COVID-19 has pretty much put a damper on any type of sports competitions right now, including the shooting sports. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep preparing yourself for when the competition season does open up again. There are still many other ways to get ready and construct a comprehensive training program off the field.
I was lucky enough to live in Colorado Springs during my 15 years on the U.S.A. Shooting Team which allowed me to train at the Olympic Training Center. Though I had access to one of the finest shooting ranges in the country, we spent as much time training off the field as we did shooting actual targets on the range.
I’m a big believer in mental training and it’s times like these when you can really work on your mental game. Becoming a champion isn’t easy and we were taught there are four key elements to help you achieve the goal of being a champion; Mental Discipline; Self Control; Dedication and finally Confidence. Each one is equally important and each one requires a little more explanation than I have room for on this blog.
Mental training is not a quick fix or universal remedy to cure ‘all your shooting woes’, but it can put you on the road to success sooner than later. When people think about mental training, they think mediation or breathing exercises. Yes, that’s a part of it, but there’s a bit more to it. If you find that your mind wanders during the round or you’re counting targets or you can’t let go of a missed target, it’s time to start working on your mental game. The mind is as or more important than the actual physical and technical side of the game. When you step on to that field, everyone is fundamentally equal. It’s who’s stronger mentally that will win the day.
Self Control isn’t learned over night, but it is reachable. My coach once told me, “when I look at you shooting, I don’t want to be able to tell if you hit or missed the target or if you’re running a straight. No matter what happens, you need to be in control of your emotions and your performance.” It took me a long time to achieve that, but I finally did and at the Olympic Festival, where I won my first gold medal, I didn’t even know I had won till I shot my last shot and people started cheering.
When you miss a target, are you throwing that empty hull or doing a head shake and shrugging your shoulders, so everyone knows you missed a target? That’s losing control. Now, I know all you hear is you need to get that under control and force yourself to remain calm during those stressful moments. Well, there’s a new approach in sports psychology that suggests the answer is actually in relinquishing control. What???
As the pressure to perform increases, you start to feel more stressed. The key is to acknowledge it, accept it and be mindful of it. You know it’s going to happen, so learn to observe it without judgement and without reaction.
Dedication speaks for itself. I’ve always believed that anyone who chooses to win, can. It’s just a matter of how hard they want to work at it. Dedication doesn’t mean giving up other things so you can shoot. Dedication mean shooting no matter what. I shot in snow, rain, wind, sleet and even hail. I remember seeing the little chunks of ice bouncing off the rib, but I kept shooting. I would wait and welcome bad weather, because if I could shoot in the worst conditions possible, I could shoot and win in any conditions. That’s dedication.
I always tell students there’s a fine line between cocky and confident. Confidence is what will take you to the winners circle. Cocky will bite you in the …… Be confident enough so that you don’t have to be cocky. All the practice, the training, the hard work is what makes you confident. Confident in your own ability and confident knowing you’ve trained and have done what it takes. You’re confident to know you’ll win and if you believe it, so will everyone else.
In world class competition, they say 80% of it is mental, 10% skill and 10% is luck. I never liked those percentages, so changed them and it worked for me. Now all you have to do is find what works for you.
If you’d like to talk a little more about mental training for Competition Shooting, email me at email@example.com with "Attn: Shari" in the subject line and I’ll be happy to continue the discussion. Good luck and good shooting and stay safe in these crazy times.
by Shari LeGate