Nationals, Nationals, Nationals…..

If, like me, you attended Nationals (which to be fair are still happening over the next few weeks) you will have received a survey from the APF asking for your feedback.

I think it’s fair to say Nationals at Nagambie was a bit of a mixed bag, that succeeded in spite of, not because of the APF. For those of you who were there I doubt anything I’m saying in this blog post is new.

Anyway, for this blog post I thought I’d share my own feedback to the APF about Nationals, what worked and what didn’t. I’d be really keen to hear from you guys about your experience what worked, what didn’t and what could be done differently in the future.

Organising events is a thankless task (believe I know haha) so keep your thoughts and comments constructive. We all want (and need) the APF to succeed – what are your suggestions?

Anyways… Here’s my feedback on Nationals at Nagambie, what I sent to the APF!

As an overall experience, Nationals at Nagambie was a bit of a mixed bag.  As much as I had an awesome time, the impact of some key organisational decisions impacted the competitor’s enjoyment of the event.  I’m not clear whether these decisions lay with the APF or Nagambie although as the “National” event of the year, my view is that the buck stops with the APF.

As an event organiser (before my re-incarnation as a skydiver and Jump Junkie, I was chairman of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, organising parades and parties and what not), I know just how bloody hard it is to organise events.  It’s a thankless task.  You don’t get any recognition if the event goes well, because that’s what the paying punter expects.  But on the other hand, if it isn’t a raging success, you get stroppy know it all arseholes (like me) throwing grenades from the side lines.  All care and no responsibility, right?

So, I’m hoping my feedback is constructive.  I’m passionate about this sport (Lord knows it empties my bank balance) and I want it and the APF to succeed.  However, it does feel that the APF is (A) very out of touch with the membership and (B) at a crossroads post Covid. 

Anyway, what worked?  Without a doubt it’s the people who make Nationals.  It was great to be able to catch up with friends old and new from across Australia.  Maybe it’s because I’ve tried my hand at lots of disciplines I’ve ended up meeting a lot of people during my skydiving career.   It was awesome to be able to reconnect with them.  Making these connections is super important to keep the sense of a ‘national community’ alive (rather than just pockets of jumpers attached to a DZ).  I loved it and it was the absolute highlight of my week at Nagambie.


Everyone wants to do their best, but at the same time everybody wants everybody else to do their best too!  It creates just the best positive friendly atmosphere for knowledge sharing, encouragement, and the pursuit of excellence.  At all the Nationals I’ve attended my knowledge and skills have increased hugely simply by being surrounded by other jumpers who are so generous with their time and enthusiasm.  There really isn’t anything like it and it needs to be encouraged and nurtured.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that some people at the APF believe that competition is dead which is disheartening.  Fun Jumping is awesome, but it will only take you so far and is not going to contribute to the healthy development of the sport.  Competition along with an investment in coaching is what drives excellence and progress.  To think otherwise is to consign skydiving in Australia to a slow death.

As for the ‘development opportunities….’

First up ‘Medal Gate’.  This was really the worse part of Nationals.   For teams / individuals to turn up to Nationals only to be told at the competitors meeting that their event doesn’t have enough competitors to be run under The Sporting Code is unforgivable – I don’t care whether it is an APF or a Nagambie issue, it simply should not have happened.  From my chats with Block Party, I understand that they invested around $20k of their own money preparing for the event.  The lack of care shown by the APF (unintentional or otherwise) in looking after and managing their entry is dreadful. 

Block Party are absolute ambassadors for the sport and the APF marketing team has no hesitation in leveraging the team on Socials etc.   It makes the APF appear arrogant and uncaring to have them turn up and be told the night before the comp that their competition can’t run. 

And to add insult to injury, the APF Socials subsequently featured Block Party as ‘medallists’ in their class! 

I mean, come on…. How is it possible that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing? 

How do you think it makes the members of Block Party feel when the see the APF leverage all their hard work for no recognition or return?

Of course, there were other in the same boat (including myself in wingsuit blast) but I was there to have a bit of fun with about 6 practise jumps under my belt.  Completely different story for open teams

I mean there were medals for these forgotten competitors.  Block Party spent a ‘crafternoon’ making medals and trophies for them and I had an engraved plate made for a trophy Lou Cross sourced for the Block Party legends.  On the day that worked very well – it created a sense of community amongst the participants although, regretfully, reinforces the ‘them’ and ‘us’ divide between the APF and its membership.

Next up the Judges

The fix offered by the APF for those of us who couldn’t ‘officially’ compete in our chosen event was confirmation that we would still be offered judging.  Leaving aside whether this is actually worthwhile counterpoint, it only works if there are judges available….  And guess what, there was no wingsuit judge at the event. Jason Dodunski (a competitor!) essentially did all the IT work to allow the Wingsuit events to run and the ‘judging’ simply involved the loading of flysight data into SkyDerby.   

It does make me question where my $300 rego went.  I could have ‘Jump Junkied’ the Wingsuit events given what was being offered by the APF…. And that’s not a great thing to be able to say.

Wingsuiting, Speed and Canopy Piloting are the events that Australia does best in at worlds, but as far as I know no judges were available in any of those disciplines at this years Nationals?  Why not?  It was great to see Marco Hepp providing his expertise to the speedskydivers in the lead up to their event, but it seems odd that, at the very least, a judge can’t be provided to those disciplines where Australia gets medals on the world stage???

And finally – the marking and communications!

Section 1.1.5 of The Sporting Code provides:

1.1.5. The aims of the National Championships are to:

(a) determine the Australian Champions

(b) establish competition records

(c) promote and develop various disciplines

(d) exchange ideas and strengthen friendly relations between the skydivers, Judges and others

(e) allow participants to share and exchange experience, knowledge and information

(f) improve judging methods and practices

The aims are laudable and should have formed the basis of the marketing and communications plans to get people to Nationals. 

However, all I can recall seeing is a few Facebook and Instagram post saying the Nationals is on and ‘click here’ to register. 

There was no narrative as to WHY people should come to Nationals.  Nothing to answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question.  That’s seems to be critical if you’re going to increase participation at the event and especially attract first time participants.

And I’ll say it again.  NATIONALS SHOULD BE AWESOME! 

It’s such a great opportunity to come together, meet new people and to learn from the country’s best.  There really isn’t anything like it and I left the week re-enthused about the sport and the people in it. 

It’s a shame that the marketing for the event was so rudimental.  I realise things are difficult for everyone post covid, but unless you give people a reason to travel, why should they?  The marketing needs to tell a story and sell the event.

The only thing I’m on the fence about is the virtual nature of FS and VFS Blast categories.  I understand the arguments for and against making these virtual, but on balance it would be great to see everyone competing at a single location and to share the joy of friendly competition.

I’ve got a stack of ideas of how things can be improved and what can be done to re-invigorate Nationals.  Some of my ideas aren’t even that new!  Who knew that Nationals used to combined with a Boogie.  What an awesome idea!

I realise that times have changed and that money is tight but the APF is going to have to think differently if Nationals is to succeed in the future.  Next year is an ‘on’ year.  I think the APF is going to have to really sit down and think how it can re-engage with the membership and its elite jumpers if next year’s event is to succeed.

So, there you have it. My thoughts on Nationals. Leave a like or comment. I’d be super interested to hear your thoughts.

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