I want to encourage you to stop training youth leaders and start developing their leadership skills – two very different things.
Scouts learn best experimentally, “ready, fire, aim” is an apt description of the process.
Directing the archery and rifle range at our camp many years ago I learned some important lessons about how to help Scouts develop skills.
Most Scouts that showed up at the range weren’t receptive to formal instruction because they had that jumpy “beginner energy”, assumptions about their own skill, and they were excited to try things out.
Initially I thought it best to instruct them in the individual steps to shooting before I put a bow, rifle, or shotgun in their hands. I’d sit them down for the first session and cover the ten steps to firing an accurate shot in detail. I soon learned most of it was forgotten when they stepped up to the firing line because the Scouts had no frame of reference. No matter how sharp my presentation skills may have been the instructions were mere theoretical abstractions to them.
Inevitably I’d end up instructing all over again; something I found endlessly frustrating. I recall feeling angry and resentful; blaming the Scouts for not paying attention. I’d find myself saying things like, “don’t you guys rememebr what I told you?” or, “See! You should have listened to me the first time!”
I had yet to learn a couple of important things about getting through to them.
Ultimately I stopped instructing before the Scouts had their first turn on the firing line. After a quick safety talk I’d demonstrate the proper technique and explain it briefly, then it was their turn to try. I made it my goal to get them actively shooting within minutes of their stepping through the gate at the rifle or archery range.
Naturally few were able to shoot very well at that point, but that wasn’t what I was looking for. What I wanted to do was establish a frame of reference, a foundation to build on, a set of experiences that made further instruction relevant.
Once they had that frame of reference Scouts actually saw the value in things like controlling their breathing, getting a sight picture, following through, and all the other minute steps involved in firing an accurate shot. Talking about all ten steps at once didn’t work anywhere near as well as experiencing how the individual steps worked as they stood or sat on the firing line.
I’d observe and coach each of them individually, and pair them off to observe and coach each other. There wasn’t a whole lot of sitting listening or doing nothing at all.
This worked so well that I tried it with my youth leaders:
READY – A brief (that means minutes) overview and (when appropriate) demonstration modelling the skill.
FIRE – Apply the skill immediately.
AIM – Step back, analyze the result, coach and instruct towards an incremental improvement.
This simple process repeats ad-infinatum.
Scouts attain most skills quickly because they are at an age of incredible plasticity. We must appreciate the importance of hands-on experiential moments in this process, and respond to how rapidly it happens.
Stop training youth leaders and start developing their leadership skills – rapid fire, one-step-at-a-time. Once you see it work you’ll apply the ready-fire-aim approach often.