Focus on scores?

We all focus a lot on the scores we get. It’s natural to do this. Our family or friends reinforce this by asking “what did you get at training?” when we get home. Scoring targets is a great way of measuring how we are going and whether we are improving. However there are times when looking at the score we have achieved after a training session is the wrong thing to do. Let’s look at when this focus on scores might be detrimental to our overall performance.

You may have heard of the concept of comfort zones. For those who haven’t, a comfort zone is the score level that we feel comfortable shooting. The theory is that when we start to score above our comfort zone score range, our anxiety level goes up & we sometimes shoot one or more poor shots to bring us back to our comfort zone. Similarly, when we are below our comfort zone, we sometimes lift our performance by shooting several good shots together to bring us back to our comfort zone. 

A couple of examples to illustrate:

Shooter 1 has a comfort zone in air rifle for 10 shots of 94 to 97. Imagine a series where Shooter 1 starts with 6 x 10’s. They are getting pretty close to their comfort zone limit and the pressure they feel will be increasing as they start to think about achieving the top of their current standard. So consider if their next shot is also a 10, what do you think happens with the last 3 shots? Perhaps 3 x 9 or more likely 1 x 8; 1x 9 & 1x 10. How many times have you done this?

Shooter 2 has the same comfort zone. Imagine a series where they start with 3 x 9. What do you think happens with the rest of the series? I bet they get higher than their 94 score comfort zone. Probably something like 10 10 10 9 10 9 10.

Shooters have many different kinds of training exercises to do. Some of these are focussed on specific skills and some are focussed on achieving a result.  When we are focussed on achieving a result (e.g. shooting a control match; most 10’s; number of shots required to get a certain number of 10’s and so on), we want to add up our score and see what we got. In these exercises looking at the score is the right thing to do. It helps tell us whether all the other training we are doing is working.

When we do an exercise focussed on a specific skill, we are trying to train that aspect of our skill. It might be we are working on watching our recoil, practicing trigger control, working on our hold and so on. In these exercises, I think that adding up the score we got at the end is the wrong measure. For these you are not necessarily trying to shoot a 10, although this may certainly be the outcome. You are trying to perfect the skill element. As such you might sometimes get the skill element right, but not get a 10 because your area of focus is on training yourself to do that particular skill well until the ‘skill’ is automatic. Hence if you score these exercises, you risk affecting your performance. How come? Because scoring these exercises which might have lower scores than you normally get could make your comfort zone worse. More importantly, you may start to worry about the score you are getting, rather than the skill you are practicing. Comfort zones are really hard to break once they become entrenched in your mind & that’s why it is really important that we don’t inadvertently create a “wrong” comfort zone through counting scores when we shouldn’t.

So for all the exercises where you are practicing a skill – I recommend you don’t score the result. Shoot 10 shots in the one target & don’t bring it back & look at it. Turn the screen away if you are shooting on electronics & leave the target set on sighters. The score is not important. Practicing the skill properly is important. Scoring how well you did the skill on each shot is important. If you really have to give yourself a score, then rate each shot out of 10 on how well you did the skill drill & add that up. See if you can get 9 out of 10 or better on every shot. Then the next time you do that skill training, try and beat the rating score you got the last time.

© Kim Frazer, April 2011