This Sporting Life

An old idea


       Life is either a daring


        or nothing at all

          – Helen Keller

My dictionary defines sport as  “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.”

It follows therefore that some people would choose a sport based upon their innate physical abilities, perhaps deciding to use their muscular strength and agility to play rugby league or soccer. Others might employ their superior hand-eye coordination and play a game requiring a deft touch like tennis or golf.

Looking around the drop zone has me wondering what skill or physical attribute we bring to our chosen sport, because there certainly doesn’t appear to be any obvious pattern lurking there. The fact that we tell our students that skydiving is 5% physical and 95% mental supports those findings.

I see tall people, short people, fat people and thin people. The young and the not so young. People shaped like cannonballs and some shaped like stick insects. It seems there’s no pattern required where gravity’s concerned.

Another thought sometimes enters my head too – why do these people skydive?

Often the first thing someone will say when they find out I’m a skydiver is “why would anyone jump out of a perfectly serviceable aeroplane?” My common response is that not all aeroplanes are perfect.

It’s obviously not the real reason I choose to throw myself at the ground from a great height. No, for me it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I first drew parachutes in my schoolbooks when I was a kid.

I now have the chance to discover why other people want to jump. For the last few months I’ve been running first jump courses, and as part of the introductions I ask my students why they want to jump.

I get some pretty good answers.

Some say it’s for the sheer bloody thrill of falling, facing a basic fear all humans possess. Others reckon it’s intended to be a stepping-stone, a way to move into more demanding areas such as base-jumping or proximity flying. Many tell me they’ve seen “that bloke in the bat suit” on television, and thought it looked like a cool thing to do.

For some it’s on their bucket list.

There are a couple of other reasons to throw yourself out of a perfectly good aeroplane. Skydivers can have three-ways as often as they like – and no one judges them, and in freefall “head down” with another bloke is an acceptable form of behaviour.

Everybody is affected by gravity – it’s how you use it that matters.


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