We have now made our way to the third of five total factors that can influence your performance. To recap, the last two articles focused on both the speed and internal factors. Additionally, we must remember that all five factors need to be present during the entire training evolution to obtain the highest benefit. Now, allow me to turn your attention to the external factors. And as with the other factors, there are three subfactors included.
- Speed factors
- Internal factors
- External factors
- Learning factors
- Application factors
Training. Train, eat, sleep, repeat. Although this subfactor seems obvious, thinking about attending training and acting on those thoughts are two very different things. Having been in the law enforcement training realm for over 25 years, I can tell you with a high level of certainty that most officers do not go out of their way to train when their department does not provide for it. There are very few cops out there who would argue against attending outside firearms training. However, that metric does not translate to cops actually paying for and attending outside training. Even with the understanding that advanced firearms training can literally be the factor between life or death, most officers will not go out of their way to do it. When an opportunity arises where training is not paid for by the department, ammunition is not covered, or a vacation day must be used, the will to attend training rapidly declines for most cops.
What do you think the percentage is in your department? My high-end guesstimate is that only about 20–25% of officers attend outside, out-of-pocket, non-mandated firearms training (which coincidentally is about the same percentage Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman states that law enforcement officers carry off duty).
Could it be a mindset issue? I cannot say for sure. But nonetheless, the reality is this: If the department does not require it or pay for it, most officers are not going to attend. Reasons vary between finances, time and other priorities. I will acknowledge that there are a few higher priorities in life, but not many when it comes to the necessary skill sets of an officer.
Additionally, there is one more issue that I want to address under this external subfactor of training. I have personally witnessed this on many occasions, and it has hindered certain officers from influencing their performance, unfortunately, to their detriment. This one has always bothered me as a trainer. Simply put, the issue is intimidation, and it usually affects the struggling shooter. A lot of shooters who are having trouble at the range will avoid attending outside training. They will attend in-service or remedial training as required by their department (albeit reluctantly) but will avoid stepping out of their comfort zone to control the outcome. I believe they feel intimidated because they are currently struggling to meet the minimums and do not want to advertise it. But it should not be that way. It should be the opposite response.
The officer should want to do as much outside training as humanly possible until they are no longer struggling (train, eat, sleep, repeat). There is always a trainer out there somewhere who can help. If I hit a nerve, know that my goal is to bring it to your attention and then push you in the direction that only benefits your safety and work product. As mentioned above, training is an obvious subfactor that can tremendously influence your performance on and off duty. The objective is to continuously train at increased levels as much as possible, even if it costs you time, money or comfort.
Experience. Gain as much experience as possible to learn as much as you can in the areas that you are not as knowledgeable. Also, try to close the gap between training and reality. Experience is one of the six assumptions included in pedagogy (adult learning theory) popularized by Malcolm Knowles in the 1980s. This assumption suggests that all adults have diverse life experiences to draw from when learning (or training, in our case). The expectation is to add new knowledge to the old knowledge. This type of mental stacking produces an increase in performance. However, potential issues can arise due to the “old knowledge.” The old knowledge can create a bias or single-mindedness. Past experiences can form barriers against learning new techniques and information. This can sometimes make it impossible to absorb the “new knowledge.”
If you have ever heard the following, “But that’s how we’ve always done it,” then you have experienced this firsthand. And if you have ever made that statement yourself, then this subfactor is specifically for you. I am sure you already know that we humans typically dislike change, even if it is only a perceived change. Especially any potential change that affects our habits or daily operation. But again, to increase our performance, the goal is to add new knowledge to the old knowledge. For instance, about nine years ago, I was taught an Israeli limited penetration technique (45/90). When I was learning the tactic, I had to rewire my brain a little bit because I was not used to the positioning. The movements did not compute properly in my brain until I started cognitively stacking the new information onto the old. Fast-forward to now, and I teach this technique during my law enforcement active shooter response live-fire classes. I start the training evolution by stating that this is a technique to “add to the toolbox,” not to change current tactics. I teach this specific technique because I personally have not found a better tactic for solo-officer response to an active shooter scenario.
When the training evolution begins, the initial response from students ranges from a general wariness all the way to verbal questioning of the technique’s validity. Then, I typically respond with the fact that the Israelis have had many more years of experience responding to active killers than we have here in the United States (although we are certainly moving up in the rankings). Then, I continue to push them through the drills as if ignoring their concerns. The initial resistance mostly stems from the new knowledge not cognitively stacking onto the old. This is due to the unfamiliar body positioning, footwork and speed utilized with this technique. It is not typically how American cops have been trained to move and shoot. This becomes painfully obvious by the awkwardness displayed when they are first learning it. However, after creating a visual nexus between a highly utilized American limited penetration technique (slicing the pie) and then making sure they get plenty of repetitions on the new technique, the students begin to comprehend the underlying mechanics. This is cognitive stacking. And after fully grasping the movements, shooting style and understanding the minimized exposure for a solo officer, the new knowledge begins to sink in and is eventually added to their old knowledge database. It plays out this way every single time I teach this technique.
During the debrief at the end of class, there are always multiple students who comment on how they really liked the Israeli tactic for solo-officer active shooter response. To me, this confirms that they have been able to remove the bias barrier created by the old knowledge. The lesson to learn here is not to allow our old knowledge to become a barrier to the new knowledge. If we can continuously do that, we can greatly influence our performance in training and on the street.
Support. Train with a partner. Whenever you attend advanced firearms training, make every effort to attend with a partner. There is an old-school proverb that says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor.” In my opinion, this is true when it comes to influencing our performance in training.
I have personally witnessed it in classes over the years. Whenever a pair of officers attend a course, there is an observable increase in curricula absorption. Being able to train, encourage and learn together makes a difference in fully capturing the presented information (and filling in the gaps for each other). This is one of the reasons why I conduct split lines during shooting evolutions. After teaching the entire class a specific technique, I split them into “shooter” and “coach” lines. Then, whenever the shooter is on-line, the coach is right next to them, helping to fix errors on the spot, which immediately increases the shooter’s performance.
This translates to more one-on-one time as the coach is standing in for the instructor during the live-fire shooting portion. This method of delivery works well and produces higher levels of learning for both the shooter and the coach.
That was a brief breakdown of the external factors that influence performance. Thank you for continuing to allow me to relay my thoughts in print and online. If you have any questions, please get in touch. Until then, #staysafe and #stayready.