Meet Holly Goodfield. Not only is Holly a mum of one with another child due any day, but at 25 years old and a mere 5’3”, with 1,600 tandem jumps she is the most experienced female Tandem Instructor in the UK.
Holly works full time as a Tandem Instructor at GoSkydive. Fellow Tandem Instructor and new Council Member Kate Lindsley interviewed her to talk about how she got into skydiving as a career.
How did you get into skydiving?
I was 18 when my boyfriend at the time started skydiving with his brother. They jumped at Headcorn and did yearly trips to Florida. I jumped at the chance to join them on their next trip and did my AFF in Deland.
What or who inspired or influenced you to become a Tandem Instructor?
Initially I got the opportunity to start flying camera at my local dropzone. This allowed me to jump more and become a more experienced and skilled flyer. Financially it also helped fund my skydiving. I then started doing some part time camera work at GoSkydive. There were a few instructors there who were really helpful and said to me that I should consider being a Tandem
Instructor. I hadn’t really considered it or thought it was something I could do before they suggested it. They told me that I could be a Tandem Instructor if I really wanted to and that it would open up a lot of opportunities for me and would give me lots of potential to travel. Pete Mac was one of those instructors and was probably the person who was the biggest influence on my decision to become an instructor.
What were people’s attitudes to you becoming a TI?
A lot of people don’t think women can do it, so it was never really a conversation I had with anyone in the beginning. A lot of the time being a female Tandem Instructor would be laughed off at old-school dropzones, so it’s not something I ever felt I could do until I was at GoSkydive and met Pete who made me feel I could actually do it. He was really encouraging and believed in me. When I made my decision most of the feedback was positive and my friends were really supportive. Some people said “be wary, it will be difficult and you are going to find it hard”. I don’t think they were trying to be negative, though. They were trying to look out for me and make sure I understood it would not be easy. Some people said I would find it tough and were saying “you might not be able to do it”.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering doing their Tandem rating?
Just do it, and believe you can do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help from the right people. Make sure you have a good all-round level of skydiving skill. Especially when you have someone that is bigger than you on the front as a student, you need to be able to out fly them. I did quite a bit of camera flying and freeflying and this prepared me. Also I was lucky to be able to go on the front of TIs on around 10-15 jumps so I got quite a bit of in-air flying of the canopy before the course and was also able to see their landing patterns and get familiar with their procedures under the canopy.
What advice would you give to women who want to be a Tandem Instructor?
If you are small, then that’s fine. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you are small and set your own limits. I have set limits on the weights that I take and am very strict on this. Also be aware that there is lots of equipment out there in various sizes, and canopies with different toggle pressure. Get the right advice and recognise that you might have to be specific about what equipment you use. Try to consider a smaller container if possible, and choose a canopy which suits you. This will put less strain on your body over time.
What skills and attributes make a good TI?
I feel that being able to be empathetic is really important. You need to be able to understand how anxious and scared your student is and be able to empathise and have the skills to keep them calm. This gives them a better experience and also increases the safety of the jump for them and for you.
What reactions do you get from your students for being female?
Mostly it’s really positive, although occasionally people are a bit taken aback as they expect their TI to be a tall, muscular bloke. Women in particular often comment they are more comfortable having been paired up with a female TI. I have only had a couple of occasions where guys were a bit unsure, but after talking to them and explaining the skydive they were fine.
What’s your most memorable jump?
I have three. Being able to take my sister and two brothers on tandem skydives was really special and my favourite skydives to date.
What’s next for you, Holly?
I am having my second child, who is due in April. Then I will get back jumping to keep current. I will have some time off work initially and then back to GoSkydive.
And finally, what would you say to someone who says they are too small to be a Tandem Instructor?
Don’t be stupid!
Want to get learn more about being a Tandem Instructor or working in the sport?
#UncoverYourPotential is a weekend of free talks, seminars, practicals and some potential for in-air coaching on all aspects of working in the sport. It will include everything from rigging, instructing and cameraflying to judging, examining and coaching. This will be on October 3-4 at Langar. Look out for the Facebook page coming soon.
Already know you want to be an Instructor?
British Skydiving run courses throughout the year. These are advertised in the Events section in the Mag, you can also find out more about becoming an instructor on the British Skydiving website. Alongside this British Skydiving have recognised that there is a lack of female instructors in the UK. Taking on board the recent success of programmes in the States and also membership feedback, British Skydiving will also be running a female-led Basic Instructor course (TBI/CSBI/AFFBI) on October 5-9, a course run by women and aimed at women.
By Kate Lindsley – British Skydiving Tandem Instructor and Council member.
First published in the April 2020 issue of Skydive the Mag.