Peyton interviews me

Peyton interviews me
One day, a college journalism major named Peyton decides to ask me a bunch of questions...

1. Where are you from originally? 

I’ve lived in Kansas my whole life. Born in Neodesha, KS (No one knows where that is.) I’m still here but travel a lot more now. 


2. What initially motivated you to skydive once and further, pursue it seriously? 

I saw a demonstration jump when I was 16 years old into a university football stadium. Two years later, I attended that university, saw a tiny classified ad in the student newspaper (yeah, back when reading a physical paper was the thing) and decided to show up for the first jump class. I did a static line jump, which was all that was offered at the time in my area. After the jump, I didn't want to leave! So I saw around watching the others in the class do their jumps. Someone came up to me and asked me how my jump was, and if I wanted to do another! "Oh yeah," I thought to myself, "I guess people do this more than once!" So I did a second jump that same day. I was in college, so I used my student loans to finance this "higher" education, ha ha!


3. Why do you skydive?

There are so many many reasons! But if I had to articulate just one reason that has permeated throughout all my years of jumping, I would say, because it is a bottomless opportunity to discover who I am, over and over again. You wouldn't think something so simple could invoke an endless stream of inspiration, but it does. I love the people as well! Very wonderful community that I'm privileged to be a part of.


4. What has been your most memorable jump?

There are so many! To name a few, I took my daughter on her first tandem when she turned 18. I actually jumped with her while pregnant, so it wasn't the first "tandem" I guess, ha ha! (I did with my son as well, pre-birth.) I made a few jumps near Mount Everest, wow, beautiful, surreal! I jumped as the Queen of England into a Major League Baseball game. I've been part of a seven person demo team, jumping military flags into the Boulder Bolder Memorial Day event, landing in a small time window to our piece of the music! I was also able to jump several times in that same stadium that inspired me to go on my first jump. I just got back from Costa Rica, jumping on the beach with friends, beautiful place! I've had my share of close calls as well, and those are memorable of course!


5. What is your favorite part of this sport?

Students, of any kind. I really enjoy learning, so being an educator means I have to stay up on current knowledge, safety issues with training initiatives, etc. I learn the most from my own students and candidates. Plus, their enthusiasm keeps me motivated! I love teaching!


6. What are your hobbies outside of skydiving?

I like just being active, with friends, like flying in the wind tunnel, skiing, hiking, snowmobiling... we recently did some zip lining, I tried a water hover board last year, wow so fun! I have a teenage son and my daughter is in college, so I really love watching their activities as well. I have a degree in Music, so I like drumming, playing and creating music. I have a marimba in my living room. And a drumset and guitars and keyboard and horns. I also teach drum lessons and drumline. I do quite a bit of writing magazine articles, blogging, and public speaking as well, and really enjoy that. (Recently I spoke at a women's prison!)


7. What adversity have you faced being a women in this male dominated field?

Of course, everyone faces adversity. To me, adversity and challenges help refine my skills, make me even better. You can grasp a knife by either the blade, or the handle, your choice. I actually like being an underdog, being under estimated. It allows me to use my own way of doing something to really "wow" the naysayers. I've had people tell me I couldn't do something, or assume I couldn't. I've had people even sabotage what I was trying to do, even to the point of causing danger, but so far, I've been able to handle whatever is thrown my way. "The task ahead of you is never as great as the Power within you." (I saw that on a pizza box about 15 years ago and kept it, it's pinned to my bulletin board!  The cool thing is, the actual physical part of skydiving is pretty non-discriminatory when it comes to gender, not like some other sports can be. I once lamented to a friend after I became an examiner that I was still being "tested." I complained, "How many times must I prove myself?" He answered, "Every time." That echos in my ear even today. But I don't have to prove myself to others, just to those I'm serving or teaching. Even just recently, I was put in charge of all of the coach examiners in a meeting designed to help standardize everyone's teaching, the first of these types of meetings ever. There were some pretty big "names" in the room, and I did have one heckler. I was able to maintain control of the meeting, but still facilitate conversation, not alienate anyone, and gained a ton of respect from some people that I may not have been able to earn, had I not had some adversity to "prove" I can handle it. I am actually grateful for those opportunities, much like a good player in any game wants to play a good opponent.


8. Is there anything you believe could be done to help empower women further to pursue this sport?

I like how you asked that! Sometimes I am asked about what could be done to increase the number of women in the sport, and I think that is not a noble goal, not realistic or attainable even. If there ends up being more women, it's because they find a place and feel connected. So your question is spot on! Anyway, to answer...

I think there are a lot of fantastic opportunities available right now! There used to be quite a lack of support, mostly as female skydivers were somewhat isolated. But there are many opportunities now to connect, through Female Skydiving Instructors network, or Sisters in Skydiving events, or Women's Skydiving Leadership Network, or iFLY's Ladies Night, even just social media, etc. etc. I think some women don't really understand the point of "empowerment" however. Some women who are hurting, obviously, have not dealt with their anger or their own history, and continue to give away their power by complaining and saying "Someone should do something about this!" Well, they have not yet realized, the person who can do something is themselves. That is true empowerment. Of course, in extreme cases where a woman's safety is at risk, and she is unable to recognize or unable to act, then yes, others need to help. But for the most part, I'm talking about common instances we all face, and we all have a choice about how to respond. One of the female gender's best assets is the ability--actually almost the need--to collaborate, cooperate, network, socialize, inspire each other. So, that is mostly what I'm about. Not excluding men, but just finding ways let women's natural tendencies (and different ways of accomplishing the same goals) have a place in our sport.


9. How did Female Skydiving Instructors come about?

My good friend Tom Noonan and I were brainstorming about how to encourage more females in the sport to earn a tandem instructor rating, so we came up with the idea of running all women courses for instructional ratings. It has evolved more into a network for the public to find female tandem instructors now. I have requests all the time from women who for religious or other reasons cannot skydive with a male instructor. It also is a repository for some inspiring articles.


10. How has this organization helped connect and empower fellow women in this sport?

I used this platform to first just tell my own story, and how even being small, I was able to be a tandem instructor. That inspired others to get their ratings, and then I began to tell their stories as well. I have tons of techniques that allow me to do the same job as, say a male instructor, but just a different way. There was just no conversation about it before. And now there is. It's funny to me that, I have to actually shift from my original purpose, because, we did meet our goals, we changed how those in our sport saw the capabilities of women. Now it's pretty widely accepted that women do just as good as men in being instructors, even tandem instructors. It wasn't that way 10 years ago. There were also other women-based organizations that have followed, which I'm proud of, like the ones I mentioned before. (SIS, WSLN, etc.) So as older goals are being met, we're forging new ones, and I feel like we're emerging into a new era now... I have plans for FSI that aren't public yet! :)


11. Any other thoughts you’d like to add?

I'm super excited that you reached out to me. I enjoy the opportunity to share my thoughts and hope you find this useful! Let me know when your project is done, I would love to see it!

  • 22 February 2019

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