My three Little Sisters and I loaded up my car and took a road trip to Skydive Arizona for the wonderful SIS event. This event was exactly what we needed! We came back with a fire in our bellies and excitement for the sport. We are still extremely excited about our trip. We bonded and are actively encouraging other ladies to work together to empower each other and to make our sport "OURS" (Own Ur Rig, Sista!).
—Emily Cano, Bosque Farms, NM
Having been in the sport a mere 1.5 years, I have already found the camaraderie and support from my sisters has only helped progress and evolve my interest and goals both in skydiving and outside of the sport. These relationships are the main thing that have helped keep my interest in skydiving, without which I may have easily hung up my rig, with meandering focus, and stopped jumping altogether. Being a Big Sis myself has also been a unique experience: My Little Sister has encountered some friction from her mentors and instructors about whether or not to continue AFF—she has about 26 jumps but has not yet graduated AFF level 7. She was thinking about leaving the sport but since has decided to continue on in spite of pressure and unspoken discouragement of the community. I do not think I have developed stronger bonds with women in any demographic of people than I have in this sport.
—Emily Watt, Los Angeles, CA
First of all, I just have to say that I love this program! I think it’s amazing. When I first came into the sport, my saving grace was the three chick skydivers that worked at our DZ that took me in and really were there for me (which is supremely appreciated in a sport that is male-dominated and makes most any female an instant target). I have several other chicks signing up from our DZ to also become Big Sisters! We are really going to launch this at Skydive Midwest!
I have two Little Sisters. Both are brand-new, fresh AFF students. I think the most important aspect is to get in contact with them as soon as they start the program and make sure they have your phone number and know that they never need to hesitate to approach you, ask you questions, etc. It’s helpful that we have such a busy DZ, but it also still has to be the initiative of the Big Sister to approach a new sister in skydiving. New skydivers are often very timid and feel out of place—but really want to feel like they belong.
I definitely feel like I am helpful, mostly as a point of contact. AFF instructors and the DZ managers are always giving everyone feedback, which is crucial and important. I see my role right now as more of a listening, guiding, friendship role.
Most of our time is spent at the DZ sitting outside watching jumpers away and landings while we wait to jump on the next load available. This time is where I find most bonding happens—having someone to hang out at the DZ with and talk about skydiving and talk with other skydivers. I also invite the new skydivers to any group outings and events going on that involve skydivers, like going to the beach, going out to dinner, etc.
—Courtney Meyer, Kenosha, WI
I had a pseudo Little Sister already when I signed up for SIS. I say “pseudo” because she already has about 40 jumps and is well on her way. So far, we have flown in the tunnel together (and she is on a weekly tunnel league, as well—and this involves a great social atmosphere), done some fun jumps and have taken some time in the evenings to learn about packing. Though she had to pack for her A license, she is very uncomfortable with it, so we get together, have pizza and practice packing. In this way, I definitely feel I am helping her in her progression. I am also on a 4-way team participating in Nationals this year, so every weekend that we have training, we invite her to our hangar to spend time with us and watch the training routine, learn about 4-way and simply hang out and have fun.
I am bringing my niece and future sister-in-law out to the DZ for tandems in September and hope to encourage them to become Little Sisters, should they take to skydiving the way I did!
My biggest suggestion for sisters like myself is to take time to get to know the tandem students. They are often the ones you hear talking about how they would love to continue in the sport, but once they leave the DZ, they really don’t know how to go about it, and the opportunity has passed.
I love the idea of this group and hope we can continue to get more and more sisters in our sport!
—Christine Edwards, Aurora, CO
I have a Little Sister, her name is Rikki, and I hope to have another one very soon (she’s working her way through AFF)! Right now, I’m just being there for Rikki when she needs me. I invite her on all my skydives (as well as other newbies), and she is progressing along. There are not very many women skydivers at my small drop zone, so we stick together! So far, it’s been very fun!
—Mary Burkey, Austin, TX
I found a few Little Sisters. We have three new females going through AFF at our DZ, and they were super excited when I sent them the link to the SIS Facebook page and offered to be a Big Sis. Also, we had some first-time female visitors from another DZ who came and looked for me because they saw I was a Big Sis at that drop zone.
I feel like they have someone to turn to, even if it’s just to vent—knowing that their venting is going to be safe with me and that I can just be an ear. Some of this has included struggles with certain levels of their AFF. (I’m definitely in no place to give coaching, just moral support and fear support, even if it’s just telling stories about how I cried the whole way to the door during AFF 1.)
We are all weather fanatics together. Living in the Northeast, the weather changes constantly. We text, e-mail, Facebook and talk to each other every day about the ever-changing weather and how it may affect our jumping weekend. It may seem silly, but it’s fun to share the same obsession with others. We’ve also been talking about having a night where we all get together, cook some food and show our first tandem videos. Also reading through our logbooks of our first few jumps.
—Melissa Tsouhnikas, Stroudsburg, PA
I’m super excited about your new Sisters in Skydiving program! This is my fourth year in the sport, and I’ve debated upon whether or not I want to become a coach or an instructor in the future. This program, however, is a perfect stepping stone for me, as I began skydiving in an area where there are few females in the sport (Cleveland, Ohio). I already get so excited when I see new women entering AFF and try my best to make them feel as welcome as possible, exactly the way that I was welcomed by those men and women who came before me.
—Christa Gerde, Euclid, OH