Monday, September 24, 2012

Review – Why Yes – That IS a NRA T/C hat . . . .


After being notified by Andy Lander way back in February that one of the few remaining seats in the September 21-23 had been set aside for me . . . I waited . . . . and waited . . . . and waited . . . for this past weekend. What a busy, intense, fun and satisfying weekend. Thought you folks might be interested is how it went.

The NRA Training Counselor course is that program within the NRA that trains the NRA Instructors that train NRA Instructors. There is a through pre-course evaluation including a review of your training record, your certifications, the number of students you have trained, an evaluation a personal resume you prepare, and the contents of three letters of recommendation that must be prepared according to the NRA’s specifications.


The course was team taught by Andy Lander and Sean Thornton. Their stamina, focus, knowledge and teaching ability was exceptional. The days were long (8:30 AM to 6PM or so) for Friday and Saturday with final individual interviews beginning at about 3PM on Sunday. The days were long enough and intense enough that merely leaving the training room and making it back to the motel was an accomplishment.

Our training took place at the Cabela’s in Kansas City, KS. We had folks from as far west as Colorado Springs, north to near Oshkosh, WI and as far east as WV and just north of NYC. There were a total of 16 experienced NRA trainers who had been teaching for anywhere from 30 years to 2-3 years. Virtually all disciplines were represented including all black powder certifications as well as all re-loading. It was quite a wealth of knowledge gathered is this single training room – fairly intimidating actually.

Training followed the format of the Instructor courses – first we covered the training process for teaching the BIT – Basic Instructor Training – to learn how to teach new instructors how to teach. We began with the first exercise out of the box with each candidate making a short presentation in front of the group and then having our work immediately evaluated by everyone else in the room. This format was followed for the next three days – receive an assignment, prepare, present, be evaluated. If you have a fear of public speaking it’s a real way to hammer that puppy into the ground! The entire first day focused on BIT – every “in and out” you can possible think of. What was really interesting was to see the improvement in performance from the first group in an exercise to the last group. The changes were amazing. Yet, when comparing the very first presentations to the last of the day – it was even more significant. We ended the first day totally shot – all of us ready for the motel and an early night.

Day two saw us move from teaching how to teach to teaching a specific discipline. We went through virtually every discipline from basic pistol to reloading. While I would have though we would focus on course content we focused on the process of teaching each discipline. Honestly, that makes sense. Each of these instructors was well versed in their disciplines so, in retrospect, it makes sense to actually work on the mechanics of actually teaching a discipline rather the discipline itself. Day two started out “slow” with a candidate designated a T/C for each section – they would then make assignments to “prospective instructors”, and then evaluate their performance. Then, their performance was evaluated by the entire room as well as Andy and Sean.

Repeat . . . only faster. Then – repeat . . . . only faster. Then – repeat . . . . only faster. Not sure I can describe it any more than that. It was a blazingly fast day – focused, intense and stressful – and a tremendous amount of fun. Again, the day ended in exhaustion.

Day three was centered how to evaluate instructor candidates, how to handle “problem candidates” and how to make those “hard decisions” when an instructor candidate simply isn’t going to make it. A morning and early afternoon filled with that quickly gave way to final individual interviews.

Each of us sat “one on two” with Andy and Sean to go over our performance, share our experience and to receive either a “go” or a “no-go”. Everyone left with their T/C Hats, ready to train those NRA grads who have decided that they too want to train new NRA shooters.

I’d just like to give a public thank-you to Andy and Sean for their time, energy and all-around great job. I think we were the 6th course Andy has done this year – an exhausting schedule no matter how you look at it. Thanks guys, I appreciate it.

So there ya go. If you have a calling teach new NRA shooting instructors – go for it, it’s quite a ride!


  1. Great review, Bill! It was everything you mentioned above; informative, intense, focused, mentally demanding, and challenging. I really enjoyed the entire process and the great group of folks who were in attendance. In addition, Andy and Sean did a GREAT job with their instruction and their overall running of the class.

    I have my AAR about half completed. As soon as I have a bit more time, I will finish it up and get it posted. I'd be happy to send you a copy if you'd like.

    1. Hello Bill, I must say the experience was awesome. Mainly, the diversity in the training and our trainers. Its was a pleasure meeting everyone and thanks for my evaluations.

  2. What can really be added to that description? As Chris said, it was everything you described, and more. Challenging, but rewarding as well. The combined experience in that room was both overwhelming, and quite humbling as well.
    As you said, this course was not so much about teaching the course materials as it was teaching us how to teach people how to teach. Defining the new roles and skills in order to successfully accomplish the new goals we have been tasked with. As Chris noted; informative intense, focused, mentally demanding and challenging, yes. And might I add very fast paced. The pace of the class is definitely a testament to the experience and professionalism of the course participants.
    Andy and Sean were just great. Can't really say enough about how much they brought to the course, in terms of information, experience and personality. They kept the course moving at a quick pace, and still kept it interesting, focused and informative. I can't remember a single moment when I got bored, or distracted. You had to stay focused in order to keep up. Yet, as focused as they were on the presentation they remained approachable and really put the whole class at ease.
    And the participants! I swear I learned just as much from the others in that room as I did the course instructors. From specific skills knowledge, to teaching and presentation styles, to the many stories (good and bad) about the things that have been encountered while teaching.
    I enjoyed working with everyone there, and hope I am lucky enough to get to work with these fine people again.

  3. Bill - I thought I would add the link to my AAR if anyone is interested in reading it.