Your Training Legacy Begins Today

Sept. 19, 2017
If you are familiar with most any martial arts program there is a legacy program built within most dojos. The oldest, most experienced teachers are the ones who teach the youngest initiates.

When you think of your legacy, you should begin to think of what positive marks you have made on the future of your department and its staff. The old maxim of ‘one generation plants the tree and the next generation enjoys the shade,’ makes sense. This brings back the question of who is your top student? Many years ago, in my old training unit we were discussing the creation of an informal program of developing instructors within an instructor mentoring program. Hence, the ‘top student’ program was launched. There are some very difficult positions within police training that it takes time to develop; such as firearms, defensive tactics and combining them to use of force instructors.  We sat down, scribbled it out and so, it began.

Top Student Program

If you are familiar with most any martial arts program there is a legacy program built within most dojos. The oldest, most experienced teachers are the ones who teach the youngest initiates. They, with all of their wisdom and experiences are the ones to bring the youngest and most impressionable ones into ‘the way’.

The training unit’s leadership thought process here was straight forward, have our most experienced trainers work with upcoming, brightest stars. Call it mentoring or not, it worked. The most difficult topic matters at that time were the defensive tactics training, firearms and later a blend of the two in use of force applications. Basically, our tacticians reinforced what the range and gym mat training taught. No disconnects, all blended into one solid system.

One of our obstacles within a large metropolitan department is getting time to work out, train and just basically connect or ‘gel’ as a training team. Team teaching is hard enough to do but with an older experienced trainer and younger one can be a challenge within itself. Paring of personalities is another factor, as most instructors are Type A’s, again need to ‘gel’ a little bit. Part of the program was a total review and update of all lesson plans and performance exercises. Get everyone in the big room and working on it –together. Yes, this is boring but extremely essential. We want every instructor to know the reason and research to defend each skill and concept. This reminds me of the old adage of for every one hour behind the podium in class, there is probably five or more hours of research and preparation.

Now there are real advantages to a program such as this. Succession planning and contingency planning both are important considerations to any training program. I would strongly suggest to every training unit leader or commander over the training unit to stop and have a morning planning session. For starters, recommend performing a one, two and five-year evaluations of staffing of trainers. Want seven or a ten, go for it! First of all, look at your critical tracks of instruction and who are the main presenters. Any projected retirements on the horizon? Promotable staffers, all too often who were once a valued trainer, once promoted never come back to train. Most often the assignment overrides the ability to make the academy sessions. Sadly, some great trainers walk away from the classroom, pity the department is often the victim.

Please look closely at your most gifted trainers as to their aspirations.  They may not be close to retireable status but other offers could come their way. Several of my past training colleagues now are chiefs and sheriffs. Your brightest trainers could someday leave to become chiefs, one never knows.

After you have completed your staffing reviews, now is the time for succession planning. We all agree that it can take years to develop an expert trainer in critical topics. Now is the time for the top student inject. Have your top students poised and in position to begin the process. They can begin ramping in, co-teaching and learning the ropes. Please, no Kung-Fu television program master and grasshopper jokes. Another reality statement is that if a lead trainer becomes ill or injured, the classroom void will be filled without a missed step. The teacher and student should become one within their system of classroom management. The other bonus of this is that the newer trainer’s creditability can be established before they take over and become the new instructor. Let’s face it, all officers have their favorite instructors, they can establish their creditability as they too mature.

We all know that you cannot give any lesson plan to any instructor. The knowledge, skills and abilities are critical here. Also, their creditability in front of class with an unfamiliar topic screams failure. Yes, there are some who state that once they received their instructor’s certification they gained instant intelligence. Give them a lesson plan and they could teach brain surgery. Wrong, criminally wrong. The most often overlooked mission of the training unit is matching up the right instructor with their niche. When you put an instructors’ face to a topic, it needs to exhale credibility to all. No more, death by PowerPoints and regurgitation of lesson plans – teach and challenge all to learn!

About the Author

William L. Harvey | Chief

William L. "Bill" Harvey is a U.S. Army Military Police Corps veteran. He has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC).  Harvey served for over 23 years with the Savannah (GA) Police Department in field operations, investigations and completed his career as the director of training. Served as the chief of police of the Lebanon City Police Dept (PA) for over seven years and then ten years as Chief of Police for the Ephrata Police Dept (PA). In retirement he continues to publish for professional periodicals and train.        

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