Do you shoot clays in competition as well as you do in practice? Do you perform as well in your competitions as you do when you practice? Or do you feel like you cannot perform as well in your game as when you practice? I have a lot of clients who tell me this all the time. Many of them are really confused about how to handle it. They don’t understand why they can kill the targets when practicing or shooting in practice, and then go out during the week of competition and have those same good shots not carry over. Of course, more pressure does exist in competitions than when they practice, but still there is a reason. It’s a mind game. So what can a clay shooter do?
In this blog, I will give you some complimentary mental training that should help with this dilemma because the issue is completely mental. Your guns didn’t likely change much from practice to competition; your skill is there, your mechanics are there, you probably didn’t even change the type of eyewear you use. The target changes here and there but shooters are used to that. So the only thing that consistently changes is the six inches between your ears. That is where fears, expectations and doubts creep in that you don’t think about when you practice. So the big question is: How do you handle it?
First, you want to start addressing the fears, doubts and expectations you bring with you into a game. Start taking a look at them and witness or observe your thought patterns that you likely believe, without even questioning or realizing you are doing it. Let’s say that a year has passed since you competed in the same event, for example. What happens, then, is you have imprints in your mind of what to expect, based on how you performed the last time. It’s not only that you shot there before, but maybe what you heard from others. You might have even formed a perception that you are good (or not good) at certain stations. There are so many stories you can create. The problem comes when you believe them.
Every time you believe those stories, you face challenges. Your own belief causes you to react to them and allows them to create energy that affects your performance. What you perceive, you believe, and what you believe, happens. So what I would suggest to you is to become an observer of those kinds of thought patterns, or those kinds of stories. Start to witness your conscious level, analytical mind and see where it takes you. Then, rather than just falling victim to it and getting caught up in the stories, start to question them and realize that they are really unnecessary and probably untrue. As long as you continue to believe the doubts, fears and limiting expectations in those stories, you will continue to react to them. You want to break that cycle, if you want to shoot in competitions the way that you do in practice.
It’s time to neutralize those thoughts. You must realize that you experience different thoughts that pertain to actual competition performance versus practice, and that is the main variable that you need to tackle and change. Obviously, this is an aspect of mental training that I cover so if you feel you are struggling with taking control of those kinds of thought patterns, I am here to help you with that. I offer Skype, FaceTime, private sessions and other options, and you can get more information on my website.
For now, your first step is to start witnessing your conscious level thinking when you are in competitions. Witness the analytical mind that does analyze the target, tournament, event or station, and even attaches stories to them. Realize that if your mind creates fear based stories, you have got to start questioning, challenging, and neutralizing them. Start believing in yourself, your performance, your mechanics and preparation, and be confident in who you are, what you present and are capable of, as you step into any shooting competition and know you can take on any type of challenge. I can help you with all of these areas as well, but really, it all starts with your need to think healthier thoughts on purpose.
If you find that you feel confident in your shooting when practicing, but then when competing you lose your touch, you need to address the mental side of your game. In helping you do that, I have written a positive affirmation or self suggestion that will help you overcome those stories as you transition from practice to competing.
The self suggestion that pertains to this topic is: “I practice shooting as if I am competing: I compete as if I am practicing.” If you have read any of my previous articles or received any prior training from me, then you have learned a lot about reinforcement, how strong a suggestion will get with repetition, and how much more believable it becomes the more you repeat it. You need that constant reinforcement to reprogram the many thoughts and stories that your mind creates and you automatically believe.
I give you self suggestions like these, knowing that you have 60,000 thoughts a day. So what I would like you to do, starting today, is to train your thoughts like you would train a little puppy. Start training your thoughts to be more productive, healthier and un-limiting; more love based instead of fear based. Say to yourself over and over: “I practice shooting as if I am competing: I compete as if I am practicing.” As you do, you will find your performance improving.
As I watch professional shooters struggle to break clays that they can normally knock out very easily, I really feel for them because I know the struggle comes from their minds. I can see the fear, angst, and discouragement all over their bodies and faces, when they try to force their will on a situation. I address that topic in mental training also; what can happen when you struggle and force your will instead of trusting and believing. You must believe in your skills and capabilities, and tune out those ugly stories that bring fear into your mind. It is possible, and it will improve your performance.
Please let me know if you would like any more help with this, or any other area of struggle that I identified above. If you feel that you hit any kind of roadblock or resistance along the way, I can help you work through that and get past it. I truly wish you well as you implement this teaching, and hope you see tremendous improvement in your clay shooting competitions. Just remember to practice shooting as if you are competing and compete as if you are practicing. Thanks for reading. InJoy your day!
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