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Emotional arousal Level and Shooting Performance

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Owen, Dec 25, 2006.

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  1. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 24, 2002
    Georgetown, TX
    Lately I've been thinking about the role emotional arousal level plays in shooting performance.

    Anyone that has ever competed in a shooting game remembers the quivery knees they experienced in their first match. I did my best to quash that sensation when I was shooting.

    The first discipline I was really serious about was smallbore rifle in High School. I was too busy working on the physical side of the game to even think about the mental side of the game. I was a pretty small kid, and a late bloomer, so just holding the gun up was enough of a challenge.

    After college, I started shooting bullseye pistol. I was blessed to live less than a mile from the club I competed at, and to have the ability to shoot a National Match Course 3 to 4 times a week, and a 900 or 1800 at least monthly. Springfield, MA was truly bullseye heaven. Shooting as much as I was (5 to 6 cases of rimfire a year for 3 years!) the stress of shooting a match became non-existent. In fact, when I was competing, I trusted my skill level to the point where I just went on autopilot. It seemed to work because my scores were rapidly approaching master level.

    When I moved to South Carolina a few things happened. First, my bullseye guns were stolen. Second, there was only one match a month that I could get to regularly. This meant that I shifted my attention to IDPA and IPSC. I had already shot enough IDPA in Springfield, that I didn't have any sort of rush or wobbly knees at the beginning of the match, but something else happened: I plateaued. Hard. The more hours I put in on the range, training the more consistently average my shooting became. I didn't have any stages where I crashed and burned, but I also stopped shooting stages where my performance was brilliant. I was just a high C, low B shooter, and I wasn't progressing at all. It was frustrating, and I pretty much just burned out.

    This autumn, I went to Gunsite to take the 250 class. I can't say I am a significantly better shooter than I was before I went. My reloads may be a bit faster, and I eliminated some issues in my shooting that were tactically wrong (e.g. I am a notorious speed re-holsterer).

    There is one thing I noticed. In the shoot off at the end of the class, I was excited. I was excited to the point where I was experiencing tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and had an instructor actually remind me to breathe. I was also shooting incredibly well. I was hammering split poppers three or four times before they hit the ground.

    Now I am concerned that by quashing my emotional response to shooting matches, and making it just a mechanical function, I severely limited my peak performance levels.

  2. SoCalShooter

    SoCalShooter Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    That's for me to know and not you!
    Wow at first I got a little worried about this heading thought it might be sexually explicit. But overall yeah I get giddy when I go to the range also, I love it, it is a rush and its fun. Tunnel vision has not been a problem though but staying focused sometimes is cause its fun to watch the flash and the shell eject.
  3. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    This has some relation to aniother post about "fear innoculation". I found the bet way to learn to control the jitters in competition is to compete as often as possible. I found myself shooting in 6-8 matches a month (when I could find them). After a couple of months of doing this I learned to maintain my composure.

    Practice for competition by shooting competitions if you can.
  4. shaggycat

    shaggycat Member

    Dec 30, 2005
    I think you speak of a fine line that must be approached in every sport. I run cross country and track for my college and have experienced what you speak of many times over (scholarship is yearly and if you don't put out neither does your coach, LOTS of people are there, lots of invested time and work, desire to win, etc).

    Anyway, I find that a little bit of excitement/nervousness helps me. It keeps me sharp and focused while getting a the adrenaline going. At the same time, if I let that take hold and get out of control, I go out too fast or make other tactical mistakes. The excitement can push you to victory or kill you if you are unable to harness it.

    You have to just figure out what makes the situation feel familiar enough to help calm your nerves. For me that includes a routine in preparation, the same songs, etc. Yet you have to let your mind understand that this is a special and unique situation as well. Let yourself get swept up a little bit in the excitement, grasp it and harness it.

    You just have to try different routines and techniques until you figure out what works best for you.
  5. Will Fennell

    Will Fennell Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Sharon, SC USA

    I find that my emotional ties to performance is directly related to goal that I have set......short and long term. I mean at this point in my competitive career, I have to be SPECIFIC. Earlier, when I was "working my way up the ladder"......my goals were obvious to me, and I didn't give them much thought......now that I have "climbed the mountian" and attained much of what I aspired to.....I have to be MUCH more specific in my goal setting to stay motivated. And it can't just be a goal you set at the start of the match.....I suggest some soul searching this week, and set your goals for the '07[ and possibly the '08] season for new year's resolutions.

    I also suggest this book to all of my students in the clayshooting world.....

    "Golf is not a game of perfect" by Bob Rotella.....

    In sportingclays, we borrow alot of wisdom from the golf world.

    Good luck this season......call if I can help.
  6. m14nut

    m14nut Member

    Feb 12, 2003

    I shoot hi-power, the verierable M1a, the national match couse in a summer league. Been doing it for about 10 years now.
    When I started, I'd kick myself with every poor shot or flyer, untill I came to the realization:

    this is supposed to be fun, not nerve wracking,
    technique takes practice, practice takes technique.
    you are only as good as your poorest shot.

    now I go, to compete, but not against other shooters, but to shoot just 1 point higher than my last match. every time now, my scores increase, not by leaps and bounds, but they increase.

    Now if they'd just stop shooting those darn AR's, and all go back to real guns in thutty cal......:neener: :banghead:
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