Thursday, August 28, 2014

There Is No Such Thing As An Accident

My sister's youngest daughter was running through the living room and knocked over a margarita glass that was sitting on the floor, which shattered the glass.  My niece looked horrified for a moment, then shrugged and said, "accidents happen".

No they don't!

Accidents don't just happen and we have to get that concept out of our head.  It removes our personal responsibility to utter that phrase, when, in fact, someone is responsible and was negligent - otherwise the so-called "accident" would never have happened.

I tell my students this all the time and I receive blank stares, sometimes even stammers, "but ... but ...".

Let me repeat that: There is no such thing as an accident.

As a society, we have allowed the word "accident" to mean "unintentional". We need to remove "accident" and "accidental" from our vocabularies.

In my real life, I'm a medical instructor.  I teach fledgling youngsters how to become professionals in their field.  One of the classes I teach is phlebotomy, and that's where I hammer this concept home.  The textbooks are notorious for talking about "accidental needle sticks".  There is no such thing.  There are unintentional needle sticks, but there are never any accidental needle sticks.  In fact, every "accidental needle stick" I've ever seen has been a "negligent needle stick".

For example, let's say a phlebotomist is getting ready to draw blood and has the index finger of her non-sticking hand in front of the needle to stabilize the patient's arm.  Let's just say the patient is terrified of getting his blood drawn and flinches away right as the phlebotomist begins to stick.  Instead of the needle going into the patient where it belongs, it is now buried deep into the phlebotomist's own finger.

Was it intentional?

Nope.  Trust me, no phlebotomist on the planet wants to get stuck with a needle. But that doesn't make it an accident just because the phlebotomist didn't intend to stick herself.

Was that an accident?

Nope.  It was negligence, pure and simple.  The phlebotomist was negligent for putting a body part (the index finger) in front of the sharp, pointy object destined for the patient.

Another example:  Five years ago, my youngest son was hit by a car as he was skateboarding.  It was a bad collision that he was lucky to live through.

Did the driver of the car intend to hit him as he was crossing the street?  No.

Did my son intend to get hit by a car as he crossed the street? No.

Was it an accident? No.  It was negligence.

Both my son and the driver were negligent and that caused the collision.  The driver was negligent in that she was speeding in a residential area and not looking for kids in or near the street.  My son was negligent in assuming that he didn't have to look both ways and that a car would (or could) stop for him.  If either one of them had been paying attention, the collision would never have happened.

One more non-gun example: I was a wrangler for years.  I took out trail rides and was responsible for keeping my guests and horses safe at all times.  I took the responsibility very seriously, and to this day I believe that if there is a "wreck" or if a guest falls off, it is the wrangler's fault.  If the saddle slips to the side and the guest falls off, the wrangler was negligent in his or her duty of ensuring safe and properly adjusted tack.  If a horse starts kicking at the horse behind it, the wrangler was negligent: either he didn't watch the spacing between the horses and correct it; or he put the horses together who didn't get along; or he had a known kicker and didn't put the kicker at the back of the line where it couldn't kick anyone else.

Why am I going on and on about non-gun-related things?  Because as shooters and instructors, we are very well aware of the fact that there is no such thing as an "accidental discharge".  Ever.  There is either a "negligent discharge" or a malfunction, but never an accident.

However, we need to change the way we look at "accidents" in our daily lives as well.  We can't practice (and preach) that there is no such thing as an "accidental" discharge, if we don't take responsibility in the other aspects of our lives as well.  By accepting responsibility for the "accidents" in our lives, we can act on that responsibility and in the end, we will all be safer.

Remove the word accident from your vocabulary and you'll be amazed at how differently you begin to look at things.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do Team Sports Make You a Better Defensive Shooter?

This is something I've been thinking about for a while now: would athletes who engage in fast-paced team sports make better defensive shooters? (My definitions of fast-paced does not include baseball or cricket; I'm talking hockey, soccer, rugby.  You know, fast-hard hitting sports.)

My belief is yes, they would be better defensive shooters.

As a general rule, we shooters are a lonely lot.  We might go to the range as a group, and competitions are chock-full of people all carrying guns, but it's really an individual thing we do. (LEOs and military, are the exceptions, as they are taught to shoot as part of a team, but each still has his/her own individual job to do within that team.)

Defensive shooters talk about situational awareness and quick, decisive decision-making ad nauseam.  We talk about disrupting the OODA loop in attackers; we talk about body language and tactics.  All of these things are things that athletes in fast-paced sports do.

Let's look at some of the things athletes and defensive shooters have in common:

Situational awareness: At all times, the athlete must know where his/her teammates are and what they are doing.  They must also know, at all times, where their opponents are and what they are doing. They must be able to anticipate not only what their teammates are planning, but what the opponents are planning.  Is this not exactly what we preach?  Additionally, doesn't it also stand to reason that athletes are able to break free (or should be able to) of tunnel vision?

Quick, decisive decision-making: The athlete, in order to "win", must make split-second decisions based on the opponents' body language.  Is the opponent going to attack or is it a bluff?  These are skills defensive shooters need to hone as well.

Honest assessment of skills:  In addition to the decision-making required, the athlete must make an honest assessment of his skills.  Are his skills equal or better than his opponent's? Has his training been enough?

Being hurt does not mean you're out of the fight:  Athletes play hurt.  In my past life as an athletic trainer, I saw athletes play on injuries that would have the average person laid up in bed.  Just because you took a soccer ball to the face at thirty miles an hour doesn't mean you're not going to complete your play.  I've seen athletes blow out their knees or ankles and still struggle to get back up and re-engage.  As an instructor, I tell my students that just because they're hurt doesn't mean they're beat, which leads us to ...

Fight to the death attitude: It's easy to pick out which sports team is going to lose on TV.  It boils down to one thing: the will to win.  Even if a team is losing, I have a whole lot of respect for them if they continue to fight to the end. The fact of the matter is, sometimes you're going to lose.  It's how you lose that matters. 

From a personal standpoint, even if my situational awareness sucks one day and I'm unable to make quick, decisive decisions, and I'm woefully unprepared, by God, I'm not going down without a fight.  Even if I "lose" and die, I'm not going without a fight to the death.  The bastard who I'm up against won't have an easy time of it, and I'll be sure to gather plenty of DNA evidence against him.

Anecdotally, I can say that when I was playing on five different soccer teams a week, I was at my peak as a shooter.  A great deal of that came from being fit, but the mental aspects played a big part as well.

I know many defensive shooters are deeply involved in all aspects of self-defense, and do a lot of additional training in various areas, most of which are focused on the individual.  Do you think playing team sports has merit with regard training for personal defense?