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Trainer Says
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 04/18/2016

Rule book

The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

A big part of how order and safety are maintained in our facilities is through staff’s ability to deliver clear and concise instructions. Do we always understand this? Are we sometimes derailed by ambiguous statements? Are we thwarted by the nebulous expectations of others?

The way to check this may be through a child’s game with which we are all familiar. The game is Simon Says. However, we borrow this classic and institutionalize it and call it Trainer Says.

Start by offering a prize. This can be based on your budget, sense of humor or inclinations. Often, “The Box of Dubious Prizes,” a collection of cheap gag gifts, is a good place for the winner to select the award for top finisher. Also, chocolate or candy may work. The trainer can decide this. The point is to give the participants an incentive to play a child’s game.

Solicit six volunteers or select the same number from your audience. The rest of the participants can serve as observers. If the class seems to be familiar with one another, have a quick vote on who should be the back up judge. This person can help the trainer make the difficult calls when there is doubt.

The rules are simple. Players will follow any order issued by the trainer, but only if the words “Trainer says” precedes the order. If, for example, the facilitator says, “Touch your nose,” the player should not obey. This is because there was no mention of “Trainer says.”

A player can be dismissed from playing in one of two manners:
  1. Obeying an order that is not preceded by “Trainer says.”
  2. Disobeying an order that is preceded by “Trainer says.”
Here are some guidelines:
  • Use reasonable orders that can be executed. Think of what would mirror the corrections workplace.
  • Silly or impossible orders shall not be given. An example of this is “Trainer says, walk on your hands for five hours.”
  • Orders should not be given for the purpose of heaping embarrassment on a player. This philosophy also mirrors the ideal in the corrections work place. For example, it is wrong to issue this order, “Trainer says, kiss the person on your right on the cheek.”
  • Mildly embarrassing orders can be issued at the discretion of the trainer. For example, this could be a valid order for the scope of this exercise, “Trainer says, sing your name loudly.”
  • A good example of a straight forward order is, “Trainer says, give me your identification card now.”
  • It is a good idea to start the orders slowly and to increase speed.
  • An effective way to illustrate how difficult this can be is to mix up valid orders with and without “Trainer says”
  • Sometimes a non-verbal order can throw players. A purist would insist that offering your hand to shake is an order. If the player does this without a “Trainer says”, then that player could be ruled out.
  • The art of giving instruction sometimes presents us with challenges. But by honing our skills we learn how to speak clearer and more effectively.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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