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Did You Know...

... that there are NoPros in Formation Skydiving Competition?

posted Feb 7th, 2015 - Somebody introduced the so-called "unofficial amateur champion" title into the skydiving competition terminology several years ago. I'm afraid that I'm the one to blame, and it's about time to explain a little bit more about that.

I think it happened when the "journalistic outlet" of the National Skydiving League had grown to a point where so much content and so many topics came out of the league network that it turned into one of the full-time jobs. The Sun Path Products NSL News service is more or less an unplanned result of the competition league network, which was the only original purpose and mission of the National Skydiving League.

Slowly I began to understand that the league updates turned into something more than that, let's call it journalism, and it was fun to write about the thing I love the most: Formation Skydiving Competition. Other topics eventually made it to the news updates, which were not necessarily directly related to league events. The Sun Path Products NSL News service with daily updates is the current result of this evolution. This Blue Skies Mag column is another one with a different character, where I can speak my mind.

Up into USPA's Open Class: Dallas 350

TURNING POINTS: NoPro in Skydiving Competition

Anyhow, one of the "foreign topics" was the situation of all teams at the major events, such as the USPA Nationals or the World Cups and World Meets. Many countries have introduced or adopted different categories for their national championships over the years, most of them similar or identical to the four competition classes of the NSL Network (AAA, AA, A and Rookie).

The World Cups and World Meets are only for the national teams in the AAA/ Open Class, which makes complete sense in the big picture.

USPA applies three different categories in traditional 4-way competition: Open (AAA), Advanced (AAA) and Intermediate (AA) with well-defined qualification criteria. I will NOT talk again about how sad it is that the reigning Advanced Class champion cannot try to defend their title...

Unofficial US amateur champion 2014: DNR
However, the Advanced Class topic brings me closer to the infamous pro-am situation. The Open Class leaderboard itself does not separate recreational 4-way teams and full-time skydivers the same way as the Open and Advanced Class separates the winners from the not-winners. In fact, the recreational 4-way competitors in the Advanced Class champion lineup now find themselves mixed up with teams like Arizona Airspeed and SDC Rhythm XP, or the Golden Knights.

Even that is still not the actual topic today. I wanted to discuss the amateur champions and the pros and who they are. Here is the historical background. I felt bad for the recreational 4-way teams in the Open Class who work so hard to get better without much attention, while the Advanced Class champions get the recognition, the medals, etc. So I decided to give them more attention, with the news updates. I invented the fictitious "unofficial amateur champions," nationally and internationally. So that's out of the way, and it's still not the actual topic...

Unofficial amateur world champion 2014: Thunder ISR
Of course, there has been a discussion of this unofficial title ever since it was thrown into the 4-way world, and that's the purpose of the invention, as it gives the best "amateur teams" the attention that they deserve. However, there is also a discussion about the actual definition of the "professional" or "full-time" teams.

This discussion is even more complicated than the ones mentioned above. We take for granted that the teams on the top of the leaderboards, the best teams in the world, are all "pros". Are they really?

I will once again be provocative and say that I don't see any "pros" in our sport at all, professional athletes, as they can be found in other real professional sports. Here is the truth about real professional athletes. They are paid (often very well) to wake up in the mornings, do their first training session, followed by a rest, maybe some business meetings. Then they have to eat well, do some cross training maybe and come back for the afternoon training. That's on the weekdays before they have to compete on the weekend - almost every weekend during the active season.

NMP-PCH Hayabusa: Professional sports team...?
We may have a few teams in the Formation Skydiving competition world that come close to such a professional-sports life situation. Only the Golden Knights and NMP-PCH Hayabusa pop up in my head though when I think about it, and even their situations are not even close to the lives of real sports pros. Yes, their expenses are covered, and they are being paid for their jobs. However, their salaries are not the ones of professional athletes. They are being paid as soldiers, and they even have to go through some of the military services on a quite regular basis. Can we call them "pros" ... ?

Well, they ARE pros - but only compared to other skydivers and 4-way competitors. As we know, it's all relative. They surely have a much better situation to train and get better than the vast majority of Formation Skydiving competitors, so you may call them "pros".

Arizona Airspeed: Professional sports team...?
It becomes even more complicated when we talk about teams like Arizona Airspeed or SDC Rhythm XP, Carolina Turbo XP. They don't have the support of Uncle Sam or the Belgian taxpayers. They have to find ways to finance their lives as "full-time competitors". Yes, Airspeed has Skydive Arizona and Larry Hill, while Rhythm gets support from Skydive Chicago, Rook Nelson and Paraclete XP. However, they have to work hard to justify the investment of the supporters and still have to make some living by coaching and other jobs, mostly in the skydiving world. Then, where is the difference between SDC Rhythm XP and Carolina Turbo XP... ? Are the Dubai Asaar competitors real "pros"?

I leave this discussion up to all teams and competitors and wish everybody well in finding the situation that brings happiness and excitement. That's what it's all about, in the end...

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