’s Skydiving Leadership Network. More information is available at rhythmskydiving.com.