As the host of the 2021 Indoor Skydiving National Championships, Paraclete XP will open its doors to some of the best teams in the nation. With few opportunities to compete over the past year, many teams are itching to flex their competitive chops, including the current US National 4-way outdoor Champions Rhythm XP.
We were lucky enough to chat with Rhythm XP’s Andrew Happick to get an inside scoop on the team’s preparations for the Indoor Skydiving Championships and the role it ultimately plays in their journey to the World Meet.
How is Rhythm preparing for this competition?
Our training plan includes both indoor and outdoor training, so our season long training plan helps to prepare us for any competition, whether it is indoor or outdoor. For this competition specifically, we have added a few days of indoor training. Leading up to the meet, we will have two 3 day training camps dedicated to meet prep.
What benefits can be gained for Intermediate teams? Do you recommend that they compete?
The same benefits that we gain from the meet apply to all teams. Meet experience is valuable for any team and should be part of their training plan. After all, teams are training in order to improve in and win competitions, so having competitions to practice at is important. Also, this competition is the US Nationals for Indoor Skydiving, so it is a time to showcase your Indoor performance to the community!
What does Rhythm and other teams look forward to the most with an event like this?
I think the reason most competitors train is because they enjoy competition. Therefore, the chance to compete itself is exciting and individuals and teams get to showcase their training and skills through a meet performance. Also, this event is a higher profile meet with a large field to compete against, so teams of all levels will likely have direct competition around them at their level.
Can you quantify the specific areas in which indoor skydiving helps a team improve?
Indoor skydiving gives the opportunity for a lot more wind time than a day of skydiving does, so it allows for lots of repetition. This can be used to improve things like consistency, togetherness, and communication for a team.
What’s the average that you’re hoping to achieve at the indoor skydiving championships?
Our previous best is a 32.0 average at the Wind Games 2020 in Empuriabrava, Spain. If we can beat our team best, that would be fantastic. Of course, a lot of times the draw can be ‘faster’ or ‘slower’, and determine how high scoring the competition will be – so what really matters more than the average is where you stack up against the competition.
If the team were to win this event, does it help boost the team’s confidence even though it’s not the same as outdoor skydiving?
Yes! While our main focus is outdoor skydiving, the reason we train is to compete and win in competition. Even though indoor skydiving is not the same as outdoor, of course, they are related and use a lot of the same skills. Indoor skydiving is an important part of our training for outdoor events, and winning any competition is what we strive for!
How important is the Indoor Skydiving Championships for the team’s preparation for the World Meet?
The Indoor Skydiving Championships will provide an excellent meet experience for Rhythm. Our current lineup does not have a lot of competition experience, since we only started training in May 2020, after the pandemic began. Even though this will be an indoor meet, the fact that this competition will allow us to compete in person against top-level teams will give us the necessary experience in a meet environment with our team. The pressure to perform and the competition mindset for the team will be a useful experience, especially in this time with very little high level competition opportunity.
Since JaNette stepped down from the team, how has the transition been with Christy Frikken?
JaNette is a fantastic competitor and teammate, which is always hard to replace! However, Christy was on Rhythm for years prior to myself, and we worked and even trained with her some in the few years before JaNette stepped down, so it seemed like an easy fit. Christy has done a fantastic job stepping in, and while there are of course areas to work on with a new lineup, some of it felt like we started right where we left off with JaNette.
How would you rate the teams performance at this stage as you get more training jumps under your belt in preparation for the World Meet?
We feel pretty confident. It can be hard to rate performance without many competitions to perform at, but we were happy with our team record performance at the International Skydiving Championships at Skydive Arizona in November of last year, where we scored 276 points (27.6 average). Our team best prior to this was our 26.2 average at which we won USPA Nationals 2019.
Skydiving competitively is filled with mental hurdles. How does the team work on the mental side of competition in order to perform at the highest level amidst so much pressure.
In our off time, we use visualization of dives as a way to help with part of the mental game. Also, competition experience itself is a big part of the mental prep because it gives you a chance to put into practice your training and see how the mental aspect of competition affects you and the team.
It would seem that it’s important to participate in as many competitions as possible, but there are few open class competitions available. How do you compensate for that? How do you recreate pressure situations?
The best way is for sure to have live competitions directly with your competitors. In training we try to simulate meet jumps the best we can and will sometimes use past competition draws where we have scores from our past performance and scores from the other teams at that meet.
What coach(es) is Rhythm currently working with?
Currently we don’t have a dedicated coach, so we are mostly self-coaching during training. In the past we have had a full time coach (Shannon Pilcher, most recently), and we did a pretty good job when transitioning to coaching ourselves, so we have moved forward with that. We continue to look at opportunities for short term coaches in the time we have left before the World Meet.
This is your first World Meet – the realization of years of hard work and thousands of training jumps – how do you envision the meet to be?
Throughout the years, every so often (usually at a selection year at USPA Nationals), we have the opportunity to compete for ‘all the marbles’. In other words, putting everything out there from everything we’ve learned in order to accomplish our goal. I expect it to be another meet like that, being the culmination of a lot of hard work and progress throughout the years.
What aircraft will be used in Russia? Is it a Twin Otter? If not, will you be doing any additional training elsewhere to figure out the exit?
The FS meet aircraft will be a L-410 Turbolet, a Czech aircraft. This is definitely a challenge as there are very few places that a team can train from one of these aircraft. One of the places you can train is in Tanay, Russia where the World Meet will be, however the weather is not good to train until very close to the World Meet. We plan to have a training camp out of a Turbolet prior to the World Meet, and it’s looking like the best option might be in Czech.
What are you most excited about for the skydiving season?
Definitely the opportunity to represent the US at the World Meet in 4way – it has been a long term goal for all of us and we have been waiting a long time for it!
The entire staff is extraordinarily professional and gracious. They are extremely safety conscious while at the same time giving everyone as much freedom as they can safely manage. A rare combination. While we (adults) were there, our instructor also suited up and trained a 2-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl.