Saturday, May 26, 2012


By Mark vonAppen

Shooters understand how much sweat and study goes into achieving an elite level of performance.  A shooter relishes the notion that they are prepared come what might, inviting each challenge, constantly preparing for the next contest.  Theirs is a game within the game.  For the shooter, the game is vigilance and preparation.  They want the ball when the game is on the line.  Shooters are always ready.

Who among you are the shooters?

A lot of firefighters consider themselves to be shooters and want to prove it at every opportunity.  They are the ones that the leader has to watch out for, big talkers who can free-lance themselves into a lot of trouble.  A shooter knows intuitively when it is time to step up and lead and when it is time to pass the ball to somebody else. 

Shooters often toil in anonymity; lost in thought, buried in study, and slick with sweat.  Their proof - truth - is provided by performance, not in vaulting speculation.  Top performers know that there is no substitute for hard work and dedication to the craft.  They know that no one can simply show up on game day and hope to succeed without first laying a solid foundation through hours of study and muscle burning travails.  Shooters never stop working the craft because they need to be the one who takes the shot with everything on the line.  At their core, shooters are team players.

Shooters often toil in anonymity; lost in thought, buried in study, and slick with sweat. For every success in the field of play - or on the fireground - there are hours worth of failures in practice.

Its not always easy to figure out who your shooters will be based upon limited action.  On the fireground the leader hopes that the shooters will bring the level the role players up so that when the time comes they will be ready to take their shot.  Everyone must be ready to take the shot - or the tool - because the play could come to anyone at anytime. 

How do you develop your role players to step up and take the shot when they need to? 

The leader must demonstrate that they have confidence in everyone, not just the top performers.  If a crew member makes a mistake in training they must be given the opportunity to redeem themselves quickly in order to build their confidence.

Training situations must replicate what the crew is going to face.  Train to specific situations make sure all participants know their role in any given situation.  Stressful situations must be trained for; everyone has to have the opportunity take reps - and remain engaged by taking mental reps while others perform the skill - so that they have confidence to step into any role and they're not afraid to take the shot when called to do so.  Each person must know their part in the scheme and their spot in the order.  They must understand their responsibility and how it relates to other evolutions - so that chemistry and fireground flow is maintained.  Chemistry is a funny thing that is hard to find and is even harder to create.  When the right chemistry exists magic happens. 

Leadership involves getting every member to believe in you and more importantly, in one another.  A source of ballast comes from pulling together with others to accomplish a goal.  In training and on the fireground you can sense who the shooters are.  A good leader knows who they are, the brothers and sisters who innately understand and thrive in the complexity of the fireground.  The job of the leader is to put everyone in a position to be their most successful, and to get the most production out of them.  

Some shooters are born, most others are made. Born shooters are few and far between.  A shooter, whether born or made, makes the shot in the game because they missed thousands in practice, painstakingly analyzing their every movement, eliminating wasted motion, and maximizing performance.  Shooters are made of hard, lonely work.  For every success in the field of play - or on the fireground - there are hours worth of failures in practice.  Great performances are the result of working your ass off and never giving up. Top performers know that there is no better test of their resolve than adversity.  

Shooters know that there is no shortcut to being the best, their religion is the craft.  In their church they don't pray for easy lives.  They are pilgrims who pray to become better performers and surpass even their own lofty standards.


  1. "For every success in the field of play - or on the fireground - there are hours worth of failures in practice." I LOVE IT! Amen brother! You hit on so much in this post.
    The analogy is perfect. The greats know when the time is right to take the shot, sometimes they know when to wait, sometimes they just know the time is right. Is it the shooter that is great or the shot that they take? It is the shooter because they have practiced that shot till greatness...

    Keep up the solid work!

  2. Thanks for stoking the fire within us brother.

  3. Great piece brother !! So applicable to our profession.

    Lt. Rob Fisher - L72
    Snohomish County Fire
    Snohomish, WA