What I Learned From Competing at My First Nationals…

My name is Lauren Pfeifer and I competed at my first Nationals in 2021, it was an incredible experience where I learned more about myself as a skydiver, how to perform in a competitive environment, and how to have the most fun. I only registered for 2-way Advanced MFS, however I ended up joining pickup teams in both 4-way FS, and 10-way FS. Here is some of what I learned…

  1.     SAVE all your pennies. It is way more expensive than you think. You may have sponsors, and you may not, but either way, the travel, the hotel, the rental cars, the meals, the jumps, the registration, and snacks add up quite a bit. Fundraise, ramen diet, book travel in advance… these are some good ideas to help keep costs lower and more efficient.

Photo by Bert Navarrete

  1.     TRAIN, not necessarily as much as you can, but train with a purpose, and have a goal or goals to go after. Set individual goals and team goals (if you are competing on a team) and adjust throughout the season. Even if your first Nationals means being part of a pick-up team, set yourself a goal.  You’ll be happier working towards SOMETHING whether it’s a gold medal, scoring your first point or nailing that exit that’s been extra challenging all season. 
  1.     PREPARE to mess up and be okay with making mistakes AND allow others to make mistakes too. Be open to communication within the team, this will allow for successful teamwork to come together.  It’s a learning tool, and it’ll only make you a better skydiver and teammate in the long run. Personally, one of the best communication tools I learned during Nationals from some of the most experienced teams, was when they had “Pass the Rock” debriefs. During this time, one member of the team would hold a rock, stone, water bottle, something to signal it was their time and only their time to speak. This gives each team member an opportunity to speak without being interrupted.

Photo By Mike McGowan

  1.     BREATHE. Remember everyone there is in the same boat as you, whether it’s also their first nationals or its their tenth, they may still be on edge. Try to take in all the knowledge from those you are surrounded by who have been there before. It’s one of the few times per year that you find so many decorated and professional skydivers in one hangar. Even though everyone is in high stress mode, remember to stay positive and smile. You may be there for different reasons and different progressions but all working toward a common goal. 
  1.     HAVE FUN, after all… we are skydiving! Don’t think twice, don’t be afraid to try something new… like that 10-way pickup team!   

Photo By Mike McGowan

To learn more about the United States Nationals, you can also visit USPA.org

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