Training with purpose

Over the years I have heard many shooters lament over their lack of improvement. The years go by and they always seem to perform at about the same level – the occasional high spot or good performance counterbalanced by a lower than average result, often in the next competition, with most results falling in the same range.

Whilst many are content to shoot for the enjoyment of it, and are quite happy to live with the aforementioned scenario, there are those who desire more success from their sport. Although not everyone can afford the time to train the same amount as some of our aspiring Olympians, there is still an enormous amount of improvement which can be made by simply adding a little more focus to your weekly night at the range.

To assist in doing this, you need to conduct a “Status Review” of your current shooting performance.  This can be done quite simply by answering the following questions:

  1. What was my best performance in each type of event in which I competed in the last 12 months (eg. 20m, 50m – 60 shots; 50m – 20 shots; etc.)? What was my average performance level in the same events?
  2. What aspects or areas of my shooting performance am I reasonably happy with (eg. hold, position, stamina, etc.)
  3. What 3 aspects or areas of my shooting performance would I most like to improve? Try to be specific eg. improve my trigger release; improve my ability to manage my nervousness at the start of competitions, maintain a consistent level of concentration throughout my matches when firing shots.
  4. What performance levels in each of the events listed in Question 1 would I like to be at in 12 months time? Identify a goal for your average performance level and best performance level – be realistic.

Doing this establishes you know four key things – what your current performance level is; what performance aspects you are happy with and need to maintain; what you need to spend time on your shooting nights working on improving and where you want to be one year from now. So now when you go to your club on your shooting night, you have a purpose for your shooting – an area in which you wish to improve. Your focus is not just on what score you shot and did you beat your clubmate, but also on did you achieve any improvement on the area of focus for that night/week/month.

In each of the areas you identified you wanted to improve you now must identify how you are going to gain this improvement. You can do this by discussing these areas with an experienced shooter from your club or at a competition, calling one of your state’s coaches, calling one of the national coaches, or by referring to one of the many books on shooting sports. If you don’t have access to any of the just try thinking about it yourself and trying some different tactics each time you shoot at your club (don’t forget to write down what you try in your diary). 

Gaining improvement in technical areas such as trigger technique may be quite readily done by live or dry firing whilst focussing on that particular part of the shot release process. Improvement can be hastened by practicing with a friend and asking them to watch your technique and assess the performance. Other not so technical areas like concentration or nervousness, are not so easily addressed, and often require much trial and error before a solution is captured.

For example let’s say you want to improve your concentration level as you find that stray thoughts come into your head while you are in the process of firing your shot. You might set up a cue sequence of words, which you run through in your head each time that you fire a shot eg. breathe, relax, target, centre, trigger, ten, picture, follow-through. You choose to allow other thoughts to enter your head at other times during the shoot, but when you start your cue sequence no stray thought is allowed. If a stray thought comes into your mind you stop your sequence, take a couple of breaths to refocus and then recommence. You practice this every time you shoot – not just in competitions, and reassess after a period of time, say 6 weeks, and see if you have a measurable improvement in your scores, or in how well you feel you concentrate. If the cue sequence does not work for you, then an alternative solution may be to fire your match in strings of 6 or 7 shots, and take a conscious break between each string to give your mind a rest. Again a 6-week or more trial period must ensue to assess the benefits, and if unsuccessful an alternative method sought.

When you get the desired improvement in the area of shooting chosen, select a new area for improvement. Consideration should be given to the frequency at which you conduct your Status Review. If rapid improvement is achieved, a six or four monthly review might be warranted.

Initially, you may find that although you feel that you are improving on the areas of performance you selected in question 3, the results are not being translated into higher scores. It is important not to become disheartened by this apparent lack of success, as significant improvement is generally not achieved overnight, particularly for shooters achieving scores over 190 at 50m. Perseverance is required to gain each additional score point which is achieved through perfect practice and commitment to improvement in the areas identified.

© Kim Frazer, 2001