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Did You Know...

... that each competition round should feel like Round 1?

U.S. Formation Skydiving legends at the USPA Nationals 2019
posted Jun 27th, 2020 - The NSL News was on a special mission during the USPA Nationals 2019. Goal was to ask as many world-class Formation Skydiving competitors as possible a very important question: What are the benefits for teams and competitors of attending as many meets as possible?

It took a while until the collected footage was sorted and edited. Result was a video with highly valuable answers and feedback by U.S. Formation Skydiving legends for any teams and competitors who attend meets. Kurt Isenbarger, Dan BC, Jennifer Davidson, Matt Davidson, Eric Heinsheimer, Brian Krause, John D'Annunzio, Kirk Verner, Mark Kirkby, Eliana Rodriguez and Craig Girard shared their thoughts with the NSL News audience, and the video was finally posted with the NSL News story on May 28th this year.

It was not the end of this special mission. The feedback of FAI Judge Jim Rees was added a day later, and the NSL News also followed up on the same topic long after the USPA Nationals 2019 were completed.

The question and the answers are timeless and have applied to all sports and Formation Skydiving competition for as long as teams and competitors have been attending meets. Only by attending meets they can really find out how judges evaluate their performances and how they stand compared to other athletes.

Why should teams and competitors attend as many meets as possible?
Team dynamics change at meets: Gary Smith with NMP PCH HayaBusa in Australia 2018
One of the more recent NSL Live Talk conversations was recorded on 8 June 2020. Gary Smith and Jeremie Rollett discussed several topics, which were mostly related to the corona virus crisis and its implications on the Formation Skydiving competition world.

However, the conversation included the same topic at the very end of the online interview. Gary Smith and Jeremie Rollett are two of the most successful and experienced competitors and coaches in the history of the sport. Their feedback became even more interesting when they could not recall exactly what their friends and U.S. legends in the sport had provided as answers when the question came up unexpectedly at the end of the NSL Live Talk conversation.

Gary Smith and Jeremie Rollett both presented new and different perspectives when it seemed like the previous input had already exhausted the topic, after the input from the U.S. Formation Skydiving competition legends at the USPA Nationals 2019.

There is apparently no end of the benefits that regular meet attendance is bringing to teams and competitors. Gary Smith compared the situation in Formation Skydiving competition with other sports and pointed out the differences.

FAI World Meet 2008
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Total Avg
Rank 8-way Open 17,P,4 H,13,7 6,M,1 9,22,C 16,J,8 K,F,G,18 O,Q,5,12 Total Avg
1 Maubeuge  FR  23 18 26 22 22 24 16 151 21.6
2 USA  US  18 18 26 21 22 19 16 140 20.0
3 Ex3mo  IT  20 16 22 17 18 18 15 126 18.0
4 EADS  DE  21 14 20 15 16 14 14 114 16.3
5 Connextion  UK  15 12 15 13 14 13 12 94 13.4
6 Belgium  BE  14 11 16 11 14 14 12 92 13.1
7 South Africa  ZA  14 9 16 12 13 11 - 75 12.5
8 Spain  ES  13 6 13 10 13 13 - 68 11.3
9 Australia  AU  11 5 10 9 9 7 - 51 8.5

"Each round should feel like a Round 1" - Jeremie Rollett with the French national 8-way team in 2008
Jeremie Rollett (right) with the French 8-way team at the FAI World Meet 2008
NMP PCH HayaBusa's world champion coach first brought up the psychological part of competition environment and went beyond the performance pressure that it usually creates. He explained that team mates often behave differently compared to the training situation when they go to a competition. The group dynamics can change easily and may create new unnecessary challenges. Training and competition environments are never the same, not even similar.

Gary Smith likes to compare skydiving competition with football/soccer games, which happen on a weekly basis. The teams and players are used to audience, referees and opponents due to the frequency of the exposure to the game environment. He also explained how he trains his teams to be ready for Round 1.

His recipe for Round 1 and the first meet day is to treat both not differently compared to the day before the next morning of a training day. Round 1 should be treated like any other later competition round or like a training jump. Again he compared with other sports and pointed out that there are not enough meets in Formation Skydiving competition to get used to Round 1.

Jeremie Rollett added that competition should always be the goal and the justification for any training: "You don't want to be the world champion in training!" He agreed with Gary Smith that there are not enough meets to collect comprehensive competition experiences. He has a similar approach to Round 1 as Gary Smith: "There is no Round 1. There are ten rounds, and Round 1 is one of them. In fact, each round is a Round 1." This approach worked well for his winning French teams. He cannot recall a bad Round 1: "You have to see and feel each round as positive pressure. You should desire each round."

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