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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 toughness.

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.