I’m a fairly new instructor but I’ve been fortunate to work with some fantastic dive masters. What makes them so good? Some of these attributes go some way to explaining it, but please add your thoughts below!
Although I’m happy to have a laugh with the students, and even a beer at the end of the course, there’s a level of professionalism once you’ve hit the pro ranks of diving. Getting pissed, making offensive jokes, turning up looking like you’ve not seen your own bed in a couple of days is not the way to present a “trust me, I’m your divemaster” impression. At the end of the day the student divers are our customers who are paying for a service and when we’re working, we’re working.
I’ve worked with many divemasters who are more experienced divers than I am. I’m a dive instructor and break down the learning to enable students to access the course as efficiently and effectively as possible. The divemasters I’ve worked with, however, can add in little titbits about the skills and their application in “real life” diving through their own experiences in the water. Together we can provide a richer course that enables students to be as prepared as possible for their first post-certification dives. I’ve recently completed the confined water dives with three students, all of whom had different issues (the classics mask, hover etc.). One of the DMs was chatting to them about the issues he had when he was learning. DMs can be more accessible to students than the instructor and this gave the students a bit more confidence with having another go.
It’s not all about the glamour
Lugging cylinders, packing up kit, dragging it from the vehicle to pool side, finishing a session with boxes weighed down by wet kit… it’s not a glamorous lifestyle! I do not subscribe to the “divemaster is my bitch” philosophy but nor I expect a DM to turn up late and watch as the rest of us are hoiking equipment out. Until the kit is packed away it’s not over.
We brief, and then we de-brief. This is essential in allowing DMs to understand decisions made. There are times we let our students make their own mistakes, and there are times we have to step in. Communicating that process builds the understanding of the whys and whens to enable DMs to be as prepared as fully as possible. I respect my DMs’ skills and experience. If they think there’s a safety issue then they can step in and we can discuss it later. It’s a two way process and a discussion so we can all learn!
It’s essential that good practice is modelled in front of students. The skills and expectations are there for a reason. Buddy checks are a classic. Ask one of the students to buddy with you to underline the importance. Keeping your kit in good shape is also important. Good habits on weekend/overseas trips are also important. Think about alcohol consumption in front of students or new divers.
Here it’s about striking a balance. It also comes down to communication too. I enjoy working with the same divemasters as we get to know each other and understand what each other is doing. A small shake of the head may stop a dive master stepping in to help the student when I’m allowing them to make their own mistake. But a dive master may see something I’ve missed.
A good dive master will be one who assists, rather than hinders, a dive course. And as I said before, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside many brilliant DMs!