I want to give you a challenge over the course of your next two competitions. For those of you heading to college in science programs, the exercise will be good preparation. For those of you in other disciplines or who have day jobs, it will be a good problem-solving exercise. And although this article is written for shotgun competitors, other types of athletes can simply change the wording to suit their own discipline.
The challenge is to do your competition preparation in two different ways and compare them. The first way is the way I’ve seen many athletes prepare. The second, as you might be guessing, is the type of preparation I teach my athletes to do. Good luck!
Your Competition, Exhibit A:
In competition A, I want you to chat with your colleagues and coaches, right up to the moment you step onto the range. Maybe you are doing this already, but it is a very simple strategy that will get you performing and shooting in a normal manner.
As you chat, you can do your normal readiness program of putting together your gun and putting on your vest or other apparel and organizing your shells into the correct pouches.
You can discuss strategy with your colleagues and coaches and perhaps even change-up a few technical things so as to incorporate some last-minute ideas of your coach that involve excellence in performance. Humor may be used at this point to lighten things up and talking to opponents can be tried as well, as they may be using different strategies and might let some ideas or secrets slip.
Coaches are permitted to give you all the advice you need, right up to the moment of competition, and can even help you adjust your posture or physiology if you like, as once you are on the range you are on your own.
Watching your opponents warm up or watching them competing ahead of your start time may also be attempted in order to see and copy what they are doing, as there is nothing in the rules that says that copying in competition is wrong.
Finally, mom or dad can be close at hand to give you the “rah, rah” cheer from the bleachers. If they appear a bit nervous to you, all the better, because “they say” that nervousness is a normal part of competition. Keep this approach going right up to the start of your match and get ready to perform. Then start your match and hope for the best. After this competition, take notes so you can compare this competition with the one you will be doing in the next phase.
Your Competition, Exhibit B:
In competition B of this challenge, I want you to talk to your coach before you get to the range and tell him or her three things:
1) Please don’t talk to me before the match,
2) Please don’t give me any new techniques or strategies before the match, and,
3) Please sit on your hands during the match, but stay in the Zone.
Then, at the match, I want you to get to the range an hour or more before the competition and get your gear together. 30 minutes before shooting, find an isolated place where you can get away from others, including your coach, teammates, opponents, parents, siblings, sponsors or officials.
Put ear buds in your ears to clearly indicate to others that you are being antisocial and that they should buzz off. If someone comes up to you, do what you have to do to discourage them from talking and apologize afterward if necessary.
During the 30 minutes before your competition, ramp up your adrenaline and play your competition in your head in a wild and crazy manner where you feel pumped and imagine the targets breaking and imagine yourself on the podium.
During the 30 minutes, look into the distance way past any of your opponents so you don’t see them (although they might think you look a bit intimidating and be bold enough to tell you so).
Constantly move from foot to foot, slightly shifting from side to side as if maintaining your balance on a sailboat. Last, imagine yourself pulverizing (ink-balling) the targets as you move in this manner. Now start your match in this crazy adrenalized feeling and know that you are going to win.
After this competition, take notes so you can compare this competition with the previous one.
After taking the SportExcel Challenge with this exercise, compare your notes and discuss the findings with your coaches and parents and teammates, if you wish. I think the findings will be quite revealing. I believe you’ll understand why my athletes take the second approach. Some coaches will disagree with me as they may feel the need to get right into the competitive fray. My experience says that in clay target sports, in particular, competition is for the athletes and coaches simply need to stay in the Zone for them. However, this particular coaching thread is the fodder for another blog,
After you do the challenge (if you do it), I encourage you to email me your results to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have fun!