Quals Story – Part IV

By Ross McGachey

—–2015, 2 weeks before APA qualification deadline—–


A bunch of the APA committee and interested people went to Melbourne for an APA think tank and to run a big last ditch assessment before the deadline. It was December and only a handful of people in the country were qualified. There was definitely a feeling that we might have failed again to enforce the deadline and that we would have to postpone it another year. Many of us weren´t very prepared.


Perhaps ironically, but very necessarily, the APA thinktank saw us spending three full days basically scrapping the quals and reworking them into something better. This was part of a process of constant community driven reevalution that the APA is getting better and better at and it´s one of the things that makes me most proud of the association. We identified many issues with the quals and a huge need to reform the system we were trying to put into place. Among other issues, the testing was daunting and hard enough that it was prohibitive. Our instructing community was proving itself incapable of surpassing the huge barrier we had set ourselves. Also, the logistics of running these massive assessments were a big cause for complaint and made the whole thing even harder to implement. To assess and qualify someone required a huge amount of volunteer hours from the assessor.


So having agreed that the current system was broken before it was fully built, we then went to make our attempt at the deadline. Chippa ran a big physical test event for levels 1.5, 2, and 3 at the Trace Facility with about thirty applicants, largely senior instructors from interstate and local instructors of all levels.

Steve Berry at Melbourne physical assessment Dec 2015


This physical test took the group about seven hours to go through.


We started outside Trace with rail balancing and I was feeling confident. All of this was just going through the motions for me and I didn´t feel pressured, I knew my problem areas and I was focused on them. Rail precisions, cat precisions, and rail squats were still not ironed out to a point where I could relax about them.


Travis from Adelaide had not had enough time leading up to the test to train properly for it so he was originally going to just observe but he decided at the last minute to jump in with the test and see how he went.


People failed and dropped off at different parts. Some people were surprised. I guess they hadn´t prepared and didn´t realise their weak points. Some people knew their challenges and still didn´t make it.


I was doing the rail squats next to Matt and Isaac from Perth. We knew it was one of the most daunting and high pressure parts because it was the only element where a single mistake meant failure. I had trained it to an obsession and passed with no problem despite being a little anxious. But my heart was beating fast watching the others and I felt the pressure in the air. I remember somebody walking past and making too much noise and me snapping at them. Matt started strong and then without much warning he overbalanced and fell. He was out just like that.


It was a shock and an upset. He had smashed everything else. Without him passing Perth parkour was in a bad position and would have to fly him some other time to Melbourne to be retested. In the next few weeks we looked for excuses and grounds to appeal. At the thinktank we had agreed to permit one fall on the rail squats in the future. We all agreed the current requirement was too harsh. But that was just in discussion and we were being tested on the old terms. Perth was dependent on him and so it was not in the APA´s interests to be strict and cause damage to our community over one stupid fall. We could overwrite it. But as I recall Matt chose not to appeal. He had gone into the test like all of us knowing what the deal was. He had started the squats knowing what it meant to fall. So he kept that promise to himself and did not pass.

Doing the physical assessment


I passed almost everything without a hiccup or a doubt. I flew through the cat precisions and stuck all six. I could rely on my preparation. But then came the rail precisions. A couple weeks before I hade gone out and stuck 50 in a row to see where I was at but they were still hit and miss. It could take me a while to get into the zone, but we weren´t given a while. As a technique assessment, we had six marked attempts, plus an unmarked practice if we chose. Of the marked attempts, we had to perform 5/6 at class demonstration standard. Anything but a stick wouldn´t cut it.


I was nervous but confident until I failed my practice jump… and my first marked jump. I would have to stick the next five in a row or be knocked out. I jumped four times and stuck four times, trying not to let it get to me. On the fifth jump I landed and slightly overshot. There was a wobble. I had to swing one of my feet for balance, But I stayed on and didnt fall. It got a nod from Chippa and I went on to demolish the test.


Travis who had jumped in at the last minute had a few worries but his general training was good enough that he passed the level 3 as well. Of course I was happy and relieved for my communty and proud of my friend, but also I was super pissed off that he could just rock up and pass when I had put in so much dedicated effort. Still pissed off too.

Senior instructor applicants after the test

There was a decent number of passes on the day, and a lot of fails. A lot of it came down to preparation. Knowing what was coming and having trained for it. Some people had never attempted a full run through and unsurprisingly many didnt make it. But the APA came out of that day with a bunch more instructors on their way to full qualification and something of a framework of senior instructors to implement the system across the country.


We were about to pass a milestone into the next chapter of teaching Parkour in Australia.