Developing conservation-savvy scuba divers starts with PADI Assistant Instructors and Divemasters
It’s an indisputable fact: Scuba divers are key to helping preserve the planet’s oceans. And developing scuba divers who care about the environment starts with PADI Professionals. What exactly, though, is the role of PADI Assistant Instructors and Divemasters in shaping these divers?
“Whoever student divers identify with the most during their PADI Open Water Diver course or continuing education courses will have the most influence,” says Karl Shreeves, PADI Course Director (and PADI Worldwide Technical Development Executive).
Often, that’s Assistant Instructors and Divemasters, who have different social interactions with students from the instructor’s. That’s a good thing, because it enables you to reinforce the instructor’s environmental messages. By demonstrating that being environmentally friendly is what dive professionals really believe, you reinforce that it’s not simply for show or because it’s in the PADI materials.
Be genuine, though. “People are smart,” says Shreeves. “As soon as they pick up any hypocrisy, even the good things you do are ignored.” So how do you develop environmentally friendly practices in the divers you’re assisting? Try these three methods.
- Practice what you preach. “It’s a billion little things you do as an assistant instructor or divemaster that make good as a role model,” says Shreeves. You’re “teaching” divers safe (and good-for-the-environment) practices when they see you doing all the little things. The more you lead by example – good buoyancy, picking up trash underwater and on land, not turning over corals or rocks to find critters – the more you positively influence those around you.
“Whoever student divers identify with the most during their PADI Open Water Diver course or continuing education courses will have the most influence.”
- Praise over punishment. Recognize those divers you see on a dive who do good – practicing good buoyancy, collecting trash, etc. – instead of “calling out” those who aren’t as praiseworthy. This contributes to an effect called “positive peer pressure.” And, for the divers whose buoyancy may not be perfect, maybe pull them aside privately and encourage them by suggesting a Peak Performance Buoyancy course as a way to get better.
- Make a game out of trash collection on dives. Don’t overplay this, as every dive shouldn’t solely be a cleanup dive. If you want to take it a step further, give the diver(s) who collected the most trash your dive shop’s sticker or T-shirt, which rewards them and brands you as an environmentally conscious store that talks the talk and walks the walk. In the end, remember that no one is perfect. “It’s positive consistency and being real – not perfect – that makes people want to follow your example,” says Shreeves. Be your best; the rest will follow.