I’m sitting at my desk now, still a little shell-shocked from the intensity of the last four weekends… all 4-way, all the time! Between our first competition (BEER!) and three training weekends in a row (with only one weather day, not bad!), I’m definitely feeling über-current on this 4-way thing. Now when Coach Josh says we’re going to do drill Block 13, I don’t have to go through that silly translation in my head of “Wait, the 13 is the Offset Spinner and I go … backwards?” Instead, I just set myself up in the compressed with my OC and my brain immediately goes to the technique and the tricks that help me, the weekend warrior 4-way-er, turn the block into something reasonably resembling a smooth move.
As someone who’s never been a natural at this skydiving thing, currency has been my friend, my helpmate, my crutch. I learn physical stuff best through lots of repetition, and the best way to get lots of repetition is to do something many times in a short time frame. For those of you out there with greater body awareness and a more natural physical inclination to this stuff, it might be enough to have someone say “Just do this with this leg and this with this arm and present” and you’ll nail the exit. Me? I’ve got to figure out mental and physical tricks to convince my body to do what I think I understand, and even then, you’d better give me a chance to repeat it a bunch of times to have any chance of making it stick!
It’s a switch for me, because when it comes to academic/work stuff I’m much more of an intuitive learner. The only time I can remember having to do the “brute force” learning method was in my corporate finance class back in grad school. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the stuff, so I just did my problem sets over and over again until I could at least recognize patterns and apply the solution from one problem to a similar one, even if I didn’t really understand why it actually worked! I’m finding that a similar approach to skydiving is good for me – I’m probably not going to get why it works but if you tell me how and let me do it a bunch of times, I’ll eventually get it!
But hey, we all have to find what works for us, right? I figure there’s room for all of us in this sport, so long as we figure out our approach and stick to it. Some of the naturals might be okay taking six months off and hopping on a multi-point bigway sequential; for me, I know that I’ll need a few nice gentle warm-up jumps to get my body and brain back into the rhythm of freefall. I also know that I work better with coaches who are good at not just explaining the “what” but also the “how.” Don’t just tell me “Help your piece partner shut down that turn.” Instead, be really specific “When you get to the halfway point, throw your hands out and dig in that left knee.” I’m not offended by that level of detail, I’m relieved!
How about you? What’s your approach to learning and improving your skills?