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What would your ideal training agency look like?

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba' started by ScubaWithTurk, Jan 18, 2020.

  1. ScubaWithTurk

    ScubaWithTurk Bubble Blowing Buddha

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Huntington Beach, CA
    After many of the discussions on here about different agencies I thought as a community, both divers and instructors, we could have a good discussion about the ideal training agency.

    As divers, what do you like and dislike about training organizations? What do they do well and what do they do poorly? Consider course progressions, recognition and anything else you can come up with.

    Instructors, what would you prefer to see in your ideal agency? Consider training materials, agency support, course progressions, etc.

    Would love to see what Scubaboard’s ideal training agency would look like and how it would be better for divers and instructors than what is currently available.
  2. MichaelMc

    MichaelMc Working toward Cenotes ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Berkeley, CA
    + Has really good material on buoyancy/trim/propulsion
    + Teaches Has a Fundamentals level skill class, in rec sequence nearby.
    + Has local pools for practice (I know, shop, not agency)

    [Edited second point to focus on the agency.]
  3. ScubaWithTurk

    ScubaWithTurk Bubble Blowing Buddha

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Huntington Beach, CA

    Thank you for replying. I would say two of your three would be more center or instructor specific. But I am curious as to what you personally would like to see in the way of buoyancy, trim and propulsion materials. Anything you would feel needs to be included in course materials?
  4. Angelo Farina

    Angelo Farina Contributor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Parma, ITALY
    Well, the common assumption is that training is done purchasing a course at a SHOP, which operates under control-specifications of a certification AGENCY.
    This is the American business-based model.
    There is another world, completely different, which was the rule here in Europe, and which is still possible nowadays.
    It is courses organized by clubs of divers, for no profit, with a staff of voluntary instructors and divemasters (which are not paid) and operating under a national or world-wide organization (again no-profit), the most famous one worldwide being CMAS.
    These courses are typically much longer (an OW can last 3-4 months, and was up to 9 months 30 years ago), there are a lot of "theory" lessons in the classroom (say 10h or more for an OW), a lot of sessions in the swimming pool (say, 2h lessons twice per week, for 10-12 weeks), and a number of dives at the sea (say, almost every weekend during the 3-months course, which sums up easily to 10-12 dives or more). The cost for such a course is usually much less than a single-weekend OW course in a shop with a commercial agency. And the club provides for free a lot of equipment to its associates (for following these course, you must first become an associate of the club, of course).
    It must be said that this approach suffered when American PADI-like courses landed here in Europe, in the eighties, as for a certain type of new-coming diver it is preferable to spend a few more bucks but being certified in a weekend than needing to follow long and tedious (and physically demanding) lessons in the swimming pool for several months.
    The discussion about which of the two "training models" is better started at that time, and never ended. I was an instructor already in the seventies, in the club-based model, and transitioned to the "new" commercial model, going working (and being paid) in diving resorts, where the whole 6-months course had to be compressed in 5 days.
    So I have seen the benefits and drawbacks of the two models. I cannot say that one is definitely better of the other.
    Of course, in the old club-based model only 1/3 of the students managed to complete the course and get certified. But at that point they were all very good divers, which possibly will continue diving for many years.
    In the commercial model, 95% of students are certified, but only 1/5 of them will continue diving for years. And none of them comes out to be already a good diver, many other "speciality" courses and AOW, Deep, Nitrox, etc. are required for completing the training. However, at the end also with this model good divers are created.
    So I cannot say that one model is "wrong" and the other is "right".
    Simply, be aware that, whilst most agencies operating in commercial training at shops try to differentiate, they are almost the same, operating with similar standards. At least compared with club-based training, which is an entirely different world, and which Americans often do not know at all, or consider an "amateur" approach (which definitely is not).
    And while for commercial training what really matters is not the agency, is the instructor, instead in club-based training you are usually working with half a dozen of different instructors (often more), hence the individual variations are averaged out, and what sets the quality of training is really the standards and the methods imposed by the national organization, which ensures that all the courses made at different clubs provide exactly the same training quality.
  5. NothingClever

    NothingClever ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Atlantic Ocean and Red Sea
    BLUF = less marketing and more substantive and more advanced skill outputs.

    My ideal agency wouldn’t market courses throughout the chapters of its course books. Rather the course books would focus the student’s attention on training on core skills to repeatable proficiency. I felt like my BOW course books provided an orientation to the skills but more effectively served as a battering ram to market additional courses. I think one SB member’s signature says, “Don’t train me until I get it right, train me until I can’t get it wrong.” I wanted to train on my basic UW skills under different conditions until I internalized the skills but instead I kept getting offered more courses. At the end of the course book could be a logical list of course recommendations. Business is business but pursuit of profit shouldn’t be disruptive to the learning process.

    Specialty courses would have more substantive skills and outcomes. If one can’t make a substantive course out of a skill or a routine dive profile, then the skill should be integrated into a basic or advanced course. The PADI Night Diver course is weak and could be integrated into the advanced course. Can’t dive at night? Then one simply doesn’t become an advanced diver but can try again in the future. Same for the boat course. SCUBA diving is going to put one on a boat at some point or another.....make it part of the AOW course.

    Throughout the basic and advanced curriculum, decompression would be something the student is trained to understand, identify, anticipate and conduct (to a scoped degree) as a routine, non-emergency function when necessary. The agency would not condition the student to hover his hand over the panic button (for more than just deco) and to simply fear (from an uninformed perspective) his computer’s warnings .

    The organization would not pursue the once-a-year Margaritaville divers as its target market. Would it pursue recreational vacation divers? Yes, but in a more serious way. It would prioritize the quality of student enrolled and trained along with retention rather than iterative quantities of new students to generate profit.

    It would exercise more supervision of its instructors (QC/QA audits).

    Endorsing a shop as 5 Star would reflect that shop has cleared a high bar. The spectrum of quality would not be so disparate from one 5 Star shop to another....not only city to city but nation to nation.

    Volume of activity would not take precedence over the quality of activities across the globe. Less marketing, more meaningful output.

    Partner with serious oceanic conservation efforts and make it a focal point in correspondence with the customers. Imbue the content with a more serious academic approach. Charge the diver to be intellectually involved in diving.

    My perspective is shaped by BOW, AOW, two specialties then switching to another agency to become a technical diver. I dive with a varied pool of nationalities (both divers and instructors) from PADI, SSI, BSAC, CMAS, SNSI, SDI/TDI and RAID. After getting done with my first technical certification, I simply felt like an advanced OW diver. Prior to the technical certification, I felt like there was so much more the BOW and AOW courses should be covering. The specialty courses were weak and anti-climactic although I had a good instructor.

    I understand if an existing organization were to adopt my proposals, it would very likely reduce the total number of divers trained in a given year and as a consequence would drive up the cost of diving. I understand that but maintain my position. If there are less divers in the world and diving becomes more exclusive, I’m OK with that. I don’t subscribe to the ideal that more is better.

    At the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, I just don’t want to be insta-buddied with high-risk Margaritaville dorks on the boat.

    Flame away.
  6. Lorenzoid

    Lorenzoid ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Atlanta, USA
    @Angelo Farina has a point. From what I have read about BSAC, I would like to see the “club” method of training become the norm where I live.
    laikabear, AfterDark, Schwob and 5 others like this.
  7. soldsoul4foos

    soldsoul4foos ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Portland, ME
    I don't have many complaints about the current structure of the primary players in the agency game. Naui/Padi. I realize the OW class can only really include so much in terms of time and training, without vastly increasing cost, which would be a deal breaker for many folks. A few things I can see easily being improved upon....

    1. Get rid of AOW, and call it OW2 or something to that affect. My AOW training directly after OW seemed like a great transition giving me infinitely more confidence and comfort compared to after finishing OW.
    2. More comprehensive training during OW on buoyancy.
    3. Not sure how to fix one of things I disliked most about my OW class, which was doing it in cold water and low viz. Yes, I get the mantra of 'if you can do it in cold water, you can do it anywhere', but honestly that's crap. The amount of time and focus you lose out on just trying to stay in the water and keep track of your instructor, thus taking away from actually getting used to buoyancy, your gear, and drills, is not worth while. Not sure there's a fix for that if you can't travel.
  8. MichaelMc

    MichaelMc Working toward Cenotes ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Berkeley, CA
    I can amend one of them to eliminate the center/instructor aspect.
    + Has a Fundamentals level skill class, in rec sequence.

    Instead of 'pressure affects gas volume':
    - Use BC to compensate for suit compression from large depth changes, and air use
    - Shift tidal volume of normal breath rhythm up or down within vital capacity for depth control, or to initiate depth change particularly when going up.
    - Because pressure affects gas volume, your buoyancy is inherently unstable. Shifts in your breathing rhythm allow a natural control. Just like you control the unstable act of standing with your legs and ankles.
    - With diagrams, the tidal/vital range size relationship, how a +-1 lb. shift will change your depth.

    With weighting already being covered: weigh yourself for neutral buoyant at SS with near empty tank. More will take more air in BC, making depth control harder

    Instead of 'weight placement affects body orientation':
    - underwater you are like a playground see-saw. The side with more weight gets pulled down.
    - If you just put all your lead at your integrated/belt, your see-saw will likely put you at 45 degrees.
    - swimming around at 45 degrees makes swimming and depth control harder, and increases risk of damaging what you came to see, and ruining vis for others. Being level, like a fish, will make swimming easier, and more easily preserve the environment.
    - if you are leg heavy, move weight higher; head heavy (less likely), the reverse.
    - lead can be distributed up/down your body in belt, integrated, rear trim pockets, a metal (dense) BC backplate, cam bands, and add on pockets at BC top or shoulders.
    - Weight distribution needs vary, but if you do not have a means of distributing the weight you need higher up, gravity will keep setting you upright, and swimming about will be harder.
    - Lots of lead further behind you, or a very negative steel tank, can make you want to turn turtle.
    - Balancing your see-saw head/toe, back/front, left/right making you more agile and graceful underwater, as you don't have to fight gravity always turning you one way.
    ScubaWithTurk likes this.
  9. Diving Dubai

    Diving Dubai Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
    It has its down sides. Clubs can be very political. Also some club train very few dives thus their instructors get very out of practice, and can be equally as poor as anyone else. Clubs often become very insular and bad practices become the norm.

    Don't get me wrong I hold BSAC certs and like a good proportion of their curriculum, but the club model isn't' without lots of faults.
  10. Steve_C

    Steve_C Contributor Rest in Peace

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    Give me a good instructor who will take time to work with me and provide real input and I do not care about the agency,.

    My initial instructor was a personal friend. We talked about diving during the classes. We talked about diving over barbecue while the wives chatted. He was tech certified in a couple of agencies and an instructor in at least two agencies. He told me and we discussed everything he thought would be good for me to know. Some of our courses wound up being through PADI, some were through SDI, and some were courses he was designing without an agency yet. Now we are dive buddies. He lets me organize and plan the dives usually. Says he has done that enough.

    I have had some other good instructors. PADI, SDI, SSI. Agency is irrelevant to me. All went beyond the bare course minimums in terms of course content.
    lexvil, Ontwreckdiver and Lorenzoid like this.

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