If you look at the podium of any competitive skydiving event, you’ll certainly see women—but there’s no question that the gender ratio in the sport is lopsided. Currently, only 13% of United States Parachute Association members are women—and last year, only 10.9% of new A license recipients were women.
Christy Frikken and JaNette Lefkowitz, the female members of the powerhouse SDC Rhythm XP skydiving team—which just took second place in the World Championships, by the way—decided to help. The pair put their formidable heads to the task and decided that, in order to properly empower more women to become instructors, role models and mentors at their home dropzones, it isn’t enough to have big “girl-power” boogies every once in a while.
Instead, promising female leaders—especially in geographical areas within the US where female leadership in the sport is underrepresented—need to be identified, trained and inspired to share. Their vision: to find these leaders from dropzones across the country, to develop promising their skills in an intensive, workshop-style environment, and to send them out with the connections and continuing education they’ll need in order to effect change locally.
We couldn’t agree more—and, this summer, Skydive Paraclete XP was thrilled and honored to host the first annual Rhythm Women’s Leadership Course.
The conference team’s planning process was exhaustive. JaNette and Christy brought in canopy maven Maxine Tate, DZO/TI Jen Sharp and Axis Flight School’s Brianne Thompson to address different disciplines, paths, and capacities throughout the sport. Applicants were limited to skydivers with less than a thousand jumps and personally interviewed as part of the application. The foundation granted sponsorships according to outstanding applicants’ needs.
Designed as a sky, tunnel, and practical-skills boot camp, the nine-day intensive brought 22 participants together for one heck of a week. Each attendee walked away with a much-accelerated education on (and individual coaching in) small- to medium-sized formation skydiving techniques in the tunnel and the sky, gear, canopy piloting, event organizing, goal-setting, and rating progression. The clear focus: One-to-one mentorship, and a detailed plan to help participants share all the newfound knowledge and expertise at their home dropzones.
Why Paraclete? For the organizers, that answer is simple: The Paraclete XP Windtunnel is the largest tunnel in the US, and—with the multiple turbine aircraft and the extensive campus of the Paraclete drop zone just six miles away—the dual facility is widely acknowledged as the best, most comprehensive environment for skydivers looking to learn.
If the goal was to provide a dramatic leap in participants’ general knowledge and specific skills, the Conference was a wild success. We at Paraclete are so proud to have hosted the event’s spectacular first year, and we’re eagerly looking forward to hosting it again!
If you’re interested in getting involved, reach out to the Rhythm team at rhythmskydiving.com.