This guest blog was written by Gerhard Morell – PADI AmbassaDiver, IDC Staff Instructor and member of Northern Colorado Scuba Divers.
I walked into the store with a degree of trepidation, but this was something I really wanted to do.
Crossing the threshold, I was awed by the selection of equipment – equipment I didn’t understand. I also noticed the people in the store talking excitedly, using terms I didn’t understand; it was as if they were speaking in a secret language. This wasn’t my first visit to a dive shop – that, I’d done many years ago – but to a running store to sign up for a 5K race.
The store had pedometers, GPS devices, mobile apps, computer programs and a host of different types of equipment that I had trouble identifying. I also had no idea there were that many types of running shoes and ancillary apparel. What I noticed most was that no one there seemed to notice me. I was unsure of myself and felt a bit out of place. In short, I felt intimidated. Only later I realized that many new divers may end up feeling much the same way.
As experienced divers and instructors we, too, may unintentionally come across as insiders using a secret language of the sport. This is something we have to be aware of and something we should guard against if we want to be effective instructors and be a positive influence in our local dive market.
Overcoming the stress student divers feel should be one of our primary goals. At some point we even need to acknowledge the developing skills of our students and become their dive buddies instead of their teachers. This can, of course, be a tough step for the instructor.
Mastery of PADI’s educational system by good instructors is essential to making sure that student divers are given every opportunity to get comfortable. Helping students master the educational system helps create independent, confident and competent divers that have the depth and background to keep themselves safe and be reliable dive buddies.
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of watching students grow and develop new skills in addition to polishing current skill levels. Many of them have returned time and again asking for further training so they can achieve their diving goals. This is important because they don’t come back for more of my personal wisdom – they come back because their own experiences show there is always more to learn to become a more competent diver. Emphasizing to students that there is always more to learn and letting them know that I am always in the learning process lets them know they are part of a bigger picture, and puts us in the same camp as adventurers, travelers and divers.
At the heart of it, we are all divers. Our job as instructors is to reach across the threshold to someone who isn’t yet a diver and turn them into the next generation of divers talking excitedly about faraway places, high-tech equipment and the things they’ve seen. If we do all of this correctly, they will then turn the people in their world into divers.
Did I register for the 5K race? I did. Did I return to the running store? I did not. So, what do we do with that new person who wandered into our shop? Try to sell them a scuba program? Probably not. Insist on getting them into the pool? Maybe not that either. They came into the dive center with visions of being a diver dancing in their heads. What do I do? I have tons of photos of divers and the underwater world on my phone, so I begin by sharing the photos with them – and pretty soon, they’re signing up for a class. As dive instructors, we need to spend more time reaching out to people, educating them about the underwater world and inviting them in. If we do that correctly, they will keep coming back as lifelong learners and divers.