Coach & Shooter:

Getting Help Is Smart

Coach Shooting

Coach & Shooter practice creates a safer training environment. You may be violating one or more of the “Four Safety Rules” and not even be aware. This is especially important for advanced skills like firing from the retention position.

Learning how to use a firearm safely and efficiently requires training and practice. Training teaches what you need to know; practice is when you learn it. It takes thousands of correct repetitions to become competent at the fundamentals of responding to a threat. The mental skills — decision-making — are very demanding, and the physical skills require a complex series of actions. Chunking — combining multiple actions like moving, communicating, using cover, shooting accurately and manipulating your weapon — require even more practice. Practice, and plenty of it, is mandatory. But, if done improperly practice can be detrimental. It’s easy to perform improper techniques, and these mistakes quickly become habits. The best way to ensure your practice is correct is to employ the “Coach & Shooter” method.

In the Coach & Shooter technique one partner performs the drill while the other observes. It’s applied to any practice like marksmanship, manipulations or clearing/searching a building, both live- and dry-fire practice. “Shooter” performs the drill while “Coach” observes. Then you swap roles and repeat.

There’s nothing like a great training class. The learning curve is steep. Sure, you make mistakes, but the instructor is watching and ready to provide corrections, talking and walking you through the process. After class you start practicing. Developing these skills until you can apply them on demand in a defensive encounter, at a subconscious level and with little or no warning. This is only achieved through repetition.

Bad Training

But be careful of bad habits. The definition of repetition is “boring.” You lose focus and mistakes occur. Maybe it’s a small but critical step left out of a detailed sequence — but the devil is in the details. Or you include an extra, unnecessary action, adding to the time required to perform the technique. The list of undesirable possibilities is almost endless. Most of these mistakes occur without you being aware of them. The next drill you do the same thing, repeating the mistake again and again until eventually it becomes habit. By the time you discover the problem, it’s difficult to correct. Many more repetitions are required to modify an existing action than were necessary to learn it in the first place.

Each single performance during practice is critical. Experts agree for every one bad repetition around 40 or more good repeats are necessary to push the bad one over to the side — but it’s still in the memory “bank.” Remember the saying, “You don’t rise to the occasion; you default to your lowest level?” Those bad repetitions are your lowest level of competency. Making mistakes in your practice is detrimental to the learning process, and your performance when responding to a dangerous attack. With the Coach & Shooter technique mistakes are identified immediately and corrective actions applied — before they become a habit.

You’ll need a partner of equal or greater skill. Each of you have to be able to observe and identify problems then apply constructive criticism. “You suck,” is not a productive evaluation. It also helps to plan your practice sessions. An outline of drills — what techniques to perform, how many repetitions or rounds fired — prevents a practice session from devolving into a plinking session. Concentrate on the skills you find difficult, as opposed to just repeating what you’re already good at. When you uncover a problem don’t deviate from the outline, but record the difficulty so you can return to it during upcoming dry practice. And remember, it’s not a competition between training partners.

During practice don’t rush. Take your time; execute the repetitions slowly, ensuring every repetition is a good one. Timing is also critical when scheduling your practice. Don’t plan a practice session when you’re rushed, stressed or running late.

Firearms training

It’s the details making the big difference — and achieving the desired results. Practicing with a coaching partner helps ensure you maintain focus on good technique.

A Powerful Partner

Both parties benefit from Coach & Shooter practice. Watching others perform is one of the main ways we learn. While watching the Shooter the Coach is learning. Maybe you’ll discover an interest in coaching, leading you to seek out certification as an instructor. Once I started instructing I really began learning, refining both my skills and my ability to teach others.

Finally, and most importantly, the Coach & Shooter practice makes certain your practice is safe. Regardless of the skill level every once in a while shooters will have their finger on the trigger at an inappropriate time — especially under stress. Most times when I mention this to shooters they’re not even aware of the safety violation. As mentioned above, you’ll be doing something wrong, something unsafe — and not even be aware of it. The Coach & Shooter method makes certain the practice is safe.

Self-defense is a personal responsibility and an individual art. It’s a lifelong journey, and it’s not easy. Making it a group effort benefits us in several ways. We train with others who are like-minded. Plus, “it takes a village” to pass on these skills, rights and responsibilities. The Coach & Shooter method provides you with good company on this quest.

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