Welcome back to class. Recently, the AKA competitive season ended (August 1). Let’s spend some time this month talking about competitive burn out. I’m not talking about kite flying burn out… just burn out from competing. There are ups and downs that we all go through when we choose to compete. I want novice competitors to know that I go through these periods of ups and downs as well. Whether it’s normal or not, I don’t know – however, in discussions with other competitors, they tell me that they have experienced the same type of burn out. I have chosen to be a competitive sport kite flyer since October 1996, and have competed in events up and down the east coast of the United States regularly since that time.
It can become a burden financially and emotionally. Personally, I tend to get burned out by late June/early July because there are several major events in April, May, and June. By July 1, my kite travel budget is usually depleted and there is still one festival that I MUST attend. The Newport Kite Festival is usually some time around the second weekend of July and I LOVE IT! I have made many friends during the past couple of years of competition and many of them are from the Northeast. I look forward to flying on one of the most scenic areas of the country and don’t want to miss that event; however, I’m poor at this point and just tired of long weekends driving to and from events. This year I solved my Newport dilemma by camping and sharing expenses with 4 other kite fliers. I want to offer you some additional suggestions that have helped me in dealing with my periods of burn out.
You’ve really got to love this activity do to it event after event, year after year. Perhaps this is why some individuals periodically take a year off and don’t compete. However, I just can’t bear the thought of attending an event and not performing. At most coastal events you can find space to fly all day, away from the competition fields, which is great! Some events have limited space and you are restricted to the competition fields. If you are at an event with limited space and have the same desire to perform that I have… let me offer a suggestion to you – fly a demo to music. Just because you are a novice, don’t think that you cannot fly a demo. Check with the announcer and/or the event organizer and have your kite and music ready. Generally speaking, there are plenty of opportunities for demos to be flown – just be ready when the announcer calls your name for the demo!
Another suggestion to help overcome the “burn out” of competing is to attend an event where there are NO sport kite competitions! Yes, they do exist… and have existed long before any sport kite competitions. My burn out was cured by a day at Sunfest in Ocean City, Maryland. Going to Sunfest is kinda like going to church. It reminds you of why you got involved in kiting in the first place. It’s a great retreat for kite fliers and sport kite fliers in particular. The only competition is a Rokkaku battle! And it is quite a fierce battle because of the prize money involved! Being financially drained from other competitions, I choose to be a spectator in the Rok battle.
Go to an event and judge all day. If you have never judged before, then I suggest you shadow judge. This will do several things. It will make you a better competitor, really help out the organizers of the event, and you’ll have the best seat in the house to view the performances.
Go home to fly
Let me explain. What I mean is to go to a “sacred” place to fly. For me, it happens to be Jockey’s Ridge in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. We all have such a place to fly. It may be a field close to your home, or it may be a long distance from home. But the idea of flying all day at a location where there are sweet winds can be rejuvenating.
Spend a day with a new flier
This will improve your own skills (explanations of tricks, stalls, etc… can sometimes bring on realizations of areas where you can improve) and you’ll become a better ambassador to kiting. What kind of world would this be if the only people competing were Masters Class fliers? My kite mentor, Charles (Stoney) Stonestreet often jokes about the Masters Class fliers and champions he has “trained”. Who knows… that novice that you help, might be captain of a World Cup team one day!
Finally, plan a single line day with your friends
Leave the sport kites at home. Just go to the field and fly single line kites or fighters all day. This may sound silly, but I find a great single line day can cure many of the problems of todays world. Concerned about world peace? Go fly a kite…. Worried about losing your job because of an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker? Go fly a kite…. Stressed about the competitive aspect of sport kites… Go fly a kite (the single line variety).
You must remember that before you walked onto a competition field, you fell in love with the activity of flying kites. This is a fun activity, do what you need to do in order for it to remain fun. If it becomes too serious, it might become work. There are other, more lucrative, careers to choose from and far fewer activities that can offer this much enjoyment (on and off the competition field).