Lanny Bassham is an Olympic Coach and an Olympic Gold Medalist. He is a member of the Olympic Shooting Hall of Fame, ranks third among all shooters in total international medal count for the USA and one of the most respected mental trainers in the world. His book With Winning in Mind and his Mental Management® concepts are used and endorsed by Olympian and World Champion shooters. You can reach him at 1-800-879-5079 or at www.mentalmanagement.com
Evaluating Your Shots
I believe that everything we attempt has three phases; an anticipation phase (Preparing to do something), an action phase (Doing it) and a reinforcement phase (What you think about just after doing it). Today we are going to visit the reinforcement phase a bit. This phase begins when the shot execution ends. It’s what you think about after you shoot a pair or a single.
The reinforcement phase should have three distinct parts; Evaluation, Rehearsal with Correction and Letting it Go. We are going to look at part one in detail and introduce parts two and three and leave them for a future article. Part one is the evaluation. It is human nature to evaluate everything we do immediately after we do it. The key is how you accomplish this evaluation process. Let’s say you are training and working on a presentation that has given you trouble. You have plenty of time to think about the single or pair you have just attempted. You are in the reinforcement phase of the task of shooting this presentation. We suggest that you place the shot you have just made into only one of three categories; GREAT, OK or NEEDS WORK. There is no terrible category or I’m going-to-slit-my-wrist over that one category. The worst is NEEDS WORK and that’s it. If you hit both of them hard that’s GREAT. If both broke but no smoke then it is just OK and if you missed then NEEDS WORK is the category that it goes into. This sounds elementary right? Many shooters tend to give misses way too much imprinting on their self-image when they miss targets and that is the problem. There is no “I am going to beat myself up over that one.” category.
Remember we are still in training at this point and we have an opportunity to evaluate the NEEDS WORK shots. This is the best time to work out any inconsistencies in your form. I want to caution you however not to spend one second longer in thought about missed targets than is required to determine a solution to the non-hit as this creates an imprint on your self-image that you must overcome at some point. When you are in a training mode you have all the time you need to analyze shots, figure out what you did wrong and make correction on the next pair. So, shooters get into the habit of over-analyzing in training. This gets you into trouble in the tournament where you do not have anywhere as much time for analysis and this causes you to over-think your shot into a miss. So what should you do?
First, divide your training into two parts. In the first part spend all the time your little heart desires on analysis. Get it figured out and shoot it until you have the grove down. Then transition into training like you will shoot in the competition. Step out of the box and implement your entire pre-shot routine just like you would do in a competition and only shoot 4 or 5 pairs of targets. Next, step off of the station and rewind what you have just done in your mind correcting any flaws you might have experienced then run the process several more times. Notice the timing. There is a rhythm to good competition technique and this timing is just as critical to high scores as lead and placement. This presentation is now in your target library and you can move on to another shot to master.
Now, when you go to the competition, keep the move, the lead and the timing the same as you’ve used in the second part of the training session. Do not over analyze the shots or slow down or speed up your timing. Most of the time you know why you are not hitting targets after a miss and you can easily correct the error. A word of caution here, there is a tendency for shooters to become paralyzed by analysis in competitions. The chance for this to occur goes way up on targets that are missed with you not knowing why you have missed them. If you are in doubt and just do not know what to do I offer you two choices and a recommendation. Choice one: Change something. There is nothing worse than two lost targets back-to-back doing the exact same thing. If you do not know what to change then make certain you are seeing the target well. Proper focus on the bird fixes a lot of error without your having to know what you were doing wrong. Choice two: Stop worrying about what you might have done wrong and center your thoughts on the best way to hit it. Get your mind on solutions and away from the fact that you were not successful on the previous attempt. Now the recommendation: Learn from your mistakes but do not reinforce them by beating yourself up for having made them. I have never had a client tell me that beating themselves up did anything to aid them in hitting targets in the future. There is reward in self-analysis but not in self-annihilation.
I also suggest that you get into the habit of reinforcing the shots you have just attempted. That is part two of the reinforcement phase. To reinforce properly you must rehearse the shots with correction. If the pair was GREAT we duplicate the action, no correction is required. If however, a shot was just good or NEEDS WORK then we should attempt to rehearse what would make the shot GREAT. We become solution oriented and the self image gets a positive imprint on all actions immediately after the evaluation. No negative reinforcement or beating yourself up is possible if you are doing this correctly.
Finally, I suggest that you let it go. This is part three of the reinforcement phase. It is time to bring closure to the station and move on to the next one. If you do not let this station go you may have a difficult time with the anticipation phase of the next station. If you are still thinking about your poor previous performance, you may find yourself over-trying on your next attempt. This error is compounded over time if it is repeated and you may evolve from a bump in the road to a full-blown train-wreck kind of day.
So, evaluation is a critical and important part of shooting well. Make certain that you are controlling this part of your mental game and not becoming paralyzed by it.
Interested in learning more about how Mental Management can help with your mental preparation for Sporting Clays or any other sport? Call 800-879-5079 or 972-899-9640 or visit us online at www.mentalmanagement.com