I continue to hear trainers talk about the important of creating stress in training to help prepare officers for the field. This philosophy causes me a great deal of concern.
Stress is not the key. Stress is easy to create. Stressing the shit out of people in training and thinking it will somehow prepare officers to win in the field is flawed thinking. My wish is that we all stop talking about stress as an element of training and focus on what I believe is a more important issue and that is Context.
Now I know that some of you are immediately wanting to explain to me that we have to place our officers under stress in training so they can perform under stress in the field. No we do not. We need to create a training environment where they get the opportunity to practice the skills and tactics they are taught in the contextual setting they are likely to encounter in the field. This is done in an incremental manner where the officers are gradually exposed to more contextual factors and are allowed to solve problems at each level and have success at each level. This type of training will help produce the competent and confident officers we are striving for.
A couple of issues with focusing on ‘stress’:
- Stress is too subjective. What is high stress for one person may be low stress for someone else.
- Stress is not the goal. Competence and confidence are the goal. Training is very different when we ask “What can we do to create officers that are competent and confident when faced with dynamic situation in the field?” as opposed to when we ask “What can we do to stress these officers out in training?”
I agree that ‘stress inoculation’ is an important philosophy. As we have discussed before however, too many trainers and academies have become obsessed with the ‘stress’ part of stress inoculation and are completely overlooking the goal. As a result we treat new recruits like crap under the guise of running a ‘stress academy’ so we can properly prepare officers for the field.
I have also heard the argument that they need to learn how to lose before they can learn how to win. No they do not. They need to learn to win. In order to win a violent encounter they have to be prepared to solve problems and work through adversity. They need to be prepared to keep fighting when they are injured. They do not need to know how to lose.
Set high standards for your officers. Challenge them to succeed. Expect them to succeed. Reward them when they succeed. Teach them to problem solve. Teach them to win. Build competence and confidence.
“LE personnel in pre-service and in-service training do not need to be pampered, but confidence and competence – the 2 elements required for great performance under stress- are not gained by stress drills that primarily result in failure. “Dr. Bill Lewinski, Force Science Institute
If you think I am full of crap please let me know. If you think I am right on the money then please help spread the word.