The best training I ever had, and why.

Reflecting on learning after reading a really good blog from Gavin McMahon  led me to think of the best training course I have ever been on, and why it was so good.

It was most of a decade ago – so it passes the memorability test 1000 times over.

The course was called First Aid for Rugby and was delivered at Twickenham stadium one Sunday morning. I was a coach of 7-8 year olds and my club Ealing Trailfinders was dealing with 800 kids every Sunday.

I had done a first aid course before, so wasn’t expecting too much.

Here is how I remember the course. See if you understand why it was so memorable. The trainer I regret I have completely forgotten, let’s call him Tom.

Tom: Good morning.

A child falls to the ground during a match. You go to him and you really don’t think he’s breathing. What do you do?

Us: Listen for breathing.

Tom: Very good!


You think this child may have died. And you are breathing like this…(mimes panicked panting)

And the wind is blowing, and people are shouting, and the blood is crashing in your own ears, so you can’t hear.

What do you do?

Us: Take his pulse.

Tom: Very good!


You think this child may have died. And your hand is doing this… (mimes hands shaking uncontrollably)

So you can’t feel a pulse, and people are shouting, and the wind is blowing, and the blood is crashing in your ears, and time is ticking away….

What do you do? You must know if this child is breathing.

Us: Get a mirror so you can see his breath….

Tom: Very good!


You haven’t got one, and if you did, your hands are shaking so bad and the wind is blowing and you can’t see and you can’t hear you are the first aider and WHAT DO YOU DO?

Us: Oh Lord. Please tell us.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so transported to the real life consequences of something bad.

So what was the learning message that Tom wanted us to take away?

I can sum it up very briefly.

You are not a medic. 6 hours in a conference room doesn’t make you a medic.

Firstly, clear the airway and make all efforts to allow breathing, then put in the recovery position. 

Call for medical help.

A-B-C it is called, Airway, Breathing, Circulation. But Tom was aiming to get us to focus on A and B. It should be noted that we are in London where Ambulance arrival is expected to be quick….

One of the key consequences of this is dealing with the inevitable calls of “Don’t move him!” which Tom said might be right in some circumstances – when it was clear that the subject was breathing – but has led to tragedies in instances where they were not.

So what can I take away from this to help me in my life where we train people to present, to engage, to speak to the media?

Relevance. We work really hard to make anything we do realistic. We make people do what they fear in front of others. We film partly for the value in seeing yourself, but partly to simulate the pressure and the spotlight of being in front of the client. As a rugby coach I am fond of Clive Woodward’s TCUP. Thinking Clearly Under Pressure. If training doesn’t simulate the real situation it isn’t training…

A clear structure. On our course we were taught CPR but it was also made clear this came after we had done the fundamental Airway.

I will never, ever forget what comes first.

A brilliant opening. I was grabbed in 1 minute.

Connection. Tom had us all in his thrall in seconds because he really knew what he was talking about. He connected with us.

What do you think. Is this relevant to training you have had, or deliver? Or was it so powerful because the subject was so powerful.

What do you think?