The George Cayley Paragliding Club will be operating under the recently introduced BHPA Pilot Development Structure. This is for new Club Pilots and existing pilots wishing to adopt the training scheme.
Findings from the Cayley Club Coach & Committee Interviews
Dominic, one of the clubs Senior Coaches, recently spent time interviewing all of the Cayley Coaches and committee members. This was completed to write profiles for the club website.
He found it fascinating to listen to the wonderful and varied flying histories of some of our most experienced pilots.
However, what struck him most was that despite the differences in stories, there were several really important themes that cropped up in every single interview. Importantly, these were common themes that can teach us a lot about how to be better coaches. Also, how to be more effective at helping new pilots thrive in the sport of paragliding.
A) Every coach owes a debt of gratitude to one or more friendly pilots who made a big effort to help get them flying in the early days
B) These friendly pilots were seen as mentors and friends rather than coaches
C) The social aspect of paragliding is the glue that kept new pilots in the sport
A) Every coach owes a debt of gratitude to one or more friendly pilots who made a big effort to help get them flying in the early days.
The first paragliding flying hours can be the most difficult for new pilots. They need help interpreting the weather, learning new sites and understanding where and when it is safe for them to fly. The flying window (in terms of flyable conditions and sites) is significantly smaller for them than for experienced pilots. As a result, they tend to need more help and encouragement.
They also have to get used to the fact that they may drive reasonably long distances to discover that it’s not flyable when they get there. In every case, our coaches were lucky enough to find someone who took them under their wing. This made the first 50 hours fun, interesting and safe. Without these friendly pilots, it seems that few, if any, of our coaches would have lasted very long in the sport.
B) These friendly pilots were seen as mentors and friends rather than coaches.
He asked a lot of our coaches the same question: “was this person a club coach?” The most frequent answer he got was “I don’t know. They were more like a mentor or friend than a coach”. Few remember being “coached” but everyone remembers being given the sort of help and advice that you might expect from a friend.
They also remember the passion and enthusiasm that their mentor/s had for flying. How travelling to sites and waiting were rarely a problem when you were travelling with (or going to meet) your friends.
C) The social aspect of paragliding was the glue that kept new pilots in the sport.
Most coaches talked about how important the social aspect was for them. Meeting up and flying with friends, holidays abroad, being introduced to a wider circle of friends. While flying is fun, it isn’t always enough to sustain a person’s flying career. It’s the network of friends, the new places we fly and the holidays we go on together. Is the meetings & barbeques we go to and the chats we have on the hill when it’s not flyable. Its that, that makes them really passionate about the sport they love.
So, as the new season approaches and we begin to see new faces at Cayley sites, it is useful to remember that we can play a major part in whether a new pilot thrives in the sport or leaves early. If we invest the time to help them get flying in the early days; mentor them as friends; and encourage them to get involved in the various social aspects of flying, we may just end up making life-long flying buddies who are as passionate about the sport as we are.