Using teamwork to keep yourself and your dive buddies alive.

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. – Henry Ford

Proper diving teamwork starts long before you enter the water. There is a lot that can be learned from some of the most successful teams in the world, be it basketball, business or any other form of team. We just need to apply it to diving as a team. Let’s take a look at what is needed for an effective and successful team in any walk of life and how it applies to technical diving.

Communication in and out of the water
One of the most important elements of an effective team is efficient communication. Each and every team member must be able to communicate with the rest of the team in a constructive manner. A team that encourages open communication allows everyone to be able to share their ideas, opinions and questions without fear of reproach or ridicule.

For efficient in-water communication, specific signals and procedures need to be followed. For example, when cave diving in a 3 man team all signals need to be relayed throughout the team. When Diver 1 asks Diver 2 if he is okay, he is actually asking if the team is okay. In this scenario Diver 2 would not immediately respond, he firsts asks Diver 3 if he is okay and then can turn and answer Diver 1 on behalf of the team. If this protocol were not followed Diver 2 may respond that he is okay and Diver 1 swims on thinking all is well while Diver 3 may be having an issue.

Respect for the team members
For a team to be a comfortable and enjoyable place for all members, each member must have a high degree of respect for the others. Respect must be shown for any and all ideas, opinions and questions that arise from the great communication we just spoke about above. The only bad question is the one that is not asked. Respect does not mean acceptance, it simply means hearing out the idea and trying to objectively weigh the options the team faces. A diver not bringing up a concern because of fear of reproach can subject the entire team to unnecessary danger.

Collaboration within the dive team
Effective teamwork requires collaboration; each person must figure out how their skills and strengths fit with those of the other team members. For a team to be successful, every team member must understand what their role is and how to use it to work towards the team’s success. Each separate role is equally important and essential.

Laying line in a cave is a perfect example of how a team can work together for a common goal. Let’s say Diver 1 is “Reel Man” and Diver 2 is “Light Man”. Light Man lights the way forReel Man, making it easier for him to do wraps, tie-offs or placements. Reel Man’s job is now easier, safer and quicker while working in a team. Diver 3’s job is to inspect everything and confirm that it was done properly. Three divers, 3 different jobs, collaborating as a team.

Problem Solving / Conflict Management in and out of the water
An effective team must practice problem solving and conflict management. Mark Powell is writing an article about problem solving as a team so we thought we would just give you a link to it HERE

Common Goal / Define and agree on the mission
A common goal and shared mission can help a team work together and create a sense of unity. When each team member is able to pitch in to help reach a common goal, more can be accomplished by the team than an individual. In a strong team, the good of the team comes before individual bias or interests.

It is a fairly easy argument to make, that returning to the surface safely should always be our number one goal in diving. Any other goal or mission should be secondary. After, and only after, the primary goal and mission of everyone returning safely is being fulfilled, can any secondary goal be considered.

When we made the initial exploratory dive in Main Drain, the goal was to see whether the cave was diveable or not. Due to the strenuous approach, the team decided to use small tanks that would limit our penetration but still allow us to complete our mission. A portion of the team did not understand the need to haul in multiple tanks for each diver. Although the decision complicated the logistics and approach, our common goal allowed the team to come together and agree not to compromise on safety.

Practice, Practice, Practice…
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Well not exactly. Practice doesn’t make perfect, PERFECT PRACTICE makes perfect. The only way to successfully dive as a team, is to practice as a team.

In technical diving (any diving, really) there are three separate but equally important stages employed to apply these teamwork principles. These should be practiced in a controlled environment:

  1. Dive planning
  2. Pre-dive checks and verification (START, equipment matching, etc.)
  3. Dive execution

All three stages need to be practiced incessantly. Build your experience as a team slowly. Force yourselves to practice each and every step along the way as you build to more and stronger involved projects and dives.

With divers pushing the limits and completing dives that were previously considered impossible, teamwork is more important than ever. Even with advancing technology, new algorithms and more experience, teamwork remains a high priority in order to not only survive, but to complete the dive successfully.

Josh and Michael Thornton have been diving together with their father as a team for the last 16 years. They have committed a significant portion of their lives to exploring any and all things underwater. As Instructor Trainers for TDI they run the Professional Development Center and world renowned facility, Dive Addicts.  Passionate about all things underwater Josh and Michael love to share their passion with others at home or abroad. They love all kinds of diving, but their true obsession lies in cave diving, usually with a CCR.

Josh and Michael were heavily involved in developing the TDI Rebreather Cave program and are involved in several current cave exploration projects, including leading the Main Drain Diving Project. They are also co-organizers of the largest Technical diving show to hit USA soil – TEKDiveUSA: May 17-18, 2014

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI
If you would like more information, please contact our World Headquarters or your Regional Office.

Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201

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