In my last article, I discussed how to start an airsoft team. I’m sure that many of you have established your own groups and teams since that time. Now that you’ve started a team, you will want to begin training together as a team to improve your skills, and build team work.
In this article, I will discuss how to train your airsoft team, using a common sense approach. Please remember, like I said in my first article, that there is more than one way to go about training your team. The information in this article is my advice, based on my own experiences. That does not mean it is the only way to train, nor does it even mean it is the best way to train. This information is meant to be a guide, and you should feel free to use what you feel will work for you, or to change or get rid of any part that does not.
First of all, who will do the training for your team?
Will you use one of the more mature and / or experienced players? Does this player have any real world related experience (i.e. any previous military or police training or experience)? Will the team leader just take this responsibility on him or her self? Appointing a training officer has its advantages (as long as he or she is up to the job, and capable of instructing a training session for your team). A separate training officer takes a lot of pressure off the team captain, which is a busy job in itself. Having one person who looks after the training also means you will end up with a more consistent approach. As this person develops their own style and becomes more confident, the training they bring to the team will get better and better. Your training officer must be someone who is confident, well organized, and preferably keen to take on the job.
When your training officer is planning your team’s training, taking a few minutes to think about what to train on is in order. The first thing to examine is what environment / field style and game style does your team participate in? Take a good look at your games area. Do you have lots of woods and trees, swamps and open fields, or do you have a CQB village or indoor arena? Each field will require a different kind of game play, and therefore different skills and tactic’s needed. You might play in an area that has both of these kinds of environments, which just means you will have more things to practice. We all love playing the sport, so more practice is good too, right?
Based on the type of field environment and therefore the type of game you usually play, you should be able to analyze the typical tasks and actions you need to take on the field during a normal game, and come up with a list of skills to train everybody up on. For example – at an outdoor woods type game, you might find that stealthy movement, stalking, communications and marksmanship are some of your most important tasks for that field. Knowing this is a good start. Your training officer can then develop some drills to develop your skills in those area, and also might come up with some new tactics for those situations.
Now that you have a start on a list, its time to come up with a training plan to address the list.
How do you find or make your own drills to train a team?
There are several different methods you could try:
1. Research – you can find training information these days in lots of different places, such as tactical industry magazines, websites, or even on YouTube. One word of caution though… be aware of the source of your information. Chris Costa, Polenar tactical, or Funker tactical (etc.) are good sources of information on tactics, however some 15 year old in poorly fitting LAPD SWAT gear clearing his bedroom and tripping on his cat… probably not a good source for information.
2. Experience – you may be fortunate enough to have someone on your team, or a friend outside your team who has actual military or policing experience. These people, if they are willing to help, would be a wonderful asset. Depending on their background, they may be able to deliver some training, or at least advise your training officer how things are done for real, and perhaps even suggest some training activities. Your training officer can then take that information, tailor it to your training needs and come up with a plan and some specific drills from there.
3. Copy what works – Look at successful teams (there may be some right in your area, or there are no shortage of competitive level teams who post video’s of their game play and training online). Watch what they do, and how they do it. You are bound to pick up some good tips by watching successful teams.
4. Make your own tactics and drills. – By simply realizing what tasks you need to be able to do on the field, and giving it some thought, you can come up with your own way to do it. If it works, chances are it wont be that different from one of the recognized ways someone else is already teaching. You might even stumble onto a totally new way to look at a tactical problem and solve it. Who knows?
Now.. How to actually train (teach) something?
Well, now it gets a little interesting.
Lets split it into 2 seperate categories – Academic type lessons, and physical skill lessons.
By academic type lessons, I mean teaching information, rather than a physical action, for example: How to read a map, or how to talk on the radio using proper radio voice procedure. For an academic skill, I find it useful to have it written down, and teach it like a college professor would teach a lecture. You’ll convey the information in a clear, concise and methodical fashion, your team members may or may not take notes, during the “lecture”, but you should make a point after each section of your lecture to ask some confirmation questions. Confirmation questions are more than just saying “everyone got that?”, or “any questions?”, instead ask specific questions about your lesson. If you just taught them how to find a 6 figure grid reference off a map, then pick 4 specific spots on the map, and split your team into 2 groups, tell them they are competing against the other team to get the answers first. First group to find all 4 wins. This is specific, reinforces the lesson taught, and the use of a competition ensures your “students” are paying attention and keeps them engaged. At the end of your lesson, ask confirmation questions again, but about the whole lesson. One last tip for this style of class (actually for both types of lessons) is to avoid using filler-phrases that are common in everyday speech, such as “Like, uhm, so, you know”, etc. Strive to keep your speaking clear, concise, and confident.
Academic type lessons benefit from having training aids to help illustrate what you are trying to teach. Real teachers know that people have different learning styles, some are auditory (meaning if they hear you just explain it, they will understand), some are visual (meaning they have to see it, then they understand), some people need to practice the lesson learned, and then they understand. The more of these learning styles you can accommodate in your teaching style, the better your group will grasp the information you are trying to teach.
Training aid’s are very helpful for this type of lesson. Simple examples of training aid’s that I have used personally are: handouts with pictures and/or simple explanations, home made maps, small white boards to write on (the same can be accomplished on a big piece of cardboard, which incidentally can be used as a target for physical drills later on). Because academic lessons tend to be a little dry at the best of times, it is helpful to run a practical exercise right after the lesson in which your team members go and actually use the information you just taught. Using my map reading example again, set up a simple orienteering course in your training area, and throw in a little excitement to liven it up. This is something I did with my team – they were practicing following a map and calling in their location with a 6 figure grid reference, using proper radio voice procedure. While they were walking from point to point, I told them to use their hand signals and field formations and patrol techniques, and to rotate team leaders after finding each point. I was going to hide myself somewhere along the route and ambush the team as they got close, forcing them to react to contact and fight through, but never got that far with it. This is a great example of how to improvise a training activity and put in layer upon layer of different skills you have taught your team into one practice.
Physical skills however, are taught differently. I find it useful to break a physical skill down into easy to understand chunks or sections, and teach them one at a time. Have each member of your team practice the skills on their own, then practice collectively. Do this for each different chunk of the skill, then at the end, put it all together, and practice it multiple times until it becomes second nature. This is similar to building muscle memory. In this way, you will have built the skill into a habit, that when the time comes, your team will be able to do the skill without hesitating to think about what to do next. It is important therefore, that what you teach is correct. If you practice and develop a habit of doing it wrong, it is difficult to forget that training when the error is noticed and you need to correct it. Also, you should get your team used to doing the skill under as realistic as possible conditions. It would be helpful to have the team wearing all their normal kit, fully loaded up when practicing. Then the “muscle memory” you develop is exactly like doing it in a game, which is when you want them to be able to do it without having to struggle or think about what they were taught.
Training aid’s for a physical skill are not strictly required, as you are moving around and actually doing they skill you want to practice. If you need someone to practice against (opponents), it is easy enough to split your team into 2 groups, and run them against each other. If however you need to keep them all together, improvising targets is easy enough. A large cardboard box can be cut to make fine targets, and disposable aluminum pie plates can easily and cheaply be used for targets as well. I used them last year for a jungle lane type firing practice. I took the pie plates, put numbers and different colors on them, and placed them at random heights and areas around my silhouette target. This drill let me walk behind the shooter (or multiple shooters at the same time) and call out center of mass, or head shot, or a number, or a color, and the shooters had to hit the corresponding target(s). I kept running the drill until someone ran out of ammo, at which point the remaining shooters would step forth and cover the shooter while he reloaded. Once again, this was making them practice multiple skills and lessons they had learned that day, and it was fun at the same time.
I hope this has given you some good ideas about how to train your team. As I said before, this is not the only way to train your team, nor is it necessarily the best way, but its a way… and if it gives you some ideas about how to train your crew, then I’ve done my job well! Good luck.
About the Author:
Sean Walsh is a former member of the Canadian Forces Reserves (Military Police), worked in Canadian Federal Corrections for 4 years, and then spent 12 years as a member Canada’s National Police Service. He was medically retired in 2012, and now works as a tactical trainer and instructor for a local company, and is the team captain of the Newfoundland Airsoft Regiment.