Staying Competitive (9/11)
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: I’ve been struggling at my yardage for several years now. I worked so hard to get where I’m at and I hate to ask for a reduction. Some of my friends say it’s just my pride and ego, and that I should move forward to where I can be competitive once again. I don’t know… what are you thoughts on this?
Answer: Believe me, I know what you’re going through, I’ve struggled with the same issue. From the time I started shooting competitively, my goal was to reach the 27 yard line. I worked extremely hard and I accomplished that goal within three years. I had invested a lot of time, energy, effort, and money to achieve that goal and I wasn’t about to give it up for what I thought was simply an extended shooting slump. The problem however, was that this slump wasn’t getting any better no matter how hard I tried to make improvements. It’s taken a couple of years for me to finally realize that a number of things had changed, some beyond my control, and that I really needed to rethink my entire competitive approach.
Several trusted friends, who had gone through exactly the same experience, challenged me to take a yardage reduction and then work my way back to the 27 yard line for a second time. My wife, who’s not a shooter, came up with the comment that finally tipped the issue for me. She knows how much I enjoy all the aspects of clay target shooting, but she said I was a lot happier and more fun to be around when I was shooting better and winning more often. Her loving comment, coupled with the challenge from good friend’s, made me realize that a yardage reduction was in order. Based from my own experience, plus that of many other shooters, here are some key factors you should take into consideration.
First Point: How’s your physical condition? Unfortunately, as many of us “senior-up” we seem to discover a few more nagging aches and pains have caught-up to us. I was seriously injured over 40 years ago in the service and now, especially during that second or third 100 target event, my low back, shoulders, or legs will often provide with me a painful reminder. If your ailments can’t be fixed, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to shoot through the pain, then you’ll need to respect your limitations and carefully manage your approach to your shooting activities. On a long shoot, some shooters will only shoot one event per day, or to simply take a day off during a grueling week-long tournament.
Your eyes are the most important asset to successful shooting! Make certain to have them checked at least once a year, and then update your shooting glasses accordingly. How’s your strength and endurance? Every day I try to do some light exercises to strengthen my back, arms, shoulders, and neck. I also add breathing exercises; eye-strengthen activities; and I try to include a few minutes of quiet meditation to my daily routine. Always be mindful of what you eat and drink, especially during a long, tough tournament, and make certain that you get plenty of good rest! To remain competitive at shooting and enjoy success, these simple health facts hold true for shooters and athletes of all ages, especially when peak performance and endurance are part of a winning equation.
Second Point: What’s your mental attitude? Many times over the years I’ve entered a long shoot exhausted from work. Regardless of your age, mental fatigue will always win-out in the end. Even when you can reach down and pull forward that extra effort to overcome it, fatigue will still add to the problem. Mental fatigue, plus the lack of enough quality practice ahead of time begets poor performance; poor performance will quickly erode confidence; and the lack of confidence will never win you an event. To shoot well and win, you must be prepared mentally for every post; every trap; and every event. To be successful, it’s imperative that you’re able to concentrate and stay focused on every single target presented, every time!
If just prior to an event you hear a shooter say, “I just hope I can shoot my average”, then he’s already set himself up for failure. It may sound a bit arrogant, but good shooters will always enter every event with the confident objective of 100 straight on their minds. Remember, your mind controls everything you do, so let a fresh, clear, and focused mental attitude control every aspect of your shooting performance. It’s true…positive thoughts produce positive results!
Third Point: Are you lacking a challenge, a goal, or an objective? Over years of shooting many of us can easily become complacent. We’ve won our share of trophies and championships along the way and now we’ve convinced ourselves that simply shooting (by itself) and doing it with good friends is all that we’re really after. If that’s true, then why do we seem to bark, grumble, and commiserate so much at the end of the day about how poorly we shot, and then seem puzzled and feel we’re not competitive anymore? Shooters are competitors… and age doesn’t matter. The more targets we can break the happier we are, and if that’s more than you… then I win.
Shooting well can make you feel good, but winning makes you feel much better! All the shooters I’ve met are competitive by nature, but we must challenge ourselves with goals and objectives in order to keep our sport interesting and fun. So… choose a few simple goals like shooting more quality practice rounds per week; or improving you average over the next few months; or gaining one more yard by the end of the season. Make your goals challenging, yet attainable. Also, add in one stretch goal like shooting for a spot on the State High Average team for example. Do whatever it takes, a few simple goals will help bring back the excitement, challenge, and fun that drew us to shooting in the first place.
Hopefully I’ve shed some light on your question and concern? The fact is that for decades’ shooters have faced this same dilemma. The proof of that can easily be found within the pages of both the PITA and ATA rule books. Both associations have made very specific allowances for yardage advancement or reductions based on a review of your last 800 or 1000 handicap targets. The key in all of this is that all shooting associations want their members to remain challenged and competitive, that way they’ll continue to enjoy clay target shooting and grow and support the sport for many years to come.
If a shooter is struggling at any yardage, especially due to problems beyond their control, they should definitely take advantage of any or all of the opportunities offered that can help them get back on track. Clay target shooting takes a large amount of desire, determination, and dedication if one hopes to be successful. So… forget about your pride and ego, take the reduction like many of us have, and get back into the game. I personally look forward to the challenge of being competitive and winning events again, and for a second time… I will earn my way to the back fence. I’ll see you there!
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