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Did You Know...

... that host and media worked together like a team at the USPA Nationals 2011?

    December issue of the Blue Skies Mag
posted Dec 7th, 2011 - The NSL News contribution to the latest issue of the Blue Skies Mag (December 2011) was written after the USPA Nationals 2011 and before the 3rd Dubai Championship 2011.

The NSL News coverage of the USPA Nationals was comprehensive and is still not over yet. The 4way competition in Dubai is over too, and the coverage is just as much not even close to being complete. However, Dubai was different since it was not a live coverage. German bronze medalist at the World Cup 2011 Max Thiele did his best to provide up-to-date information and received great feedback for his news service. It was still remote coverage by an active competitor in Dubai.

The live coverage of the USPA Nationals could not only provide more information and footage that made the event more tangible for the audience. It was also the first time for the NSL News that host and all media worked together like a team. The December story for the Blue Skies Mag gave media coverage at skydiving competitions more thoughts.

Judging with advanced technology at the Shamrock Showdown    
Turning Points - Skydiving Competition and the Media

Alright, the USPA Nationals are over and everything is in order, pretty much. Airspeed left the other U.S. teams in the dust, but will follow the Dubai Championship 2011 via NSL News, while bronze medalist Ferris Fury and fourth-place SDC Rhythm XP take on the two best 4-way teams in the world, Aerodyne Aerokart from France and NMP-PCH Hayabusa from Belgium. Nothing new here.

A few points still stick out, and they are important as they indicate steps towards an even better future for formation skydiving competition. The number of participating teams keeps growing, in the U.S. (65 4-way teams) as well as in other countries, like top challenger United Kingdom (55 teams).

Just as importantly: The USPA Nationals 2011 were the first I PC-sanctioned competition to apply new judging procedures, including slower viewing speed for the ever faster moving top 4-way teams. The National Skydiving League has been testing, evaluating, and recommending this technology for a few years at the annual Shamrock Showdown, together with USPA Chief Judge Judy Celaya and other first-class judges like Eric Heinsheimer, Rina Gallo, and Cherie Schuch. CamScore has provided the technology for years and demonstrated it at the Shamrocks and World Challenges of the past years, USPA and Omniskore now picked it up at the Nationals, and the results were stunning—although not surprising. Teams and competitors said last year that judging at the USPA Nationals 2010 was the worst ever. This year, they said it was the best ever. There is a very simple reason for that: The judges can see more when the viewing speed is slower.

    Skydive-TV with Judy Celaya at the USPA Nationals 2011
The USPA Nationals were also the most exciting ever, competition-wise. Teams in all categories fought it out harder than ever before. Two jump-offs were necessary to break the ties for medals in advanced and intermediate class 4-way, and it was a miracle that there was no jump-off needed for second place in the open class. The NSL News will break down the many races in the follow-up stories online.

There was also more media coverage than ever before. Not from the mainstream media, which continues to ignore our most exciting sport as it always has, but the skydiving community has begun to help itself. The audience at home had the opportunity to follow comprehensive and colorful event coverage online, from their living room lazy chairs or during office breaks.

Support by the host: Jimmy Hayhurst, Sean Hill, Larry Hill    
For the first time in the history of NSL News coverage at USPA Nationals, all media outlets were welcome and supported by the host. It became a media party where the different providers supported each other and worked together as a media team, while USPA and Skydive Arizona supported those efforts. The future looks bright for the sport if this positive experience serves as an example for the following events in the coming years.

The audience could find scores at the Omniskore and NSL websites, and Jan Meyer had even set up an online streaming feed of live judging. NSL News provided the usual event feature stories with the popular "NSL Reality TV" coverage. aired their own professionally edited pieces at the same time. In addition, there were several teams and competitors who posted their own personal experiences in blogs, on Facebook, or through other social media.

    Media room at the USPA Nationals 2011
There were no roadblocks or obstacles for the media in Eloy, and the unlimited amount of information and footage was flowing freely onto the Internet. Host Larry Hill, USPA Executive Director Ed Scott, and Director of Competition Jimmy Hayhurst made frequent friendly visits to the media center to encourage the good work. It felt like the beginning of a new age...

There is still one component that requires attention, and it is the most important one. The athletes, teams, and competitors have to get used to live media coverage at the events. Media coverage, including up close and personal live interviews, is nothing unusual in other sports, and those athletes are used to dealing with the media. The NSL News has touched on this topic in past years, and the footage produced by the "NSL Reality TV" camera has been popular and made the events more tangible.

Julien Degen and Roy Janssen with Joey Jones at the Shamrock Showdown 2010    
However, it was still often an odd situation to be so close to the teams and competitors while they were in the middle of a competition. I know as a competitor that you have to focus as much as possible on the upcoming performance, and a running camera with stupid questions from a media guy can be a pain in the neck and a distraction. We also learn as competitors that you have to control your emotions. This seems to be a conflict that needs to be addressed.

Actually, it does not have to be a conflict. The situation is similar to how it has been between host and media in past skydiving competitions. A hostile and odd environment does not help anybody, and both sides have found out that it can be very beneficial to work together. Media coverage can also be great fun for the athletes.

Let me speak as a competitor again. We have learned that you can get to peak performance level only if you can switch your mindset from relaxed to focused, effectively and at the right time. A conversation with a media guy can be casual and relaxed and does not have to interfere with the upcoming performance. In fact, the athlete's mind needs breaks from focusing on the actual performance; sport psychologists will confirm this. Live interviews can be great fun.

    Be a media star next time: Eliana Rodriguez before a competition jump
In addition, athletes can use the potential distraction by the media as a mental training exercise. Any top athlete can only perform well on the top level if he/she is well trained in distraction control. Dealing with the media and being ready for top performance at the right time is a good training and a needed exercise. The TV camera crews stick their microphones into the pro basketball players' faces as soon as the referee blows the half-time whistle, and reporters walk down the fairways with the top golfers who are answering questions a minute before they have to aim at the flag again.

Some of the skydiving teams and competitors have already understood that media coverage is good for their own purposes and are available for questions—stupid and not so stupid—almost any time. They have also learned that it doesn't really hurt that much to work with them, and they relax in front of the camera and microphone. Fact is that the freefall footage alone can get boring after a while. The teams and competitors give the coverage the real life. Let's begin to remember this at the next event and learn how to be a media star...

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