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The Mental game of Precision Shooting Competitions, by Jim See

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The Mental game of Precision Shooting Competitions, by Jim See
« on: December 31, 2015, 09:10:30 AM »
 

Jim See

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These are articles I wrote for Team Surgeon FB page in 2015, if you guys like them I can repost more of the topics I covered to this forum.



The Mental Game.

Well I finished up writing my course outline for a PRS train up coarse I will be holding this Friday before the Heat Stroke open. Part of that train up will include the mental game of shooting high pressure matches. One aspect of it has always been a little contentious in my mind and so I thought I would write a brief article on it since it’s been a while since I wrote anything for this page.

I often hear guys on the range complain about a particularly bad stage they had just shot or had shot earlier that day; it dwells with them for a while as they allow frustration to seat itself in their subconscious. Many times you will hear a fellow shooter tell them to “just forget about it and move on” Well how do we learn from a mistake if we forget about it? If in fact we are having an elevation/dope issue or a mechanical issue why would we want to forget about it? That is a correctable problem that needs immediate attention.

I think the better way to approach a bad stage finish is to immediately think about it. Yes contrary to what is widely thought, I walk off the line of a bad stage vent my frustration and then immediately go through a process of dissecting what went wrong, where did it start, and why was I unable to recover. This requires relaxed reflective though, that will allow you to piece together the problem with; you, your equipment, your position, your dope, or your mental state of mind. Once you find the problem area you can address the issue and correct it before you let the avalanche get any more momentum.

The answer could be as easy as admitting; “I rushed that barricade stage and never built a solid position that guaranteed me a 75% hit ratio.” Or “I think I’m running some bad dope and need to come up .1 on everything over 600, up .2 on everything over 800, and up .3 on everything over 1000.” Once you dissect the event, become aware of the problem, and address the problem with a solution, you have then overcome the insecurity of the failure and built confidence in resolving the issue and making a strong charge into a top finish.

Everyone is going to have a bad stage in a match, the difference between the winner and the loser is how they cope with a mid-match stage disaster. Do yourself a favor next time you’re in that situation and create an environment to learn from your mistakes, for if you forget the past you are bound to repeat it.

Positive reinforcement.
What is it and how do you develop it?
Check back next week.
Keep them on the steel, Jim See




A couple weeks ago I talked about mental attitude and evaluating your “bad” stage performance. Today I’m going to review positive mental reinforcement and how I apply it to Precision Rifle Matches.

We all been there at least once, you walk away from a stage with the cheers and congratulations from fellow shooters. For some reason you shot a stage so well you surprised yourself. Well congratulations you were not lucky, you just realized your top potential.

As humans we have remarkable capabilities, gross and fine motor functions combining to produce remarkable achievements in many forms. When we train and practice we are syncing these fine and gross motor skills for the level of performance that we are capable of achieving.

These skills can be retained with limited practice once we have established that muscle memory, just like riding a bike, 20 years off of a bike and your body system will have you back riding in no time.

What we need to understand is the mental aspect of the game is not the same. As humans with emotions that affect us daily, in different ways, we need to build the mental focus that allows us to perform to our top potential. Now I cannot tell you how to do that, but I can tell you how I do it.

First thing I need to start with is confidence in my gear, I have literally shot my rifle 1 or 2 days before a major match, on the road somewhere, after all my ammo was loaded, and walked away thinking “wow that’s not good”. When that happens the best thing I can do is walk away give it half a day and try again. 90% of the time it was me and not the equipment. The time away gives me the ability to think through my gear, relax, and eliminate any mechanical issues. If I can lay back down shoot 15 good shots and hit a few small targets, I immediately tell myself the gear is ready and I believe it.

First stage jitters have always been a problem for me, and they are not easy to correct the morning of the match if you have them. It wasn’t until I started to practice shooting a first stage that I started to get a handle on them. Go to your personal/practice shooting range and rather than going through your normal routine, shoot a stage. If you’re with a friend have him give you a realistic course of fire description, work up your dope and have him time you. You just went cold to a line and shot 5 targets with 2 shots each in 2 minutes. Now you can go to your routine of 100 yard zero or LR dope verification. You’re building the confidence that you can walk to a line as a cold shooter with a cold rifle and perform.

I start on a roll and carry it through the day. Those matches that I shoot a solid first stage on are pure confidence builders. Just like a bad stage that I evaluate, I also evaluate my good stages; was my dope spot on? Or could I add a tenth to the target over 800 yards to better center my hits? Remove as much error as you can from the system even when you are shooting well. The confidence that your elevation calculations are spot on lets you think about the important stuff, like wind and position building.

Visualization is used by every major athlete, lots of times you see boxers and baseball players swinging at air, in their mind there is a ball or a face in front of them. I try to visualize or dry run a stage in my mind before I shoot it. But may-be even more valuable for my confidence is to reinforce mentaIy the actions I took to clean that stage. And it’s much easier to relive something you just did than to make it up in your mind ahead of time. See your position, feel your trigger pull, and watch the targets swing, that can be a huge positive reinforcement and confidence builder.

Look at the positives even under poor circumstances, even the top guys can have a couple bad stages and still pull off a win. At the recent Heat Stroke Open I shot one prairie dog at 310 yards, I then sent the next 9 rounds at a 446 yard prairie dog, by the fourth miss I was wishing he was a real Prairie dog so he would drop in a hole and end my agony. I never did hit that second dog. To say I was a little besides myself was an understatement. After a quick review of what happened, it was out of my mind. Because I believed I shot that stage the very best I could have within the restraints of the COF. I saw the majority of my misses, I corrected every shots wind hold based on impacts I had seen, the switching tail wind ate my lunch and there was not a lot I could do about that in a condition that showed no mirage. I told myself everything I did was correct and moved on. From there I went on to shoot 9/10 and 10/10 on the next two stages.

Use some of these techniques next time your training or at a match, unlike our muscle memory, we need to train our mental conditioning often and in a positive productive manner.

Keep them on the steel!
Jim See


Bio; Jim See currently competes as a Pro in the Precision Rifle Series, having finished the last 4 seasons Ranked in the top 15 Nationally. Jim has worked in the precision bolt action rifle industry since 2008 as owner of Center Shot Rifles, Quality Manager at Surgeon Rifles action division, and currently operates “Elite Accuracy” a Training, Consulting and Manufacturing Business in Decorah Iowa.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2016, 04:29:10 PM by Jim See »
 

Re: The Mental game of Precision Shooting Competitions, by Jim See
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2015, 09:43:53 AM »
 

29aholic

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Very well written. When I used to compete I had the opening round jitters like a MF'er. I would find as secluded place as I could (mainly so people wouldn't hear me talking to myself) and work on my mental state. This was mainly back when I was shooting Olympic Skeet. I would tell myself "You have hit every target on every station a 1000 times, get your head out of your ass." Most days it worked, some days not so much. In the end I hit more than I missed.

I guess the same can be said for rifle in a lot of cases, in that most club matches the target distances and sizes usually don't vary too much.
 

Re: The Mental game of Precision Shooting Competitions, by Jim See
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2015, 12:38:40 PM »
 

Jeff M

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Thanks for this article, Jim.

This is most definitely the biggest issue that I have identified in my game at this point.  I trust my gear.  I have solid gear, solid loads, and I trust my data.  What I don't trust are the mental errors that I've made.

Rather than re-type it all here, if you (or anyone else) would like to read about my last mental breakdown, and how it cost me SIGNIFICANT standings in that match, have a look at the blog article I wrote about it:

http://roadtoprs.com/2015/12/07/deep-creek-outfitters-wall-sd/

It happened to me the weekend after I attended your training in SD.  I did very well with the wind (which we spent a significant amount of time covering in class), and I did pretty well with the barricades, also.  I just need to figure out the mental side now.  I'm considering maybe reading some books on sports psychology, or talking to a sports psychologist, something like that.  I don't know yet.

It is something that I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with.  Since it happened so late in the season, I haven't had much opportunity to do anything with it yet in terms of practical application.

I lucked out at the IA match in that I never really had a disaster stage, so I was able to keep it going.
Every time you make a typo, the errorists win.
 

Re: The Mental game of Precision Shooting Competitions, by Jim See
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2015, 10:02:52 PM »
 

Jim See

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Jeff I read your blog, you shit head! didn't I talk about some of this at the SD training? Well we will cover it next time for sure with more emphasis. I can assure you, what you did was done by every single shooter in the top 50 of the PRS at one time or another. Grab assing with other competitors is one of the single biggest distractions to your mental game. But heck don't feel bad, I left 4 tenths dialed on at a finale stage this year and the next stage we shot in the opposite direction. so basically  was missing my target 1-2 tenths right every other shot. That cost me 3 points and about 5 places.
 

Re: The Mental game of Precision Shooting Competitions, by Jim See
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2015, 10:07:52 PM »
 

Jeff M

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Yeah, we talked about the mental part a little, but apparently I need a more in depth class about it.  Lol

Looking forward to it.  You just name the time and place.

Might be something we can do during the winter, too, since we really don't need a range.  Maybe even via Webex or something?
Every time you make a typo, the errorists win.
 

Re: The Mental game of Precision Shooting Competitions, by Jim See
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2016, 01:03:35 AM »
 

Kanem

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now that's some funny stuff!!!
 

Re: The Mental game of Precision Shooting Competitions, by Jim See
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2016, 07:12:31 PM »
 

Raptor005

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Thanks for the write-up!

I'm going to be like a little kid on Christmas morning when I do my first match - guaranteed to have some major mental errors, and this will definitely help.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2016, 08:15:43 PM by Raptor005 »