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Lessons From the Woods: When Green Tracers Fly

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

The director of the camp I worked at over the summer is a retired Army Ranger, and someone whose wisdom I've come to value deeply. Throughout my time working there, he had a way of using military phrases for describing things or lines of thought. One that stuck out to me was to "never judge a man's decisions when the green tracers are flying."

Now, if you've ever watched a military movie, you might recognize what green tracers are. They're the laser sights on guns that give soldiers a better understanding of where their gun is shooting when visibility is low. When the green tracers are flying, it could be your own or someone else's, and if it's not yours then you're in the line of fire. (At least this is my interpretation of it as I have no military background)

To not judge a man's decisions when the green tracers are flying is to say that you should be careful in criticizing others because you aren't seeing everything from their perspective. You don't see the situation through their eyes or with their knowledge because can't vicariously live through someone in the heat of the moment. Unsurprisingly, I find this to be fitting advice for people in the fitness or strength and conditioning space these days.

How often do we judge what others are doing based on what we see on the internet? There are plenty of training videos that get ripped apart daily when they get retweeted or shared with some critique of the content shown. Now there are some instances where these criticism is warranted, because knowing what is or isn't proper form is so close to common sense that I'm pretty sure my grandma could tell you what it should look like. In this instance, however, I'm thinking of the choices in exercise selection and sets or reps that people argue about.

"If I was coaching this team, I would have them doing _____!"

"What are you thinking?! That exercise is pointless!"

Everyone's got opinions, but no one has the exact same perspective and necessary information to make those claims. There are so many things that go into decisions regarding training for an athlete:

What is their training history?

What equipment do I have available?

What can I coach well?

These things all have to be considered. What if I criticize you for doing straight bar deadlifts with your athletes instead of trap bar deadlifts because the latter is easier to teach, but haven't been to your weight room to realize you don't have trap bars available because you don't have the funding for them at the moment. What happens when you criticize a coach for not using Olympic lifts, but that's not something they're excellent at coaching? Just because YOU would do something doesn't mean someone else should when YOU are the one lacking context.

As a younger coach, it's the one thing I've started to realize I don't like about the industry: people judge others and call people names based on a 10 second clip or a picture. And for what? Our own ego? Put it aside and start owning your coaching without creating turbulence on the internet. Because our job can sometimes feel like we're under fire, and you don't judge a man's decisions when the green tracers are flying.

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