PROFILE OF A CHAMPION
Why do I shoot the way I do? When I am asked this question, I find it not easy to answer in one sentence of 25 words or less because many physical and mental factors contribute to my ability to shoot rather well.
In 1962, I was introduced to competitive pistol shooting, green, no experience, and didn't know what to expect. In 1963, I was a new shooter all the way and that year I was awarded the gold Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge. In retrospect, more emphasis was on service pistol than any other pistol, but now I realize it takes strong emphasis with each pistol in today's type of competition.
In my tyro years, a pistol match didn't excite me like it does now. In my younger years, a pistol match was somewhat considered just another military duty with no significance. This was a result of inexperience, youth, and attitude. But with seniority comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom (hopefully).
Climbing the ladder to reach the elite 2650 group, periodically I would shoot a single gun aggregate that was considered excellent. I found it difficult to mass all three gun aggregates that represented any degree of winning. I would either shoot a winning score with the .22 Caliber or .38 Caliber and fall flat with the .45 Caliber or I would shoot a mediocre score with the .22 and .38 and shoot a hot score with the .45 Caliber.
I am convinced that the problem was that if I shot a winning score with the .22 or .38 I was over- joyed, overwhelmed (not having won too often), and oversimplified the remainder of the shooting match, settling for just one gun aggregate. However, if I won only the .45 Caliber, I believe it was because my attitude changed to a more aggressive form of determination.
The longer I shoot the more I realize I must set my goal high and be determined to reach that goal. That's how records are broken. My technique of reaching this goal is to shoot just one point higher than the best score I ever fired with that particular gun.
Attaining these standards for myself I find it necessary to know each and every one of the basic fundamentals, haw each works, and why. I must have confidence in my weapons. I feel more comfortable if I can handle my weapons the night before a match to reaffirm that certain feel, because each weapon fits differently in my hand. I like to feel and dry fire my guns the night before a match. I feel more close and intimate; I call it shooter and weapon relationship. The two are inseparable.
When I train, I need or would like to train as close as possible to actual match conditions. This method eliminates major changes in physical or thought processes. I also need to train sufficiently with a gun until I'm having no problems with the trigger or grip, to a point where I am confident. On the other side of the coin, I can reach a saturation point because of too much practice beyond that point of confidence. When time permits. I prefer to practice three days before a pistol match, having a day off prior to the match for weapons cleaning, reaffirming my zero, and working on any shooting problem that might have developed during practice.
When I know the exact date of a match, my preparation starts then and slowly builds up as the match date advances. I also like to know the level of competition, so I can adjust my psychic preparation. Knowing who I must beat helps me to develop a proper attitude toward winning.
I try not to change my regular daily routine. I try to get 6-8 hours sleep prior to a match when possible. I always eat a hearty breakfast 1 1/2 to 2 hours before the match starts. I take natural vitamins each morning and at evening meals. I eat a light lunch and what I want at the evening meal. I never drink alcohol to the point of being intoxicated at least 3 days prior to a match.
Experience has taught me. The most damaging and detrimental state of being for me is the loss of sleep. I find the loss of sleep causes a feeling of fatigue, with reaction time slowed down and an un- stable feeling.
I would advise any new or young upcoming shooter that it isn't the act itself but rather it's the pursuit of fulfillment that will agitate and lessen your ability to win and think clearly.
I find experience in shooting NRA and international events helps a great deal. In general, 9 times out of 10 an individual firing for the first time in an important match will find himself rather nervous and tense.
I remember my own experience in the 1967 Pan American Games (first big international match). I was nervous and even scared because people were watching, pictures were being taken, and because of lack of experience, I paid more attention to my surroundings. I now know I should have envisioned the small details pertaining to shooting. Match pressure never really leaves me completely, but experience helps to ease anxieties.
I try to create a state of tranquility in my domestic affairs. Observation and personal experience proves to me a shooter can't put all his effort into competitive shooting if his wife is constantly nagging about his shooting, money, TDY, children sick, etc. My wife encourages me to win and is happy as I am when I do win. I never leave on a TDY trip with domestic possibilities dangling as loose ends. My wife never annoys me with petty phone calls.
After having learned how to use the basic tools for shooting and having won a victory, I find it similar to a child's first taste of ice cream; they like it. I to like to win because it gives me a feeling of accomplishment. One victory creates a desire in me to win again and/or be a part of a winning team. The prestige and recognition further stimulates my attitude toward achievement.
Travel to foreign countries is another incentive for me to shoot well. The thought of competing against another country always stimulates my psychic-circuit to the point where I want to try a little harder.
The many contributing factors that enable me to shoot the way I do are:
It is my conviction that, if I know-how to apply the fundamentals, have a positive attitude, and high spirits, I have more time to devote to the small, delicate, and perplexing details of shooting one shot or 5 shots.
My mental preparation consists primarily of a technique I call "visualization" combined with know how, experience, and confidence. The visualization technique consists of formulating a mental picture of what you want to accomplish, whether it be one single shot or a 5 shot string, it can be used to train yourself to stand still and hold still, to see your score in Increments of 100 or 300, or to visualize your entire aggregate. This is not a new technique, but it is not really used too often in shooting. However. I do believe it's used more often than the shooter realizes.
Some days this technique works better than other days with due respect to your physical and psychological well-being and attitude.
Mental discipline, I believe, is developed in the process of good sound training techniques. Also paying particular attention to small details, such as small errors and not accepting these errors when it's possible to correct them.
Recognizing an error can be corrected only if I am aware of the mistake, if I am aware of the error, I can either stop--correct--or shoot the shot. If I shoot a shot while being aware of an error, I have either lost concentration, patience. or mental control--generally the latter. Prior to shooting a shot or a series of shots I try to hold a vivid picture of the preconceived mental picture of the end result desired, which is, of course, a 10-50- or 100, after each shot or series. I must reaffirm this mental picture each time. Having faith in my own abilities is derived from having fired good scores in practice for the last match.
This technique of visualization is always accompanied with confidence, desire, mental discipline, and faith in my convictions. I suppose I could base my philosophy of thought on an age-old cliché "The end result desired is equivalent to the degree of faith you have in your thoughts", and "that which cannot be conceived in the mind's eye first will have much difficulty in materializing"
In conclusion, the tools I find necessary for shooting good scores are: Sufficient practice with each weapon I will fire in the match, test-proved equipment, mentally preparing myself by keeping my goal in mind, developing positive attitude toward these standards and formulating a mental picture of what I want to shoot, which is one point higher than I've ever fired. And keeping my mind, body and psychic spirit on the infinite details of shooting one shot or five shots.