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SKBC Notes: Train the Trainer, Part I
[05/12/2004] [Michael]

[Exercise: Get everyone’s name and home park, and a brief explanation of their expectations from the class.]

Class Introduction

Training is a matter of confidence versus egotism. If you are not confident and generally correct, trainees will not trust you or your message. If you are an egomaniac who trains more for yourself than your trainees, then you will loose many of them. The class was broken into three parts to train different levels of fighters. The first stage we taught about was first contact newbies -that is, players who have been in less than six weeks. The second stage is newbies who have committed to Amtgard and like the game but are still pretty new. The final stage is about training those who are average to good and looking to get serious. The class material is focused on the first two sections because there is more need for good training to go to newbies. Also this matched the desire of the class present.

First Contact.

[First contact exercise. Have the students approach each other as never played newbies and fight for about 5 minutes.]

After the exercise, I broke down some central ideas about getting new players into Amtgard. Getting them on the field playing with everyone is a high priority. Most students recognized this. A little training on the side and then get them in the game. Often you don’t want to show them more than the basics of how safe a weapon is and how the hit locations work. Playing with everyone is often what the new player wants. Getting into the full combat allows a new player to fully engage in the fantasy of what Amtgard is about. While newbies will certainly show all kinds of bad habits, it is more important to get them into Amtgard than to start drilling them out of every habit on the first day. Even when you have gotten them on the field don’t forget about them. The attention you pay to them makes them feel wanted and for any person they are more likely to return to a place they feel wanted. However keeping them separated from the group for too long will make them feel apart from the group.

If multiple new players come in together they will inevitably want to fight each other. While this is a great way for them to try something new without going very far outside their comfort level, it doesn’t help get them into the whole of Amtgard as much as fighting Amtgarders. Also they are quickly developing poor shot calling and hard hitting where they would self govern to match a more experienced opponent. You should probably get them to fight each other some then step in and train each one a little. Again you want to get them on the ditch field. Putting them on the field next to each other usually works best. The can talk and laugh together when dead and cooperate when alive. As with a single newbie you should keep an eye on them and talk to then here and there.

Train for the trainee not for your own ego. This comes back to confidence versus egotism. Take notice if the student is getting anything from you or not and change your style to match. Some newbies will thank you for fighting a little slower against them so that they can learn specifics before they learn to see the speed we use. Other newbies will be frankly insulted by this approach. Paying close attention to how the new player reacts and making sure you teach the way he or she is most interested in is essential. A similar break down exists between newbies who want to talk a lot and those who pretty much just want to fight. Talking too much to someone who just wants to play results in boredom while not talking to someone who expects it makes them feel unwanted.

Another important topic to bring up before sending a new player out onto the field is sluffing, honor and the unwritten rules. This subject is an uncomfortable one but it that must be dealt with or newbies will be lost when experienced players yell at them. You should take care to bring this up in a positive way. Talk about sluffing as something that happens on the battlefield and forewarn the new player that some people get stupid about it and might yell. Do not address sluffing as something the newbie might do. It is offensive and also makes some players way too tentative. Other than sluffing, there are some other things that piss off some players. Backstabbing and lurking are two such examples. In other parks there are others but those two are the biggest. As and example the new player should be told that while backstabbing is legal that some people consider it dishonorable and might get stupid about it. If your park is pretty much cool with backstabbing then you can skip this discussion. The shot-in-motion versus atomic clock debate is very much better left till later. Teach the rules played by in your park and then let the rest wait till it is important.

The final issue to deal with before you can get your new player onto the field is weapon choices. In general if a newbie has a preference you should listen to that and try to help them out. If they can do what they want they will likely enjoy the game more. One noted exception to this is single sword. Many new players will want to fight single. It is only one thing to think about and they feel like if they put both hands on it they have more control. In general you should try to talk them out of it by pointing out that single against experienced opponents with multiple weapons is bad news. You may or may not inconvince them but you should try. Excluding single, the main Amtgard styles are sword and shield and Florentine. If you newbies want to try shield let them. If no strong preference is shown lead them to Florentine. Florentine is a little better to learn with than shield because it has a somewhat less steep learning curve and it allows more random success, which can be gratifying for a new player. Sometimes newbies want to start off with spear, pole arms or other long weapons. This should be strongly discouraged for three reasons. First, pole is a skill that doesn’t translate to any other Amtgard weapon. Second, pole is easy to get kills with and the newbie gets a false sense of skill, which can easily translate to discouragement later. Third, pole-arms are necessarily targets in our game and new players don’t deserve to be targets. Newbies should avoid flail for exactly the same reasons. Your most excited second-and-third-week new players will often make their own weapons. At this stage it is best to keep that enthusiasm going by training them on their own weapon to some extent. If the make really weird stuff like Bat’lehs, staves, or nunchaku, then it is better to let them play a little then explain the ways in which the Amtgard safety standards cut into those elements that make these weapons work in real life.

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