How do you deal with tournament stress that causes you to miss easy targets?
The answer and solution to this challenge require far more than the space I have, but let me give it a go. First, always take a picture of your scorecard after shooting a round in competition, as it provides insight as to the reason for your misses, and it will guide your practice and path to improved scores. If your scorecards indicate a scattering of misses — you drop one here, one there, sometimes in the middle of a station but more commonly on the third or fourth pair — this is a clear indication that you are allowing certain non-constructive thoughts to creep into your conscious mind and that you need some work on your pre-shot and post-shot routines.
Think about your mind as having a conscious and subconscious element. Any conscious thoughts you have while shooting will positively or negatively affect your subconscious mind and thus your shot execution, given that we primarily shoot in the subconscious. In order to positively influence your subconscious mind, you must carefully control your conscious thoughts when you are in the station. Contrary to popular opinion, it is impossible to “clear your mind” as you prepare to shoot. Instead, you have to carefully “load” preprogrammed thoughts into your conscious mind as you prepare to shoot each pair.
The pre-shot routine I use and teach consists of three elements: 1) deep breathing, 2) an out-of-body rehearsal (aka visualization), and 3) a visual cue — a reminder of where you will be visually focusing when you execute the shot. The purpose of deep breathing is to load your body with oxygen. When you get nervous with anticipation, your breathing becomes shallow and your heart rate will increase as your eyes and body thirst for oxygen. Simultaneously, silently visualize what it will feel like to shoot the pair you are about to engage. Lastly, as you close your gun and move to your ready position, remind yourself of the spot on the target that you will visually focus on as you execute each shot of the shot pair. Discover more about the OPTIMAL Process on doncurrie.com.