How To Prevent A Student From Quitting

By Karen Erens


Everybody knows those stories: “I could not equalize my ears during my try dive, so I am not made for diving.” “I panicked during an exercise, so I quit my course,” or “I did not feel comfortable underwater.” I can continue writing some more of those quotes that I have heard since being a certified dive instructor.


It is always during the same courses that students are suffering from this problem, the entry-level courses such as try dive or open water diver course. Students are confronted with a new environment, and they do not feel at ease.


But why?


When we are introduced to new people, and they find out that we are scuba instructors, often the next thing they tell us is about their bad experiences in scuba diving. As if to prevent us from talking them “into” an open water course by convincing us that they are physically not made for being underwater.


Well, frankly, I remember only one student, many years ago, that was physically not made for diving. After several successful pool sessions, she still had a lot of trouble going any deeper than 5 meters of depth as she was not able to equalize her ears. Later, a doctor performed a thorough ear examination and discovered that she had an anomaly in her Eustachian tube, which prevented her from being able to equalize her ears at all. She could not finish her open water course as diving below 2.5 metres just became too painful. This was one unique case out of the 5,500 people we trained so far during the last 32 years!


Most students are physically capable of scuba diving, but some may have had a bad experience while diving. Maybe their instructor was not all that interested in trying them to get over this bad feeling because the other, better students were waiting to finish the required exercises. Is this the disadvantage of group courses? The student with the bad experience will feel left behind and, many times, will not want to go back into the water to get over this feeling. For them the logical next step is to quit the course and never ever try scuba diving again.


Do you know about this situation?


Every time I hear this same story, I immediately feel the need just to jump in a pool with this person to prove to them they are wrong, that they can get over this bad experience, that they can learn all those open water scuba skills and enjoy the pleasure and beauty of scuba diving.


There are always students who feel like a fish in the water from scuba session one. They do all the exercises and get their open water course done in no time; it does not matter at all what kind of instructor they have. But for a lot of students, this is not the case. For many people, can depend on the instructor and how their ability to make the student feel comfortable in the water while guiding them through to the finish of the course. Sometimes it is all about the patience that the instructor has!


How do you prevent students from quitting the open water scuba diving course? Below, I have listed some points that should help keep your students comfortable; have a look:


  1. My number one rule is to always start with a try dive and have fun underwater.


  1. I never understood why you need to fill your mask with water on the very first dive. This is often the most fearful exercise for students and should not be done at the first dive. I agree with the fact that the student needs to be able to empty the mask if water is entering, but does not need to be in the first session and can also be practised without having them flood their masks completely.


  1. Your students should not feel time pressure or the pressure to perform certain exercises on a certain session.


  1. Make sure you teach in a peaceful and tranquil environment. Don’t teach if the conditions are not favourable, for instance, waves that are too big, very bad visibility, too cold, a lot of wind, or very a deep dive site.


  1. Talk with the students and try to understand their concerns. If your student panics while clearing the dive mask, make sure you take them to the surface, tell them what just happened, why it happened and that this mistake is perfectly normal. Try to remember your first time doing the same exercise and give some advice on how you learned to pass this difficult skill. The student feeling that they failed at this exercise, that they are not good at diving, or maybe just not made for diving. Do you understand the difference?


  1. Teach in very small groups at the pace of the student. Preferably with an assistant, as this enables you to spend time with a student if they need more time than the others. Your assistant can repeat some exercises while you are taking care of the other students.


  1. Make sure your students trust you as an instructor and, maybe even more importantly, that they trust themselves.


  1. Try not to teach relatives or families in the same group. My experience is that the kids are usually doing fine, but themselves and their own learning curve.


  1. Use the right scuba equipment, well maintained equipment which fits the conditions that you are diving in (pool equipment might be different from the gear to dive in the open water). It is very important to use the right size; you do not want a small child diving in an oversized BCD as they will fight the weight of the tank all the time and cannot spend time and attention to learning how to dive properly.


  1. Watch out for a negative learning curve. Sometimes, it happens that students suddenly stop learning and forget about earlier exercises. Take a step back into favourable conditions and start again with simple exercises.


  1. Explain to your students the reason why they have to learn all the different skills. They should understand why those skills are important in order to become a certified diver.



I always follow and apply the points mentioned above during all my courses. And guess what?

The students quitting my courses is an almost non-existent thing. In addition, those very steps mentioned above create a bond with your students so that when your students are ready to take the next course, you are their choice for continuing education.


Please let me know your experiences with the above-mentioned points. We at ScubaBiz.Help are ready to help and give advice when needed. Go for it, use it and be (more) successful!

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