Dealing with Distractions – Part One (article)

Consistency occurs when the shooter performs both technically and mentally within their practiced plan.  If this plan is a good one and if the shooter is skilled the targets should break. Today we are going to look at three things that tend to distract us and pull us off of our mental game and what we might do about them; extreme weather, score and people.

Most distractions occur because they are the extremes of things that occur normally.  The weather, for example, is always there but does not become a possible distraction until it is severe.  Ever try to shoot in extreme temperatures?  It makes little difference which end of the thermometer you shoot in; severe cold or blazing heat.  How about extreme wind?  It not only displaces the bird but it can blow the shooter and his mental game around as well.  Weather can distract you if you are not prepared for it.  So, how do we keep weather distractions to a minimum?  I feel that most severe weather related distractions are solved by proper preparation.  Try making certain that you are dressed properly for cold weather shooting and have trained in your cold weather outfit.  Summertime in my part of the country requires shorts and sun screen and plenty of water.  Dehydration is a big deal and most clubs keep the water jugs full for the shooters.  Make certain you make use of them.  Packing your own water is not a bad idea just in case.

Extreme weather creates special mental distractions as well.  The most common ones are “the pulling of focus” and “giving up the ship”.  Extreme temperatures may cause our focus to be pulled away from our planned system of thinking.  We are still thinking about our frostbitten fingers as we call for the target.  Perhaps we should have brought those gloves.  Shooters who are not used to shooting in the heat get distracted by the sweat drops on the glasses and the slippery stocks from excess body moisture.  Even if the shooter has planned in advance for these issues he must be careful to run the same mental program that he runs when the weather is moderate.  Change something and you always get different results.

OK!  The wind is howling and the targets are bouncing out of your pattern.  Don’t give up the ship!  This mental error triggers technical ones.  Weak and inexperienced shooters think that the conditions are so bad anyway that it doesn’t matter if we perform correctly on a shot.  We will probably miss it anyway!  Your courage as a shooter is being tested.  Stay tough! Stay with your system.  Top shooters know that a horrid condition tests the will of shooters and normally gives veterans an advantage.  Scores may fall today and yours may fall a bit as well.  Remember everyone will loose some targets.  Stay with your ship!  When you encounter extreme weather think, “This is great!  I love to shoot in bad weather.  It gives me an advantage because I will stay with my system when others are distracted and give up.”

Another example of an extreme distraction can be score related.  Under typical weather conditions, you hit between 80-90 percent of the targets on an average course.  Today you run the first 60 targets and as you enter the next station the score monster begins talking to you.  If you have no plan to meet this type of distraction head-on you could loose a lot of targets on the last half of the course ruining your day.  I think it is almost impossible to avoid this potential distraction.  Sooner or later this is going to happen to you if you have good technical and mental form and are following a good training system.

My suggestion is to have a plan that you rehearse over and over to turn this potential distraction into a great score.  Rehearse this very thing happening to you and when it does imagine that you calmly and decisively crush the next pair and run the station.  We tend to repeat what we rehearse.  Do this and you will be ready for the great score when the time comes.  This is called contingency planning rehearsal and you can use it for many things.  How about rehearsing that you are in a shoot-off for first in class or HOA?  Rehearse how you want to feel, see the target break and imprint the win in your Self Image.  A good time to do this kind of rehearsal is while you are doing something else; exercising, sitting on an airplane or waiting for an appointment to start.

Now, let’s look at one of the most interesting potential distractions; your competition.  People are funny, weird, extreme and some are down-right unbelievable.  Just when you think you have seen it all you go to a shoot and someone does something that is a potential distraction to you and your mental game.  Let’s look at a few common people distractions.

People Distraction Number One:  The Uninvited Helper.  He is on your squad and so far he has kept his mouth shut but just after you shoot you first pair on this station you hear this.  “You were behind that one.  Give it more lead.”  Now, you did not ask for help.  In fact, you only met this guy today.  He is not that good of a shot but he is good at one thing.  He’s loud.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think one of the best things about our sport is that people are quick to help each other.  The only thing that we ask is to please wait until we ask.  I have actually heard someone yell out “You are in front of it!” at the same time another squad-mate yelled “Give it more lead!”  The key to disrupting this kind of distraction is to understand that this is a social game and it needs people to grow; all kinds of people.  We must be able to focus when we are in the stand, blocking out the people, the noise, the stray targets and the comments from our mind by running a smooth, simple mental program while executing a precise pre-shot routine.

People Distraction Number Two:  The Score-teller.  These guys com in two varieties; malicious and benign.  The benign guy has just come from the leader board and passes you on the course.  You are walking up to you last station and he says, “Boy are you shooting great.  If you run your last station you will win this thing!”   Thanks a lot bubba.  This guy means well and is just trying to congratulate you.  The malicious score-teller, on the other hand, is not looking out for you.  He is hoping that telling you where you are will unhitch your wagon because he is right behind you in the event.  If you are a master class shooter you had better get used to this and be ready for it.  The best thing that you can say to either one of them is “Hey, Thanks.” It will make the benign guy feel important and it will drive the malicious guy crazy.  You cannot avoid the leader board because the score-teller is mobile.

Distractions bounce off of prepared people.  Distractions are deflected by the self-confident and melt at the feet of the mental manager.  How are you doing with them?  In the issue of ClayShootingUSA we will look at more people distractions and how to handle them.  See you then.

Previous post:

Next post: