Earning The Coin

In my opinion, and that of countless others, ASP provides the gold standard in collapsable batons, handcuffs, and flashlights for the law enforcement community. Along with it, they provide some very comprehensive and challenging training to ensure their line of equipment is deployed correctly, effectively and safely.

And that’s where the coin comes in.

This week I spent three days in northern Florida earning my ASP Instructor Certification. I grossly underestimated how rigorous the training course would be and equally overestimated my ability to navigate it. The course was offered exclusively to Law Enforcement, but I was permitted to attend due to my ten-plus years of service as a Police Officer and SWAT team member. There were twenty-seven other men and women in my class, some of the very best in the country, hand-picked by their agencies to become instructors. Two specimens led the course, and I swear they are men carved from granite. They are leaders and the kind of men that all men should aspire to be. Highly principled, professional, extremely capable, incredibly strong both mentally and physically, yet kind, compassionate, and deeply inspiring.

From the moment I took my chair on day one, I knew this place would challenge me and make me better, and I was right. Within the first two hours, I had concerns about whether I could make the full three days and complete the course. But there was no way I was about to fail and let Ana, my children, these two incredible instructors, and my fellow students down. I made the decision then and there that I wasn’t going to quit and I would leave nothing in reserve.

I lost over seven pounds in those three days. My body ached from head to toe. Had I not soaked in an Epsom salt bath each night and loaded up on water and plenty of good quality calories, I may not have made it. I had trained very hard to prepare for this but being in good shape wasn’t enough to put forth a maximum effort for the full three-day course. The days started at 8am sharp and wrapped up at 5pm and we were expected to give a full effort the entire time. We were tested on our commitment, work ethic, and energy as well as our ability to teach effectively and execute the skills with precision. The passing grade on the written exam was 90% and it was made clear that there would be no exceptions. Being 62 and the oldest person there wasn’t getting me a free pass. I had to make the grade like everyone else.

That is the standard for the ASP Instructor course, and it is upheld with pride by the trainers who administer it. Their motto is “protecting those who protect,” and the trainers hold nothing back, ensuring we, as instructors are capable of delivering on that motto.

If you successfully complete the course requirements, you earn your instructor’s patch and pin, but the most prestigious award is the ASP Instructors challenge coin. It’s proof that you earned your title the hard way. Instructors show their coin to other instructors, and if you are caught without your coin when challenged to present it, the drinks are on you. We take the challenge very seriously.

I carry mine with pride, and it hasn’t been further than an arms reach since those granite-made men handed it to me then shook my hand. It will always remind me of those moments when I wanted so badly for the burning in my lungs and muscles to stop and wanted to give even slightly less than 100% of what I had to give, but didn’t. Instead, I did my very best to honor what that coin represents.

There is value in doing what you think you can’t. Value in doing what others say you are too old to do, and value in doing what others think is ridiculous just because it’s beyond what they believe their own capabilities are.

I came home walking a little taller, speaking softer but with resolution, and ready for whatever comes my way.

Doing the hardest of things to the best of your ability, and refusing to quit, will teach you what you are truly capable of. It will show you where your limits aren’t. You will discover the very best of yourself and life as a man should live it, will get lived.

Your truth will always be found when walking the hardest paths.

Visit the ASP website

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