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The Cat II Program

By Claire King, D863

So what is the Cat II program all about?  Why do you do it and what do you get out of it?

Many jumpers embark on the Cat II program because they are told they must, and they never properly understand its purpose, the benefits of completing it or what they should expect to receive for their time and money. If you have Cat II questions, read on – or email your discipline committee for more information.

What is the Cat II Program?

It is a set curriculum to introduce you to some of the advanced flying techniques in your discipline.  The program aims to introduce the techniques and give you the opportunity to try them out in under the supervision of a rated coach in the discipline, with personal 1-on-1 attention.  The standard program runs over 7 jumps, introducing 1 new technique on each of the first 5 jumps and then testing your application of these techniques in two test jumps.

Why do I want it?

There are a few reasons to get your Cat II.  The obvious reason is that it is a prerequisite to gaining certain achievements, licenses and ratings and having it allows you to jump with more people, do a wider variety of things on your jumps and jump in a wider variety of places.

But there are other really important reasons to do your Cat II.  What about the things that the resulting skills ENABLE you to achieve rather than just allowing you to attempt?  These reasons are not always explained to you but are an important motivation not just to do your Cat II but to do it well, to gain the most you can from it and to ensure you do it with the right coach.

  • Why can’t I find anyone to jump with?!?!?

This is a frustration that many jumpers find themselves in after completing their Cat II as fast as possible with the most “lenient” coach they could find on the drop zone.  The initial motivation is either to save money (if I fail a jump I have to pay for another!) or to save time (I want to get through my Cat II ASAP so I can go forth and conquer that sky with my buddy).  The end result is often a Cat II jumper who is not competent in the basic techniques of advanced flight.  Make no mistake – conscientious jumpers see your jumps and take note and the reason you never seem to catch the fun stuff is often because jumpers don’t want the risk resulting from your lack of skills.  It may be because of the danger involved or simply because the jump will never work out with your skill level and will waste the rest of the group’s money.  As your jump numbers climb with no apparent skill improvement, people become more reluctant to invite you onto their jumps.

  • I want to start competing – even if just for fun, but it is just too frustrating getting started!

Beginning a team (or even just regular jumps with one or more regular partners where you want to start progressing) is frustrating enough when you have good skills.  The sudden realisation (which takes a little longer for some than for others!!) that you are not, in fact, a 100 jump sky god is always tough, but hopefully it motivates you to put in the time and effort to progress.  A good Cat II basis not only prepares you better and jump starts you to finding a team and getting functional, but when you realise how much you need to progress, a good Cat II base will provide you with the skills, the depth of understanding, and the best approach to mastering new skills and techniques.

  • I love skydiving, even though our jumps never actually work out as planned.

So you get the invitations to the fun jumps, but they seldom work out.  Most of the time, in these cases, the whole group are lacking the Cat II skills that would boost their jumps from loads of fun to really successful – which you’ll discover is a lot MORE fun.  Even if the plan is something absurd and not at all ‘serious’ in nature, you can have a lot more fun with better basic skills.  Your hybrids, your rodeos, your horny gorillas.. they work out better.  Why is your jump plan so simple (“a rodeo” or “a horny gorilla” or “a 6 way”)?  With your Cat II skills in place, those “plans” are just one part of a jump plan incorporating many different moves and tasks.

What’s in a Coach?

Your Cat II is only as good as your Cat II coach.  That is not to say your coach should be the best flyer at the DZ, that is to say he or she should be:

  • The obvious:  A RATED, CURRENT, Cat II coach.  If you did your jumps with a non-coach and just had them signed off by a coach, ask yourself if you are getting value for your money.  Why are you covering the costs of an unrated jumper?  Why do they not have a rating?  If they have the necessary skills, but aren’t interested in coaching, I say, “Find a better coach”.  Ever notice how you fared better in subjects where you liked your lecturer?  ‘Nuff said.
  • An SSA member.  The Cat II program is managed by the SSA.  The coach rating in an SSA-issued rating.  If your coach is not even a member of the Sport Skydivers Association, how passionate, current and involved in sport skydiving can they be?
  • Current and informed on the latest techniques, why they work better than older techniques and why they work at all, as well as when you would use them in a practical context.  If your coach can’t give you a practical example of when you need to perform a super positional move or why a side slide is going to add value to you in your sport, you could be forgiven for wondering why you’d bother trying to master ‘this absurd skill’.
  • Current in the discipline.  Obviously (I hope).  Your coach doesn’t need to be on the National team, but if you have the choice...
  • Suited to you! Not all drop zones have the luxury of enough coaches to be this picky, but if you’re at a DZ with a number of highly skilled, current, passionate and informed coaches, choose the coach you can relate to.  While the curriculum is standard and we try to keep a consistent coaching standard across the country, we all relate better to one approach or personality or analogy than another.  So given the choice, pick the coach on your wavelength.
  • Consistent.  The Cat II has a standard curriculum.  If you are getting vastly different information from one coach than you get from others, or you are coming away from your briefing feeling none the wiser, you need to address this with your coach or with your SSA discipline committee.  While some coaches will always be above the standard and will go the extra mile and give you tons of nice-to-knows, you should be getting the same core information from every coach, country-wide.  Every coach is responsible for maintaining this standard and should strive to exceed it.  If you are concerned about the level of coaching offered at your DZ, or you just want to refresh your knowledge and share coaching ideas, why not give your SSA committee a call and have them organise a coaching seminar there? 
  • Passionate about teaching and growing your discipline.  A passionate freeflyer will never be a great FS coach (unless he/she is passionate about FS too).  But loving the discipline is not enough.  We have enough rated coaches in South Africa for students to be picky – choose the coach who is also passionate about coaching and sharing knowledge.  Choose the coach who sacrifices on the number of jumps he can fit in that day in order to spend extra time briefing and debriefing you, or wants to drag you to the video debrief room to show you the video of the recent world record. 

Choose the inspired coach who wants nothing more than to inspire you too!  Make no mistake, you will often find that this is the coach who will also gladly jump socially with you after your Cat II because they know you’ve been given a good basis (and you probably fly better as a result), they’ve seen your interest and want to encourage that and help you develop, and quite frankly, they are complete evangelists in their discipline and can’t wait to help you “share the joy”.

A good Cat II gives you the grounding to improve your skills – the program just introduces them to you and helps you get started.  You need to take everything you get in your Cat II briefing, jump and debrief and apply it on your own to master the skill.  The Cat II program is not going to give you the skill; it enables you to master the skill.

If you select your coach carefully, and understand what to expect from your Cat II experience, you can turn an “expensive skydive” into a “dirt cheap course on getting good at your favourite sport”!

A list of PASA coaches is available under Miscellaneous Documents on the PASA website at

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