A. PURPOSE: The purpose of this chapter is to acquaint you with the need for and the
method of controlling your mental and emotional processes and extending your span of mental
concentration while under conditions of competitive stress.
B. GENERAL: Mental discipline is the broad term used in describing the shooter's actions
and reactions when facing competitive pressure. A distinguishing feature of successful
competitive shooting is that it is associated with overcoming obstacles and difficulties which
require the utmost exertion of a person's mental capacity. The ability to keep control of oneself to force oneself to overcome difficulties, and to maintain presence of mind in any difficult situation is a necessary human quality. Without this quality, you will not shoot high scores in a match. To sustain mental discipline, you must have high moral qualities, a sense of duty and responsibility to the team and a sense of honor. These traits are the source of the will to win. In moments of crisis, they help you to mobilize all your resources for victory. No person is born with these qualities. They are partly developed in the course of the shooter's life and the activities of daily living. Good marksmanship training will solidify these traits and develop the minds ability to control mental processes.
C. ESSENTIAL TO MARKSMANSHIP
1. Mental control is essential to marksmanship. Mastery of the physical skills alone
does not provide the control of performance necessary to compete at the highest level. Emphasis must be placed on how and what to think. The capacity for intense concentration will provide for exacting control. Coordination of the essential factors is necessary for the delivery of an accurate shot on the target.
2. Mental discipline provides the control you must have xx of your mental faculties
to maintain confidence, positive thinking, and sustain the ability to duplicate a successful
performance. Mental discipline will help to avoid overconfidence, pessimism and withstand
conditions that disrupt mental tranquility. It also provides the emotional stability necessary for the development of a champion shooter and confidence in his ability to successfully employ the basic skills of marksmanship for a dependable performance under all types of stress.
D. DEVELOPING MENTAL DISCIPLINE AND CONFIDENCE: The continuously repeated, successful execution of a completely planned shot results in the gradual development of mental discipline. If your mental discipline has developed sufficient force you will be able to control your thoughts and exercise unhampered mental concentration. Also, your preparations and shooting routines will always be the same.
1. Response to a problem: Psychologists have determined that there are four basic
methods of responding to a problem. Two methods are positive and classified as direct or
indirect. Two methods are negative, classified as retreat and evasion.
a. Positive Response.
(l) The direct, positive approach. This is the self-confident, self-sufficient, direct, positive attack. You realistically face the facts, analyze them, identify and evaluate the obstacles to a successful solution. You know what you want to accomplish and you take direct steps to attain it.
(2) The indirect, substitute or compromise approach. This is characterized by small diffident, tentative, indirect action. Sidestepping leads to seeking shortcuts. When the probable solution is tried, there is much fervent hoping that the fates are on your side. You are only hinting and probing instead of establishing definitely what you need to do. There is only a minimum of positive effort here.
b. Negative response.
(1) The negative retreat: The failure to give the honest try to see what you are capable of accomplishing. Surrendering without a sincere effort. The flight habit can become chronic. This is the man that cannot accept the responsibility for a mistake or failure. A bad shot produces excuses.
(2) Evading the issue: Evasion is the lack of incentive. Why? Is the approach. Why do I have to do better then anyone else? If the desire to excel is not there, you will never aimlessly or otherwise achieve the degree of accomplishment that crowns the champion.
2. Analyze the problem.
a. Psychologists have discovered that one of the chief reasons for difficulty
in the solution of problems is inability to soundly analyze. Pose a clear-cut plan of action in full array. Face the specific difficulty and make a determined effort to break it down. If it can be identified there is a solution for it. There are shooters on your team or some other team that are operating without this specific problem putting a brake on their performance. Talk it out. A communal pondering session will break it wide open,
b. There is a four-point system of analyzing and solving specific problems. It reduces the whole big problem to four small ones: "STEPS IN THE PLANNING"; " SPECIFIC DIFFICULTIES"; "SUCCESSFUL SOLUTIONS"; "DOUBTFUL OR NO WORKABLE SOLUTION". Weigh your "specific difficulties" and "doubtful solutions" and start an improvement campaign to resolve each area of deficiency.
3. Confidence. Confidence results from repeatedly bringing under control all the factors that create conditions for firing an accurate shot. An accurate shot is one that hits the center of the target. You must have confidence to shoot well. Confidence in what? How do you get it? How do we keep it once it is obtained?
a. You must have confidence in the fundamentals. You must be convinced that if you control their employment correctly, you will achieve excellent results.
b. You must also have confidence in your ability to execute the proven fundamentals correctly. You will have proven your ability to do this in your practice sessions.
c. Think big! Think positive! "I will do it", and you will succeed. However as soon as you admit the slightest possibility of failure, your chance of success is questionable,
d. It has been said that a shooter must have an open mind, implying that we must have the ability to accept new ideas. What we should also strive for is a mind that is open to positive thoughts and completely closed to negative thoughts. You have heard so many times "Don't jerk that trigger". True as this axiom may be, it is of no advantage to have this thought enter your mind when you are trying to get off a shot. It is negative, it implies failure. Such thinking continually occupies your mind with something you don't want to do, rather than something you should do. Would it not be more advantageous to think, "I must follow through, for when I do this, I will get an "X"". This is the positive side of the picture, it implies success. It gives you something that you should do rather than something you should not do. What the shooter needs is a mind full of positive "do's" and "wills". There is no room or necessity for those distracting "don'ts" and can'ts". However, just thinking positively is not enough; we still must have definite ideas of how we are going to employ positive thoughts. There is no room for vagueness or vacillation in our technique of shooting.
e. A confident attitude adversely affects your competitors. A match is generally conceded to a small number of confident individuals who expect to win. Confidence is contagious and favorably affects your teammates. Smile. Give no comfort to your competition
by revealing by word or by act that anything is wrong that might affect your chances of winning
4. Channeled mental effort resists the tendency of the mind to drift during the period
when intense concentration on the relationship of the front and rear sights is essential.
a. Channel mental effort relentlessly toward the final act.
b. Complete exclusion of extraneous thoughts for a brief period (three to six seconds) is necessary for controlled delivery of the shot.
c. Prior planning of the sequence of action gradually enables the shooters to sustain concentration for a longer period.
d. Coordination of thought and action is the result of experience obtained through extensive practice and match shooting where the same satisfactory plan of action is followed repeatedly. Precise coordination is absolutely necessary in controlling the delivery of each shot during the entire match. Split second coordination and timing are maintained by frequent practice. When the practice time is insufficient, do not be overconfident and expect to be able to sustain coordination through prolonged match shooting conditions.
E. WHY CAN'T YOU BE A WINNER? (THE DANGER OF NEGATIVE THINKING.)
1. Who won the last match in which you participated? If you did not win, what was
Why is it so difficult to shoot championship scores? It is not that most of us have not been taught the fundamentals of shooting, the fault usually lies in that we open our minds up to thousands of negative reasons why we cannot shoot good scores.
The following is a discussion of each of the reasons that bring about a poor performance,
and what can be done about them:
a. When the weather is bad, it is simple to say "It is raining, snowing, the wind is blowing. All my scores are going to be bad. ". This may be a true assumption. You can
follow this vein of thought throughout the match and you probably will continue to shoot just
average scores as compared to your competitors.
Why not think and convince your self that good winning scores have and will be fired under the same bad conditions. Positive application of the fundamentals has produced good results in spite of the numerous difficulties. If your thoughts are directed strongly enough towards planning and executing a controlled performance, you will not have time to worry about the weather.
b. Don't "Sunday - morning - quarter back" the operation of the range. Convince yourself that, "As long as there is a target to shoot at and I have the proper amount of time to shoot, I will shoot good scores. ".
c. Have you asked yourself, "why must I shoot exceptional scores ? ". The answer to this question will vary with each shooter. You must be motivated to constantly improve your performance. One of the most common excuses for not trying your best is because there is no challenging competition. A tendency to accept a passable score in a match becomes a habit. You tolerate an average performance without becoming alarmed. Regardless of the competitive ability present, you must employ the fundamentals to the utmost of your ability. You must retain not only the desire to win, but strive to set new records at all times. Failure to accept the challenge will cause a decline into the habit of treating your shooting as a daily task instead of a challenging adventure.
d. The main components necessary to shoot championship scores are an accurate gun, good ammunition, an individual with the ability (physical and mental) and the desire to be a champion. Therefore every time you let the thought of inferior equipment enter your mind, STOP! Think: "This gun and ammunition will shoot possibles if I control it. "
e. The potential winner is always thinking about applying his plan of action and not about how he is going to beat you. He knows that most of the other competitors are beating themselves with their own uncontrolled thoughts. You can be one step ahead of all your
competitors by directing your mental effort toward your plan of controlling each shot.
f. There is a first time for winning in shooting as in everything else. A first time for a national champion to be beaten, and a first time for you to become a national champion. If you want to win all the marbles, you can. The best way is to believe you are as qualified to win as anyone else. Make up your mind that you are going to shoot your next tournament as one big match. Let the individual stages and gun aggregates take care of themselves. A good performance on each individual shot is now your aim.
g. Carelessness is a state of mind that overwhelms an individual who is aimless and hap hazard in his approach to a challenging task. Organization of all the factors having a bearing on the task will in most instances assure that the action will be successfully executed.
h. Overconfidence dulls your normal responses. You ignore or are unconscious of the development of unfavorable conditions. False assurance can upset the sensitive balance on which your performance depends. Do not relax your determination to work hard even if competition is not keen. Strive to reach a happy medium between overconfidence
i. Pessimism detracts from your ability to concentrate. Anxiety over possible failure undermines the ability to control the shot. Impatience and uncontrolled actions are the results. A negative approach hampers the repetition of a uniform, satisfactory performance.
j. Avoid distracting conditions which you know will upset you. Avoid emotional upset such as anger, worry, giving up under adverse conditions or after unsatisfactory shots, ignore boasts, rumors, misinformation, and snide remarks. Avoid adding up individual shots as the buildup to the final scores.
F. MATCH PRESSURE: If you think that you and you alone have the problem of match
pressure, look around - we all have it. The man who has never experienced match pressure has
never been in a position to win a match. What is the difference? What is the dividing line
between champion and plinker? Both may shoot comparable scores in practice, yet one is
invariably at the top of the list and the other at the bottom. The dividing line is clear and obvious; the ability or lack of ability to control their thinking. Mental discipline. Some have learned to control their emotions and anxieties and go right ahead and perform within their capabilities. Others, even with years of experience, pressure themselves out of the competition every time they step up to the firing line.
1. First, in the treatment of match pressure, we must find what causes it. Without
knowing the reasons, we can never combat it. Match pressure is simply a condition created by
suspense, and the uncertainty and anxiety which generally accompanies suspense. For example,
it is easy for the relatively inexperienced competitor to feel suspense building up as he finds
himself amassing a superior score; or for even the experienced competitor to feel, as he nears the finish of a match, knowing he can win. This is when worry and fear creeps in and, unless controlled, the resultant tension will undermine efforts for maximum performance.
2. The main thing that will help a shooter under these conditions is experience. Long hours of practice in working on his shortcomings and tournament participation against the
best competition will serve to gradually calm our emotions and anxieties when under stress. The champions, in spite of their nervousness in match competition, mobilize all their energies and resources and on occasion, do even better in a match than in practice.
The emotional and physical upsets of competitive stress are experienced differently by different persons. The condition varies for every shooter both in its character and in its
intensity. However, regardless of experience or ability to exercise self-discipline, shooters are to some degree nervous in competition. The better you are trained, the more confidence you will have. If you have trained under conditions approximating match conditions and have participated in many tournaments in the past, you will be less nervous. At the beginning of a shooting season, even with experience, you may be somewhat nervous. It is important that you must not remain passive to these disturbances. Do not let yourself become a victim of your emotions. Resist stubbornly and force yourself to shoot to win. If you feel that nervousness in competition is unknown to you, you may be indifferent to the best interests of the group. You may lack an elementary understanding of pride in doing a job well. You are showing indifference to one of the strongest, natural excitements which present a challenge to the human animal. When anxious, you add to your distress when you feel that everyone is watching you. Yet with all this, our counterpart, the Champion, appears to be calm and enjoying himself. Let's face it, he is!
3. How do you control match pressure? First, realize that it can be controlled and
actually used to your advantage. Individuals have learned to control their shooting to the extent that their match and practice scores don't vary appreciably.
a. Prior mental determination. This is the most helpful factor that is available to you. By thinking through the correct procedure for firing each shot, just before you shoot, you can virtually eliminate distraction. If you fail to do this and approach the shot without a preconceived plan of attack, your results at best will be erratic.
b. Channel your thinking to the more important fundamentals. You must continually think fundamentals and review them in your mind. Train yourself so that as many of these fundamentals as possible are executed automatically without tedious effort on your part.
When you do this, you have only the most difficult fundamentals to contend with in the actual
firing. This will enable you to direct all of your mental and physical efforts toward keeping your eyes focused on the front sight and following through.
c. Establish a Routine: Keep from becoming excited. In establishing a routine, you eliminate the possibility of forgetting some trivial item of preparation or technique that
may throw you off balance.
d. Work on each shot individually. Each shot must be treated as an individual task. There is no reason to believe that because your first shot was bad, your next one will be the same. Nor is it logical that if your first three shots were good, you have a guarantee that those to follow will also be good. Each one is merely a representation of your ability to apply the fundamentals. Your performance will vary if you let it.
e. Relax your mind. Right from the time you get up in the morning. Nothing will put you in a greater state of mental agitation than to have to rush through breakfast and rush to make your relay. If this happens, your score is ruined at about the third red light you hit. Take it easy. Shooting is fun, enjoy it.
f. Practice Tranquility. Are you the guy that loses his temper every time he has a bad shot? With whom are you mad? You are doing nothing more than admonishing yourself for your vacillation in the execution of a shot. If you had worked a little harder on applying the control factors, the shot would have been better. On the other hand if you do everything within your power to make the shot good and for some reason or other it is not good, you should have no cause for undue irritation. Although you must exert all of your mental and physical ability toward shooting a good score, infrequently you will fail to do this. Needless to say that when this happens, if you chastise yourself severely, or fall into a fit of depression because of poor score, you will hurt your performance for the rest of the match. It is not intended that you laugh off or treat lightly a poor performance; however, you must possess the presence of mind to accept the bitter with the sweet. Preparing, planning, relaxing and care in delivering the shot with careful analysis and positive corrective measures, is the cycle of action you must force yourself to conform to. You can then be assured that the next shot will be delivered under the most precise control you are capable of exerting.
g. Match Experience. Without question, competitive experience is one of the ingredients necessary to an accomplished competitor. However, experience alone is of limited value. You must flavor experience with an accurate and honest evaluation of performance. You must strive for increasing mental control. It is often left out of training until the physical ability to
shoot far exceeds the ability to exercise mental control.
h. Argue with your Subconscious. Not only argue with it but win the argument. Even as you are reading this you are hearing that little voice in the back of your mind that keeps saying "Yes, this sort of thing may work for Joe, but I know damn well I am going to goof the next time I get close to a winning score.". Whose voice is this? Where did all these ideas come from in the first place? Where did this little guy get all his knowledge? Let us be
realistic. Your conscious mind puts these ideas into your subconscious, so don't ever believe that you can not over power it. It is not easy. He has been saying what he pleased for years and now he isn't to be routed easily. But don't give in to him and eventually you will find that the subconscious mind is not in conflict with your conscious efforts "don'ts. "
k. With all of this emphasis on the positive approach you are now going to get two big "don'ts".
(1) Don't expect spectacular results the first time you try mental discipline. There is coordination of employment of the fundamentals to be mastered. If you find that you exercise satisfactory control only for a short period of time, work on extending this period by practicing and perfecting your system. Remember that your returns are in proportion to your
(2) Don't use alcohol and drugs. One or both of these may control some of the symptoms brought about by match pressure. However, in doing so they incapacitate you in other ways that will prevent good performance.
G. REDUCING TENSION AND ATTAINING RELAXATION
1. Types of Tension:
a. Normal tension is the prevailing condition of any organism when it is mustering its strength to cope with a difficult situation. All animals, including man, tense in situations which involve the security of themselves and their loved ones.
b. Pathological tension is an exaggeration of normal tension and fairly rare. This type of tension usually requires that the subject be put under the care of a physician.
c. The vast majority of people and shooters who are concerned with tension have nothing more than normal tension. All they need is a technique for relaxing. You should know what tension is and a few hints on how to minimize its effects.
2. In normal tension, your body undergoes certain definite changes. Adrenalin pours into your bloodstream and your liver releases sugar, giving a supply of energy to your muscles. Your entire nervous system shifts into high gear. It causes your sense of smell, hearing and sight to become sharpened and all your mental faculties to become razor keen. Your stepped-up nervous system also causes the large voluntary muscles of your legs, arms and torso to contract, ready for action. The muscles of your digestive tract cause your digestion to slow down for a while. Your chest and arterial muscles contract slightly so that your breathing becomes a bit shallower and your blood pressure increases. When all these things are happening, you are experiencing normal tension. Most of us experience this kind of tension one or more times a day. When the problem which caused you to be tense has been solved, your tension will subside and you will return to a normal state of relaxation. It may leave slowly but it will leave. Normal tension is self-limiting, it does not continue unabated after you need it.
3. Pathological tension is when your whole body over-reacts, as if the difficulty
confronting it were a life or death matter. It is the kind of reaction a normal person would have only in an extremely dangerous situation. In pathological tension, blood pressure, heartbeat and pulse go way up and stay up. Excessive adrenalin may result in jitteriness, flushing and trembling. The digestive actions of the stomach usually stop entirely and will not resume, causing loss of appetite or indigestion. Muscles tense for action but may end by cramping. There is rapid, shallow breathing to the point of dizziness. The inevitable, and often swift result is a sense of deadening fatigue. Normal tension may make you feel exhausted too, but not to this degree.
4. Tension Reducing Techniques:
Take a breather. Breathe deeply, three times, very slowly; at the end of each exhalation, hold your breath as long as possible. When you have finished, you should feel noticeable relaxed and much-calmer. By forcing yourself to breathe deeply, you break the tension of your voluntary breathing muscles. This causes the involuntary muscles of the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and heart to relax too. This is the simplest method for relaxing. For some, it can be used to end tension completely. It can be used by others for temporary relief when they do not wish to "let down" completely.
b. Let go. Sit down and let your head droop forward. Try to actually concentrate on relaxing the muscles. Make one arm relax completely; then the other. Now let your legs go completely limp; now your torso muscles. Stay in this posture for several minutes.
Momentarily divorce the competition completely from your mind. This technique is aimed at
relaxing the voluntary muscles. It is especially effective when you have had to maintain normal tension for several hours on end.
c. Stop and Think. When the tension-making job allows a respite, sit down and calmly review the things in your life that you value highly. Think of the long range purpose of your life, of the people you love, the things you really want. In a few minutes you may notice
that you have involuntarily taken a deep breath. This is a sign that tension is dropping away
rapidly. When you tense to face a difficult situation, you tend to exaggerate its importance.
Judgment and reason can quickly change this mental state when it is time to relax again.
d. Take a Break. This is a "Remote Control" technique for dealing with normal tension. Simply take a break for ten full minutes every hour. You may find that this allows you to ease out of your working tension more quickly and easily.
e. Shift Into Low. Taper off at the end of the day by becoming involved in a diverting activity. If you like handiwork, pick a kind which is interesting but not too creative.
Soap sculpture, finger painting, woodworking, and gardening all are excellent low-gear activities that will help you to "simmer down". This kind of tension-remover is aimed at changing your mental "set". It is helpful for those who have to operate at top capacity. After stimulation, a part of your mental capacity will continue to be aroused. To slow you down when you are in this state of mind, you require something which is engrossing but which demands nothing of you intellectually. Television entertainment and simple handicrafts are ideal.
f. These techniques are based on the fact that tension can be ended in two distinct ways: through the relaxation of your voluntary and involuntary muscles; and by changing your mental "set". If you achieve either, you modify the other and hasten the process of normal relaxation.
H. YOU CAN WIN!
1. Confidence furnishes the alloy to stiffen the will to win and not give up or compromise. Confidence is based on a full grasp of the complete technique of controlling
employment of the fundamentals. Confidence combined with knowledge, good physical condition
and a determination to win, will allow you to perform at your best. A chance at greatness lies in each man's grasp. You must have confidence that you are capable of a performance exceeding
any previous level of personal accomplishment. Know that you can win if that is what you set out to do.
2. Be a hungry shooter. The slashing onslaught of a voracious appetite for victory
destroys the resolve of the lesser competitor.