I have heard from good trainers who are frustrated by the way the regional academy they send their recruits to is being run. The question they have is, “What do we do when we have no control over how the academy is being run?”
The obvious answer is, “Find another academy.” but that is often not an option and so it is unhelpful advice.
Starting your own academy is an option, but that is not logistically feasible for many agencies that just do not have the facilities and resources and may not have the number of recruits every year to justify it.
Whenever possible have your leadership address your concerns with the academy leadership in a professional manner. Before they have this conversation arm them with some specific information and data to support your concerns. Unfortunately, this usually falls on deaf ears because if the academy Commander had issues with what was going on, he or she hopefully would have addressed it.
Perhaps the two best options are:
- Become and instructor at the academy and try to change things from the inside.
- Prepare your recruits before you send them to the academy.
If you have the opportunity to get on the staff at the academy you may be able to slowly change the culture by converting one instructor at a time to a different way of thinking and training. You will need to have thick skin, a lot of patience and the ability to educate the other trainers in a non-confrontational manner. This is often best done one trainer at a time. Identify one other trainer who is uncomfortable with some of the things being done at the academy and recruit them. Once they are on board then the two of you can recruit the next one, and so on. While you are working to build your tribe of trainers you can at least be a ray of hope and positivity for the recruits.
If you do not already have pre-academy time with your recruits before they go to the main academy then it would be worth creating this. Many agencies that rely on a regional academy have pre and post academy time scheduled with the recruits. In the pre-academy you need to be honest with them about what to expect at the academy, the fact you do not agree with certain elements of the training and provide some tools to deal with the challenges they will face.
If you have people who have been through the five day Excellence in Training Course or the three day Performance Enhancement Imagery Course they know how to create and conduct scripted imagery sessions and this is a great opportunity to utilize those skills. They can create and guide the recruits through a number of imagery sessions to help them prepare for and thrive during the academy. They can then provide access to imagery recording the recruits can listen to during the academy.
You need to teach them that the screaming and yelling is just a game that some of the instructor cadre is fond of. Teach them how to let the screaming and yelling slide off, while picking up on any nuggets of teaching that may be included. Give them mental tools to reframe the physical punishment and see it as a short-term challenge that will help them get into better shape. Once they graduate the academy they can work out without the screaming and yelling and strive to be fit to be useful while enjoying all the other health benefits of being fit.
Teach them about the importance of sleep and the elements of good sleep hygiene and regulation. Sleep is critical to learning, stress management and all aspects of mental and physical wellness.
If the academy you send your people to is still holding on to the “survival drill” where they gear recruits up in boxing gear at the end of Week 1 and have them beat the crap out of each other as some way to determine “who has what it takes”, then you would be wise to do some combatives training with them in the pre-academy in addition to the mental skills training. You don’t need to turn them into an MMA fighter, but you need to give them the skills to perform in this drill, which has no value and no measurable testing criteria.
As frustrating as it is to have to send your recruits to an academy that is still holding on to archaic and ineffective teaching methodologies, you have a responsibility to do what you can to set your people up for success. Focus on what you control, and control the controllable and teach this lesson to your recruits.
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