Why Join CSPA?

Why Join CSPA?

What's in it for me?

Written by: Michelle Matte-Stotyn

Online reprint from CanPara June - July 2020 issue. Updated February 2024.

Background: I originally wrote a variation of this article and it was printed back in a 2016 issue of CanPara and still lives on our website for anyone looking to join or renew. Years later, many of these points still hold true, and we felt it was time that it be updated and republished. So, before you read the CSPA news section in this issue, I strongly encourage you to keep reading and ensure you’re educated on everything CSPA does for you.

I think most, if not all skydivers at some point in their skydiving lives have asked this question. I know I did over 10 years ago when I first joined CSPA as a new skydiver. Why did I join? Simply put, because my dropzone told me I had to. I would say that this is the case for the majority of CSPA skydivers. Now, many years down the road, most continue to remain uneducated on what CSPA actually does and just continue to pay their dues because they are told they have to in order to skydive. As I got older and more in tune with budgeting, I started to ask questions about where my affiliation dues go. I want to know I’m getting my bang for my buck.

Since asking that question, I’ve found myself working for CSPA for over 10 years now and volunteering for 12. It still surprises me how many times I get asked that daunting question. Maybe it’s because I’ve made such an effort to be a part of the Association and understand where my dues go that I find that question surprising. It appears I’m a minority; along with the other 1.5% of CSPA skydivers that volunteer for the Association. That’s right. Of the approximately 3000 skydivers in Canada, only about 50 of them volunteer their time (some might argue lives) to running CSPA and developing the programs and initiatives that the Association has to offer. I want to reiterate, there are only two people that are employed by CSPA, myself and Judy. So, everything I’m going to talk about is done by volunteers. Those 1.5% I mentioned earlier. If you saw firsthand the amount of work our Directors, Chairs, and committee members do, you would be flabbergasted. They’re basically working their regular paying jobs, taking care of their families, some working at or running a dropzone, and other life responsibilities while working in their CSPA position for free. Why? Because they are passionate about our sport and seeing our association succeed.

So, back to the original point of this article. What’s in it for me, you ask? That’s a loaded question and I could probably spend hours telling you everything that CSPA does. But that would likely bore the majority of people reading this article. But to understand what’s in it for you, you have to understand why CSPA actually exists. In short, CSPA is an amateur athletic association which means we are the National Sport Organization (NSO) for parachuting in Canada. We are the equivalent of Hockey Canada, Swimming Canada, or Basketball Canada, only for skydiving. That’s a big responsibility for two paid staff and only a handful of volunteers. Through the Aero Club of Canada, we are also the Canadian representative to the International Skydiving Commission of The World Air Sports Federation (FAI).

So, what’s our job as a NSO and the FAI representative? We are responsible for selecting the highest caliber of athletes from Canada to represent the country on the National Team. We are also responsible for developing the training programs to get athletes to that level of caliber. These programs are recognized by the Federal Government via Sport Canada.  Not to mention the safety, training and development programs to get first-time skydivers all the way up to CoP (Certificate of Proficiency) holders, coaches, instructors, riggers, judges, or facilitators.

So, by now, I’ve probably already bored you and you’re wanting to move on. Ten years ago I would have done the same thing. And there lies the problem. Ten years ago, I didn’t care. I just wanted to skydive. I never made the effort to find out or ask about what CSPA really does. I think a lot of our skydivers are also guilty of that. Why? That’s not up to me to decide. But I hope after reading this and me shedding some light on the Association, our readers will learn more than what they knew after first opening this issue of CanPara.

Which brings me to my next point. CanPara. The awesome magazine you’re holding. Probably one of the favorite things for most skydivers and the most visual benefit of your dues. Part of your dues goes into creating this magazine 5 times a year. So, want to see your face or that epic skydive plastered in this magazine and seen by thousands of skydivers? Then send us your content and pictures! We can’t make an awesome magazine without them!

Now, what happens if on one of these epic skydives you have a cutaway and have to land off the dropzone in a farmer’s field or a parking lot? You scare his cows and they run through and damage his fencing. Or, even worse, you land and hit a piece of his farm equipment, or mis judge your pattern and land on a parked car. Who’s going to pay for that? Simply put, your affiliation dues do. A large portion of your dues allow CSPA to purchase a $5M insurance policy that helps cover you in the event of third-party damage while skydiving. In contrast, many other associations provide much less coverage which won’t go far in the grand scheme of things. The farmer’s equipment that you just hit probably costs more than the coverage they provide. Furthermore, many airports/landowners that Canadian dropzones are located on require skydivers to carry a higher amount of liability insurance than other associations offer, and so you have to be a CSPA skydiver to jump there. You may think it will never happen to you, but the nearly $60,000 we’ve paid in damages in the last five years proves otherwise. So, your affiliation dues in exchange for peace of mind worldwide and a colourful magazine, already that seems like a good deal to me. But it doesn’t end there.

Now, what happens if you mess up on this epic skydive and someone somehow gets hurt and sues you? Your dues also allow you access (providing conditions are met) to up to $15,000 of financial assistance towards legal fees. We call it the Defence Fund. So unless you’re already a lawyer, that can go along way! The upwards of $60,000 we’ve spent in the last five years can vouch for the need for this fund.

So, what else is in it for you? Remember all those application forms you had to fill out, and those exams you had to write, all to get letters of the alphabet printed on your card? Well those are way more than just letters. Those Certificates of Proficiency are viewed as licenses that prove you have the skills equivalent to those letters. Those are recognized by the FAI, which means you can travel anywhere in the world and they will recognize those alphabet letters. Part of your dues also go to the membership fees CSPA pays to the Aero Club of Canada so we can affiliate with the FAI so those letters are valid and recognized. You wouldn’t be able to have them without joining CSPA.

Now, what about all those other letters/numbers on the back of our affiliation cards? Well, those are ratings. They allow you to coach and instruct students, novices, or experienced jumpers. Who develops all the programs to give you those extra letters? CSPA does. Specifically, the Coaching and Working Committee. About .25% of the 1.5% we already talked about, alongside the learning facilitators that spend years going through their own training and development programs to teach you to teach others. Sounds complicated? Well it is. Not only that, but some of our ratings are recognized through the Coaching Association of Canada through their National Coaching Certification program. That program is recognized across Canada in all sports. So what you learn in multi-sport modules – for example:  in swimming, hockey, skiing etc. is the same in parachuting. CSPA is a part of the big picture. That’s pretty cool. We couldn’t have that without some of your dues. Furthermore, those Learning Facilitators that taught you to coach/teach, they are ALL certified through the CAC in addition to CSPA. We are all part of the big sport system in Canada.

Some of you might even aspire to have a couple more letters on the back of your card. The “R” ratings represent CSPA’s rigger training program. The Technical & Safety Committee is geared towards managing the training of riggers in Canada and all matters relating to safety. They also manage the Safety Management System. Remember that epic skydive that went wrong and that AIM report you filled out? Well, the SMS is a document that looks at all the AIMS we’ve received and makes recommendations to ensure they don’t happen again. A key piece of material for keeping our sport safe.

Now, in case you feel like your card isn’t filled up enough, and you have a passion for competition, you can even become an official. Canada has one of the most recognized judge training programs in the world, all put in place by our Judging Committee. Without officials, there would be no competition.

Your dues help support all these committees and their programs/initiatives.

So, what else is in it for you? You may have seen many photos of athletes in past issues, when they’ve travelled the world competing under our flag. $5 of your dues goes into a large pot of money that gains interest so the national athletes have some financial support when they compete at World Championships. Most people tell me that doesn’t directly benefit them. But tell me you didn’t feel good when you were glued to the screen when the men’s and women’s hockey teams brought home gold medals at the Olympics. I had the same feeling when I watched Evolution finally make the podium at the 2014 WPC (and continue to do so for another 4 years), as I’m sure many Canadians did. Those smiles are totally worth $5. Not to mention the satisfaction knowing your contributions were behind those medals. 

So, what about those of you that are not world class athletes? For the skygods, 100 jump wonders, and all the other skydivers in Canada, your dues also go to providing thousands of dollars of funding towards development opportunities. I sincerely hope that at some point in your skydiving lives you will have the opportunity to directly benefit from one of them. With the help of the Long Term Athlete Development Committee, the Women’s Initiatives Committee, and the Competition & National Teams Committee, we have spent years financially assisting canopy courses, skills camps, workshops, regional/national competitions (including officials' training/expenses) and other training opportunities to ensure that our skydivers get the opportunity to receive high level coaching and competition experience to be safe in the skies and to have fun.

So, I hope if you’ve made it to the end of this article, you’re no longer asking “what’s in it for me?” but rather “what’s not in it for me?” CSPA is a wonderful association that cares about its skydivers. For those of you that have any doubt in that statement then tell us. I, the Directors, committee chairs, and all our other volunteers are happy to listen. We all want to make CSPA better, but we can’t do that without your input. So, the next time you question why you’re spending annual fees just to be able to skydive, think about this article and remember that CSPA is providing you with way more than that.