The Mental Aspect of Competitive Shooting
Like most sports, the game of action shooting has an
incredible mental element. At the
highest end of the game the difference in pure skillset is very close, but
often what separates the winner on the day is the mental strategy and
There have been many books written on the subject and
experts have applied these principles to world class athletes for many
years. It does however, remain the most
undertrained and least focused part for most shooters. These reason for this is pretty clear, it is
not intuitive to apply training in this area.
Let’s start with what is the ideal state. The ideal state, to summarize what I have
gathered, is maintain a consistent high level of mental focus and sharpness
throughout the highs and lows that occur in a match. In the 3Gun world, this means you need to
stay mentally on point for all 8+ stages spread across 2 or 3 days. Now keep in mind, this doesn’t mean
ultra-focus for 3 days straight, that is not the objective nor is a realistic
goal. The idea is to be at the mental
peak leading up to and through a run at a stage.
How do we get there?
The answer to this will vary for many people as we all have
different skills and perspectives. The
short and generic answer is a repeatable preparation process at key moment
leading up to that buzzer going off.
This includes gear being squared away, visualization of the actions you
are about to take, positive visualization of success and mentally dwelling on
what the desired outcome of the actions are.
Basically, we want to see the stage unfold in our mind before we even
take any physical action.
What gets in the way?
There are several mental road blocks that cause performance
limitations. There 3 mental road blocks
that seem to be the issue for most competitive shooters. Expectations of outcome, Focusing on
negativity and lack of preparation.
Expectation of outcomes is pressure put on the shooter to attain a
result. Being focused on the result of
the match or event as opposed to being focused on the execution of the process
is a significant distraction. If you are
mentally in the moment then you will not be at your best when it is time to
perform. Focusing on negativity or
dwelling on what has gone wrong is also very common. Many shooters walk around between stages or
between days on the range obsessing over what went wrong. This hyper focus on negative performance does
nothing to increase the performance on the next stage. Thirdly, many shooters do not adequately
prepare. It is very difficult to be at
your best when gear is not ready or have a poor understanding of the what is
expected on the stage. Have a solid plan and being ready has a mentally calming
effect that helps when it is time to shoot.
This information is high level summary of vast amounts of
material available on this topic. It is
very important and often overlooked.