How to Train as a Skydive Team – Icarus Canopies

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06 December 2022

Dan Guest

How to Train as a Skydive Team

So you’ve been hanging out at the DZ for a while and gotten to know a few skydivers. You get chatting about what you love about the sport and it turns out you all love the competitive aspect. And even better, you all enjoy the same discipline – VFS! You decide it sounds like the perfect opportunity to join up as a team and enter into competitions. But where to start? Well, we thought we’d help you out and asked our mates Omni99 to answer some questions about training as a skydive team. Read on to find out what it takes to make it as a team. There’s some helpful tips. And yeah, some not so serious answers… but there is always fun to be had.

 


 

Who are Omni99 VFS?

 

They are a British VFS 4-way team called Omni99. The team is made up of Sarah Boyd, Martin Roberson, Tim Gaines, Greg Lucas and Dan Guest (camera). A group of close friends who have been flying together in the tunnel and sky for a number of years. Originally formed as a team in 2014 to compete on a national and international level in a discipline they are all passionate about.

After winning the BPA National Championships (2015 to 2022) as well as representing team GB at the World Indoor Skydiving Championships and the Mondial, they’re now looking to step training up to the next level. Omni99 have been working hard to elevate VFS and share their passion of the discipline within the UK skydiving community.

 

omni99 standing shoudler to shoulder holding helmets in skydive gear with tent behind them

British VFS 4-way team Omni99 hanging out together in their team colours. Photo credit: Joel Strickland

 

And what is VFS?

VFS is Vertical Formation Skydiving. Basically, what you do on your belly, but flipped around to either head up or head down. And lots of hand holding and spinning around. It’s all about flying tight and getting as many points in a set timeframe. For a much better definition, have a read of Skydive Mag’s article written by Matt Law. And then have a watch of Tim’s talk he did at the British Expo a couple years ago, ‘VFS: You don’t need to be a Ninja‘.

 

Read our blog ‘Formation Skydiving: Top Tips for Beginner Skydivers’ for top tips on turning them points

READ BEGINNER FS BLOG

What is the greatest challenge being in a skydive team?

 

Dan: Time and Money, it’s a constant battle of having the time to train/compete but keeping our jobs to afford it.

Tim: With time being limited, there is always the struggle of making the most of our time on the DZ to train but also just wanting to go do casual fun jumping with others.

Martin: With all of us working full time jobs it’s important to balance training and fun.

Sarah: Where to focus time & money. I’ve loved how much we’ve progressed as a team, but I’ve got a bit behind on other types of flying. I am now jealous how much better at zooming my teammates are, so this winter I am trying to catch up before our hectic summer schedule.

 

What would a typical day of training look like?

 

Dan: In the UK it would be, rock up at the DZ and sit around complaining about the weather.

Greg: Typically we start with an argument over tea/coffee about who has to plan the dives for the day. We’ll try to start early and keep a consistent pace up all day, usually finishing in time for a nice dinner at the pub! The UK weather is unpredictable so having things to do to pass the time on weather holds is important.

Tim: After guessing who is going to be the last to arrive today, we get going and like to jump as much as possible until the packers start going on strike, or when we start to lose feeling in our fingers when the weather is too cold!

Sarah: P.S It’s nearly always Greg who turns up last!

Martin: Maccies breakfast, as many jumps as we can and then pub.

 

 

How do you balance the different dynamics within your team?

 

Dan: We try our best but we never take things too seriously so this helps to keep a lot of the differences from causing any dramas.

Greg: I think it helps a lot that before being a team, we are (or at least were!) all friends. We have a lot of fun together outside skydiving.

Tim: We all spend a lot of time together away from the dropzone which is a great way to have fun without the worries you should be thinking about your next skydive.

Sarah: One of the reasons we started the team was we all spent a lot of our time together anyway. When we’ve had enough of skydiving together, we go on a ski trip. Luckily how well we get on has continued and it’s helped keep bickering to a minimum.

Martin: We were all good friends before we started the team which helps the team dynamic a lot.

 

 

What advice would you give to skydivers wanting to compete as a team?

 

Dan: It’s not going to happen for you, make the decision, find some teammates, put the time/money aside and make it happen. If you wait around for it to all line up nicely you’ll likely never make it to a comp.

Greg: I’d also add that we think getting high quality coaching is essential. Some teams try to save money by not getting coaching and while it may lead to more money for jumps, it’s a false economy. The top teams have already spent years and lots of money trying all the ways that don’t work to do things. If you can fast forward straight to the best known solution then you’ll save a lot of time, effort and money. There’s always time to invent new ways of doing things once you understand the current best practice.

Tim: Set out the goals your team wants to achieve over the next one/three/five years. If someone wants to be world champion in five years but the others just want to do a few jumps to “sort the exit out” then you are only destined for a disagreement at some point.

Sarah: And find people you can genuinely be friends with. It helps keep the momentum going, and it gets you through the tough days when you can’t quite nail the move your teamies need you to.

 

Have a read of our blog ‘Getting Competition Fit: 5 NZA Athletes Top Tips’ to find out more about competing in skydiving

READ COMPETITION FIT BLOG

 

Do you always train together or does it help to train individually as well?

 

Dan: As the camera guy, doing lots of other general video work helps the subconscious ability to fly and frame at the same time.  

Greg: We try not to be one trick ponies. We train together a fair bit but in different disciplines. We’ve been competing at national level in dynamic, freefly and VFS for a while. Generally it’s the team or a subset of the team as we all have similar goals and schedules and it lets us mix up our training. With any of the freefly disciplines you’ve got to do a lot of solo training to start with to learn how to fly well and that helps a huge amount in flying as a team.

Tim: A few of us do quite a bit of coaching/load organising which is definitely a great way to build up your skills outside of flying in the team; demonstrating to others how to fly a skill is the best way for you to improve on it yourself.

Martin: We do some individual or different training in the tunnel where some of us compete in other disciplines like 2WD or 4WD, while dynamic flying is fundamentally quite different to VFS a lot of the general flying skills end up translating reasonably well.

 

Do you all follow the same fitness programme? Any advice for the best fitness regime for training as a team?

 

Dan: When I read this question, I sent a meme to the team saying “Yeah I do fitness, fitness pizza all in my mouth” I think that sums it up.

Greg: Dan is the fittest of all of us, despite his protestations! In all seriousness, fitness is an easy and cheap win for a skydiving team. We all have our own routines but unfortunately we all really love eating as well. There’s only so many sacrifices one can make!

Tim: A day of training involves a lot of running around to meet the plane for a back-to-back, if you’re not fit when you start, you will certainly be fitter by the end!

Sarah: Greg has kindly taken (dragged) me to the gym a few times to help me get strong enough for a pull up… I can’t say I’ve made much progress, but we had fun.

 

 

What advice would you give to those teams who want to compete at world level?

 

Dan: Just keep at, improvement is gradual and takes time. You can’t realistically expect to be pushing for the podium at worlds in your 2nd season against all the teams that have been doing it for years.

Tim: Get coaching! Even though you may be competing against your coach in the end, we all want you to succeed and do well!

Martin: Everything takes more time than you think and there will always be unforeseen setbacks along the way. And get coaching!!

 

Has your team been the same members since you started or have you had new members join? Did you have any difficulties in transitioning between members?

 

Dan: I just look at them from a distance, I wouldn’t have noticed.

Greg: We’ve never had a team member change but if we did they would definitely have to adopt the colour of the departing member. We would all get too confused otherwise!

 

How do you handle ‘bad training days’?

 

Dan: At the pub afterwards.

Greg: For us a bad training day is typically for one of two reasons: tiredness or cold. There’s definitely days when we’ve stopped early because training isn’t productive and it’s very expensive! If it’s a short term problem then taking a lift or 2 on the ground to reset, warm up and have a coffee can definitely help.

Martin: Remembering that we’re doing this mostly for fun, if we’re struggling with one particular aspect of the training we’ll switch it up and work on something else to avoid the frustration.

 

Read AK’s blog article ‘5 Ways Meditation can be valuable in Skydiving’ for ideas on how to manage the mental side of training

READ MEDITATION BLOG

 

Do all of you work in skydiving and live near each other? If not, how do you manage training schedules?

 

Dan: I did until a couple years ago, but trying to make a living from skydiving doesn’t help give you anymore free time for team stuff. I’d sometimes combine work and training on the same day and they’d do some jumps without camera.

Greg: Apart from Dan, none of us have ever worked in skydiving, we all have 9-5s (or 8-8s depending on the week). We’re pretty spread out across the south of the UK. Wind tunnel training is often the hardest thing to manage as 4 hours of driving on top of the tunnel training on a work night is tough. We have been taking advantage of our new found flexibility to work a little more remotely which eases the burden.

Sarah: It is quite challenging fitting training around life. We get together in January to hash out jumping weekends and they are set for the year. No excuses for wedding invites/birthdays we forgot about at the time.

Martin: Working full time means a lot of weekends and annual leave are dedicated to skydiving which can be challenging to balance.

 

Who would you want to be in the finals with?

 

Dan: Ideally another team who are as unprepared as us.

Martin: Anyone who is up for a good laugh and a beer at the end of the day.

 

omni99 standing together arm in arm wearing medals

Team work makes the dream work. Photo credit: Rob Lloyd

 

 

*Team VFS freefall photographs by Dan Guest

 


 

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