On the Other Side

It's easy for us as humans to avoid the things that put us out of our comfort zone. In fact, you have to appreciate this safety mechanism that has allowed you to continue walking this earth for as long as you have.

Think about it. This hesitation to step out in to unchartered territory forces you to analyze, consider and make informed (not always smart or correct) decisions before just jumping right in. So, you see, being aware of your comfort zone is vital. BUT on the flipside....we all know that you've got to step outside of your bubble in order experience new and different things so as to expand your comfort zone...right?

This past weekend was definitely a practice in all of the above for me, and I'd like to share my experiences and thoughts with you. I think there will be some nuggets in here (hopefully) if you stick around. 

Saturday and Sunday found me on a private gun range in south Austin as an attendee and student of the STS (Survival & Tactical Systems) Tactical Handgun Course. Now, before we get too far into this thing...let it be known that I am a handgun "newbie". That is to say that I've not had a ton of experience handling, manipulating or firing handguns. Simply put, it's something that's relatively new to me, but my interest in becoming a competent and confident gun owner has pushed me to step out and seek coaching. And, like most things, if you want to acquire a skill - you MUST gain knowledge and experience from those that have already mastered that craft......Also known as "getting a coach".

The STS crew was comprised of 5 former special operations veterans who have become outstanding coaches through there many years of honing their skills and teaching others. In fact, during the 2-day course, I found myself drawing parallels between their coaching and mine in the strength and conditioning realm. It was a very interesting experience being on the other side of the coach - student relationship while learning a multitude of brand new skills and ideas.

At times, I found myself getting frustrated with my lack of performance in certain portions of the course, while during others I was pretty damn proud of myself for hanging in their with some very experienced shooters. It was eye-opening to say the least. I kept putting myself in the shoes of my athletes as they learn, say, the barbell clean. This is a very technical lift with many moving parts and pieces that often finds the athlete becoming frustrated that they aren't performing up to their preconceived standards. But, in both cases, the missing piece of the puzzle is not lack of effort. It's not a lack of ability. It simply boils down to a low number of quality repetitions.

Quite honestly, it was silly of me to be so frustrated that I wasn't hitting each and every target dead center. Why? I have not had a lot of quality repetitions to build and hone that particular skill. In fact, that frustration often times causes a snowball effect that only makes it harder to perform well. It's the very same for new athletes that walk in to TCS and expect to back squat 315lbs on day 2. It's not going to happen that way. There's a lot to the saying, "Repetition is the mother of skill." And I had to keep reminding myself of this fact throughout the weekend.

My frustration must've been more obvious than I thought because I noticed the STS crew (coaches) changed their approach, cues and strategies -- as any quality coach does when something is not having the desired outcome. Like I said, being on the other side of this particular dynamic was both extremely interesting and valuable. It provided me with more empathy for my athletes and their frustrations, and it brought to light some internal obstacles that , like obstacles do, get in the way of progress. 

In either case, the weekend course exceeded expectations and proved to be valuable above and beyond in both aspects; as a student and a coach. 

So to wrap this up - a quick final message:

Coaches: Be sure that you are stepping out of your comfort zone and trying to acquire new skills. It will provide you with a greater understanding of what your athletes may be experiencing while stepping out of their comfort zone. Possessing empathy, especially as a coach, is a valuable tool that often times gets pushed to the wayside.

Athletes/Students: Being highly motivated to learn new skills is a key to being coachable. But on the other hand, having compassion for yourself and understanding that skill "X" may take some time to hone is also a big factor. Remember that frustration and self-doubt are natural emotions that will pop up from time to time, but to live in that space will only create more of the same. Create strategies for yourself to implement when you start becoming frustrated so as to stop that downward spiral and salvage the time and the energy spent expanding that comfort zone. 

To the STS crew: Thank you for your outstanding coaching, effort and energy. You did an amazing job catering to each and every attendee - regardless of their experience level. And as a coach, it was refreshing to be reminded of what that position actually means and the power we have to help others develop themselves. Thank you!