Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator. Schoolteachers and parents capitalize on children’s inherent desire for accolades, and institutions expand on this system by rewarding achievement. Sometimes, the dangling carrot is not even financial compensation; a mere title suffices.
In skydiving, an instructional rating is often the carrot. Having a vibrant rating structure in place ensures the growth of the sport, and many instructors find that sharing their knowledge and passion with newer jumpers carries great intangible rewards (as well as extra money to pay for jumps), but some collect ratings simply to add a few letters to their membership cards. However, regardless of an instructor’s motivation, an individual who holds more ratings than he can sustain erodes the sport instead of enriching it. This is known as rating dilution, and there are three basic types in the skydiving world:
While some rating holders might create their own content based on snippets from their favorite teachers or what they have seen in the past, others rush through or skip content for expediency. This cheats the students or candidates and excludes the chance to give them a deeper level of understanding. Extrapolate this just one more generation, and the watering down gets even more watered down.
While some rating holders are naturally excellent educators, a coach, instructor or examiner is not a curriculum developer, nor is he expected to be. The easy solution to standards dilution is to stay informed and use USPA resources.
The bottom line always comes down to integrity. The future of our sport depends on instructional rating holders doing an excellent job. Before pursing that next rating, stop and examine your motivation and ability to fulfill the obligation. Ask yourself, “Have I grown fully with the ratings I currently have, and am I ready to contribute more? Or am I trying to skip ahead in the contrived hierarchy and keep up with the Joneses? Do I have the skills now to minimally meet the demands required of me? Do I jump enough or can I acquire enough experience to keep this rating current along with the other ratings I have? Or will I need to drop something to add this new venture?”
While it is true that a skydiver can rely on excellent teaching skills to offset lack of currency or experience, there is a limit: Balance is crucial. The easy solution is to jump more, teach more and drop ratings you are not using. Seeking positive reinforcement is an innate and productive part of human nature, but shifting the carrot toward mastery instead of shallow novelty yields a more lasting reward.