Final Dirt Dive from Meh to Marvelous

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The final dirt dive before you get on the plane is the last chance you get to practice with your team before you execute a skydive. If you make your last walkthrough amazing, it increases the chances the skydive will also be amazing.


Winning teams will make sure that the last walkthrough has the feeling and quality they want in the skydive.


Unsupervised and undeterred

Every year as fall approaches I must kick my teams out of the nest of constant supervision so they will be prepared to monitor themselves for Nationals. I am more stressed about it than the team as I watch and hope everything I have shown them during a season takes root.

In hopes that my voice will rattle in their heads and the habits will stick I started making checklists several years ago. The most successful list was used to guarantee the quality of the final walkthrough.

I would scribble a notecard with all the qualities I wanted them to scan for on the final dirt dive. This was meant to be a replacement for me hovering over them telling them to do it until it was right.

It worked! But the card was flimsy and awkward to have around.

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DETECT-ive work

After giving these instructions to Seattle Swift, the clever guys came up with a great acronym that encompassed all my checkpoints. I have been using DETECT with my teams for competition preparation ever since.


The full acronym stands for duration, eyes, togetherness, energy, communication, and type.



Your final walkthrough should be longer than you would expect. This is so that everyone on the team has a chance to really build anticipation from point to point and smooth out any wrinkles. There is not a set duration – just past the point where the dive flows well for multiple pages past the last error or mistake.



This means both communication and broadening vision.

When jumpers get excited or nervous their vision often narrows (grip fixation anyone?). This can be combatted with directing eye contact, casting your gaze intentionally, focusing on the planned last grip, or simply seeing everything. This bullet point reminds everyone to look more broadly and see the whole picture.



No matter how you strategize to achieve it, moving together synchronously is the ultimate goal. Depending on the team this could mean getting on grips together, matching movement speeds, arriving at the same time, or even classically stopping in slot. It always means getting off grips together.



This is a test to make sure the jump had some fire. Great jumps have a little bit of spice; the hunger for the next point. I know firsthand it is easy to lose focus and shift into just going through the motions while walking. This robs your preparation of the details, attentiveness, and anticipation building need to crush it.

The walkthrough should reflect joyful anticipation. It means paying attention and actively working through the sequence together.



On the flip side to laser-focused energy is calm. We want a fierce and assertive jump without being over the line. Good decisions are made when you are calm; competition skydiving is all about decision making. The team should feel that they are in control and not manic.

2016-04-24 13.40.46


Is the jump appropriate for its type? (Strategy might have been a better description, but “detecs” isn’t a word).

Most teams have a strategy to reflect a specific jump. For example, a random jump is best focused on togetherness and extra calm. A three blocker might be about strong perfect builds. Perhaps the team is focusing on a “learn and burn” plan.

If you’ve been coached by a professional (or are smart enough to be reading, you have a plan for a jump. Make your walkthrough reflect those intentions!


By using this checklist after the final walkthrough I found that my teams started self-correcting midway through preparation. A group learned to identify issues on the ground and course corrected in the middle of a sequence. That reflex carried over to the sky as ended up producing results beyond improving that final dirt dive.

Practice great dirt dives by joining a tunnel session right now!

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