Be a Good Training Ambassador

| April 19, 2016 | 6 Comments

Firearms sales have hit record levels for several years in a row. This means that more people are getting their carry permits, which means that more people are seeking fight-focused training.

The best way for you to be a force multiplier is to get one more person training. I’ve also written about the benefit of repeating fundamentals classes.

For the purposes of today’s article, you’re an intermediate or advanced student, repeating a fundamentals class, and there is a new student attending the same class.

One of the most important things you can do is be a good training ambassador and help the new student have the best experience possible. We all want them to come back and train some more. They may bring a friend next time, decide to get involved in firearms-related activism, teach you something, or maybe even save your life someday.

I’m not a firearms instructor. I am, however, a “serial student.” I’ve trained alongside a number of people at different schools on a variety of topics. By my estimation, I’ve met over 500 other fight-focused students since 2007.

It can be intimidating for some to go to a fight-focused class. This might be someone’s first exposure to training. They might pursue training because of a violent encounter that happened to them, or a loved one. They may have not grown up around weapons, or fighting, and may be scared or nervous.

We have a real opportunity to change perceptions and help people become more self-sufficient.

Here are some suggestions at making new students feel welcome. Keep in mind a “new” student may be quite experienced, but new to your training organization / group. However, many of these principles still apply.

  • Be authentically friendly. Introduce yourself — don’t wait for them to make the first move. Introduce them to one other person that you know, even if you just met that other person. “Have you met so-and-so yet?” is a good phrase, and also provides you with a warm hand-off in case you’re not the chatty type.
  • I am not great with names. I try to remember everyone’s name — partly to be friendly, partly because I like to improve my deficiencies. I often tie the person’s first name with something about them. For example, Dan from ECQC had a ZT-350 knife, just like mine. I may pair someone’s name with someone else I know: “oh, that’s my brother’s name.”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask, “have we met before?” If I meet someone at rifle class or a force on force class I have a hard time remembering what they look like in any other class. Also, you might meet someone this year and not see them again for several years. It’s okay to admit you aren’t entirely sure where you know them from, or that you forgot their name.
  • Have items on hand that a new person might not know to bring, or that a travelling veteran might forget. My favorite example is a wet wipe. When class breaks for lunch, offer them around. Newcomers may not realize they shouldn’t eat a sandwich with residue on their hands, and it may have slipped the veteran’s mind if they were concentrated on travel arrangements, lodging, gear, etc. I also recommend having bug repellent, sunscreen, and a boo boo kit with Band-aids.
  • If the student is eating alone during breaks, offer them a seat next to you. At my first class, a new student sat by himself while everyone else ate at picnic tables. I asked him to sit next to me, and he did so. He felt uncomfortable inviting himself over to sit with the larger group.
  • Recognize that other students may have a different worldview from you, with different experiences. Focus on why everyone’s here: to learn to be more responsible for their own personal safety. Leave the political and religious talk for another time and place.
  • Be honest with feedback if asked, but don’t volunteer any advice. If you see a student struggling, open with a neutral “how’s your class going?” at an appropriate break. If the student wants help or wants to express themselves, this is an easy, non-confrontational way for them to do it. Not all students want help.
  • Don’t say anything about the student’s firearm or gear unless they specifically ask for your opinion. The experience of using substandard firearms and equipment will “speak” more loudly than whatever you have to say. Many, many, many students show up to their second class with a completely different firearm from their first class.
  • If you feel like a student’s gear is unsafe, approach an instructor and discreetly state your concern. Don’t do it in front of any other students if possible. We’re not here to embarrass anyone. I’ve attended several classes where someone showed up with unsafe / questionable gear (e.g., Uncle Mike’s holsters, worn leather holsters that collapsed onto themselves, etc) and the instructors handled it professionally and with dignity.
  • I strongly recommend you do not offer training help while the class is underway unless specifically approved by the lead instructor beforehand. General feedback like “your follow up shots are hitting low and to the left” is one thing, trying to coach someone through a press check with a loaded gun is another. Signal an instructor instead.
  • Treat everyone equally, and don’t assume that someone is knowledgeable or not based on their appearance. I have seen this a lot. 

Lastly — someone in the class may be an anti-gun person looking to write a hit piece on gun training. I’ve read articles about this happening in concealed carry classes or square ranges. I am waiting to find one about a fight-focused training class. Your demeanor and actions may change someone’s mind about “us,” or validate stereotypes.

What do you to do be a good ambassador?

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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6 Comments on "Be a Good Training Ambassador"

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  1. Black Rob says:

    Another excellent piece; thanks for making me take an in depth look at my ambassador skills!

  2. Steve says:

    Shephard,

    Having been in two training classes with you, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing you being the master of “Training Ambassadors” You certainly practice what you preach!

    Bravo!

  3. Kyliewyotie says:

    Great article. Some of the students in classes I have attended have made a world of difference. Comradery can go a long way.

    I have also experienced the students that “know” better, and tell everyone so. It can really hamper a class.

    Also have met gear snobs (for lack of better term) who walked around and trashed everyone else’s set ups. Some valid points, but presented poorly. I have changed every single of gear since my first class, first hand learning what doesn’t work was my best teacher.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      You make a really good point about the gear snobs. I think that someone like that ENCOURAGES people to keep their shitty gear, because now it’s an ego thing. Who wants to be told their business by a stranger?

      Like you wrote, let the first hand experience be the teacher.

  4. Carlos says:

    Great article!! I have lent out equipment and even guns to novice trainees in order to help them out and encourage their motivation to train. Unfortunately, I have had multiple occasions where not only was the guy who borrowed ungrateful, in some cases they blame the item you loan them for their poor performance because it is poor fitting or they lack the experience for that piece of equipment. But most are usually very grateful and some have even offered to pay for its use in case or in kind (ie: to clean the gun, wash the item, etc.).

    The other types of people I will stay away from are the “fan boys”. This seems to be something that certain Instructors not only tolerate, but they count on it as a source of repeat business. I have been since avoided those classes because they are usually full of students who think that they have attended enough of that Instructor’s courses to be their AI.

    I have been in courses where a fellow student has asked me of what I have observed with their technique and how they can improve on it. I do my best to provide the most basic feedback such as identifying where their rounds were impacting (even though I have decades to experience training Shooters in Military, LE and Civilian courses). But if they ask me something specific, like if I observed how they were holding their elbows (ie: chicken winging) or if they stayed on their sights or in their scopes after the shot, then I respond accordingly but only if I actually did make such an observation.

    The more new shooters we drag into training, the better and safer it will be for all of us!!

  5. Ron says:

    First off let me say THANKS for stating many things that should be stated more often.

    I spend great amounts of time working with complete “newbie novices” in firearms training. Often times it can be a very delicate situation. Until you really know someone, you are clueless as to what kinds of baggage they carry with them. I like to believe folks come to me looking for answers, not criticisms.

    As much as I respect the NRA for their efforts to preserve gun rights, I fault them for misleading too many idiots into becoming so called “instructors”. Just because you own a gun or two does NOT mean you should become an “instructor”. There is so much more.

    I wished I had a quarter for every person i let find on their own during classes/training that they did make a bad choice in a handgun purchase. IF,,, IF you truly know what you are doing and you know how to “teach” people see the light most times.

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