Mental Training > Eye on the Rock

“Eye on the rock, head on the stock.”

—wise saying

I started out as a competitive pistol shooter before I decided to dip my toe into shooting clay targets with a shotgun. I hunted most of my life, usually with a shotgun, but when I tried to shoot moving targets, I initially tried to shoot them the way I shot a pistol.

Mental Training > Let Me Repeat That

“Practice makes Perfect.”

—Ben Franklin

I am writing this in mid-April in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I have a lot of time on my hands being stuck at home. I’m not able to go to the YMCA (where I usually meet my friend Dave) and our local gun club is closed due to being “non-essential”, so I have to figure out what to do about my shooting.

There is some respite. I just started out working as a physician for the local VA clinic. This gives me some time away from home, but that is only for a few hours a week. I still needed to shoot.

The way I decided to deal with the problem was to go back to the basics. In the most basic way.

Mental Training > Trust Your Gut

“I've never gone wrong trusting my gut.”
—Dwayne Johnson

Do you remember in high school when you took those multiple choice tests and managed to eliminate two of the four answers and then picked the one that sounded best to you? And then you changed your mind only to find the first one was the right answer? Even though your teachers all said to go with the first thing that came to your mind?

Mental Training > Fight Versus Flight

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Pogo creator Walt Kelly

My younger son, Roy, lives in Texas with his family. Those of you from Texas know there are only two seasons there, Football and Spring Football, and anything in between doesn’t count unless you win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Right now my sports intake on TV seems to be in that gray area of in-between. As a result, I have been watching a lot of basketball and golf.

Mental Training > Getting Into The Zone

Recently I had a friend, a musician, who asked me how he could reach “The Zone” on a regular basis. If you have ever had this experience, you know The Zone is a real thing, an altered state in which everything seems to go on automatic. You are more or less an observer of the action, and there is a feeling of calm not normally felt. You are totally focused on the task, and things seem perfect.

Mental Training > Match Pressure

“I’ve failed over and over again and that’s why I succeed.”
—Michael Jordan

These days I go to the YMCA on a regular basis — I’m not getting any younger — and I notice there seems to be a perpetual basketball game which involves the same 30-something-year-old participants who clearly are either college-level players or high school stars. I mention these players because I noticed one thing about them: they seemed to be stuck at their ability levels, and the games were very predictable, at least as far as each player goes.

Mental Training, The Eyes Have It

What you see is what you get.”
—Old Saying

The vast majority of competition shooters are, well, old. By old, I mean 40 or older, and this is important because one of the problems that occurs at this time in our lives is that our vision starts to fade.

Mental Training > Prospective Hindsight

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

—Robert Burns

While doing research for a book I am writing, I came across a number of papers that studied how people prepare for projects or develop business plans. There were a lot of good ideas offered, but one of the most interesting things I found out is a lot of businesses are failures in spite of good plans and good execution of those plans.

Mental Training - Deliberate Practice, Deliberate Play

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Karl Marx (among a whole host of others)

Recently I spoke to a high school shotgun team and their parents about the value of mental training. During that speech I mentioned practice should not be fun because it is supposed to be hard work. I used the example I mention a lot in this column, that shooting a round of skeet is not practice unless you are trying to learn how to shoot a round of skeet.

Mental Training > Pre-Shot Rituals

If you have been competing for any time, you probably have a pre-shot ritual. For most shooters, it consists of lining up your feet, choosing the start and end point for the shot, visualizing the path of the target, making a pass along the line of flight with an unloaded gun, loading and taking a deep breath just before calling for the shot — just like your coach taught you.

Mental Training > Visualization

“I never hit a shot, even in practice, without having a sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.” —Jack Nicklaus

We all know competition shooting consists of the good, the bad and the ugly. And, if you are having one of those days in which everything seems to go wrong, the good is not very obvious. Match stress messes everything up, and it will do it every time if we don’t prepare for it. But even if we do, there is the potential for disaster.