During one of the first parts of the PADI IDC, you go around the room and ask all of the candidates and instructors why they want to be a scuba instructor. Inevitably the words like “travel” and “love the ocean” came up. It’s true, it was why I originally became an instructor. But going on to become a Course Director, that’s something else. It is not really something that you travel with. At that point you look at putting down roots and staying somewhere for a while. It doesn’t mean you give up travel completely, obviously, but in general you are working with a dive center so you are in that area.
The thought arrives..
So what made me think hmmmm i want to head into the upper echelons of the recreational scuba world? As ever it wasn’t an initial thought. It was watching other inspirational individuals who were already training instructors and thinking “I could do that it looks like fun”. One particular trip up to the states where I had the opportunity to teach at the amazing center that was Pro Dive in Ft Lauderdale. On my second extended stint there I was assisting a particularly awesome female Course Director called Genevieve. Here manner of teaching and running a program, especially programs tending to be filled with retired military gentleman among others was wonderful to watch. She was a wealth of information and experience and talking to her got me thinking for the first time, that becoming a course director was something I wanted to do.
So at DEMA that year I went to one of the PADI talks on “what it takes to become a course director”. What did I notice? A large portion of the room was male. Now, yes, I am aware that the scuba industry is male dominant and this is slowly changing but the other thing that struck me was that the majority of the room had to be over 40. That is by no means old, do not get me wrong, but being a scuba instructor of only 25 at the time I very much felt like the odd one out. I think seeing that was something that kicked an additional drive in me.
Meet the challenge
Throughout life I have a tendency to want more as do many people. For me it’s a case of more of a challenge. I love to learn new things and pushing myself every year is part of that. I complete a task, how can I improve and go bigger or better with it? Becoming a course director was starting to look like a challenge that I was wanting to complete. But, the biggest challenge of all, (apart from finding the money!!) was making it viable.
Believe it or not, one of the main things that PADI looks for when looking through their Course Director applicants (so I have been told), is potential to bring in instructors. Now yes, there are a lot of us out there, but ACTIVELY teaching is a very small number. I would need to find a market and a “niche” to fill. There is no point becoming a course director and paying that money, investing time, if you are going to sit on your butt and do nothing.
Luckily in my area, there was what I saw, a potential and untapped market. Costa Rica is a beautiful country, and whilst the area was not well known for its diving, the visibility can be challenging, that means in my mind that it will make you a better pro. Learning in tough conditions always does.
So here we go, two challenges, making my area into a pro training destination and meeting the criteria to apply for the program. With the support of the dive shop Oceans Unlimited I created Go Pro Costa Rica. Thank you Will for the inspiration on that. Then taught a few IDCs, put together my business plan and applied. I will always remember receiving the email of acceptance. It was so exciting.
I prepared everything and on arrival at the course my reasons for pursuing that dream were very clear again. With a class of thirty eight only three were female and of those, only three of us were under 30. When you see statistics like that it makes you more determined. I was treated by some of my team mates and others on the course as kind of a “little sister”. You know, “we’ll look after you” type mentality which made me laugh a little I’ll be honest. It drives you for sure and for me it was then the “yeah right I’ll show you” type response which I would say quietly in my head.
Needless to say, I had a lot of fun and made some fantastic friends on that course. One of my best, another lovely lady course director who I count as one of my dearest friends. I think our same sense and mindset drew us together for sure.
It is now 10 years on when I look at how the dive center and my pro courses and training have grown, I am happy. I haven’t slowed down at all and this year will be bringing about a new challenge. And that is not the now two children I have at home. Three if you count the dog….no wait four with the husband……maybe three and a half…..the dog can look after herself. I have a new project brewing that I am super excited about, more as I have my best friend working on it and inspiring it all with me. I wouldn’t be able to do it all without my amazing husband who supports me through everything and also challenges me everyday. Also my family back in England who have always driven me to reach for the stars.
Is it worth it? If you have the right niche and a solid plan of where you want to take then absolutely yes. Don’t just limit yourself to teaching IDCs. Use it and realize how much more you can do. Whether it’s developing new programs, diving and non diving, marine conservation whatever. I have never looked back and approaching the 10 year anniversary of my course I couldn’t be happier looking to the future.
As for the project in the works…you’ll have to wait and see ; )