The big, multi-day matches are the highlights of your shooting year. You need to budget both time and funding for them. They're the "big game" all your shooting and practice are leading up to.
The stakes at these matches is just plain higher. You're competing alongside the best shooters in the country. Turn in a good performance and you'll feel on top of the world. Turn in a bad one, and you might even regret coming in the first place.
In part 1, I started this series talking about how you can get the most out of your multi-day matches. To summarize:
Obviously, all of this advice applies to one-day matches as well. The difference is endurance. Our bodies are built to handle abuse, but duration plays its part.
Athletic activity strains the body by its very nature. The point is to minimize other strains so that your full physical resources are being poured into your performance. Sure, you can tough it out, but you'll pay a price.
Take this advice, and you'll keep doing as well as you can for as long as you can. Nothing is worse than knowing you could have done better if it weren't for X. If X is something you can control, you owe it to yourself to take action.
Let's get back to it.
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
Members of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups use this prayer to focus their minds and actions on what's important. As it turns out, it also makes good shooting advice.
Don't focus on what you can't control.
The biggest of these are the weather and your competitors. Be prepared for the weather, and don't obsess about what your competitors are doing. There is nothing you can do about them; you can only control your shooting, so focus on that.
Set performance goals, not results oriented goals. For example, don't set goals like, "I will beat every guy or girl out there." Shooting your very best is all you can ask of yourself, regardless of how everyone else does.
Instead, set goals like:
Focus on your proper shooting not the outcome. The outcome will come with proper shooting.
Also, most matches have multiple stages. The person who performs most consistently and shoots the fastest in all of the stages will be the best. Aim to be consistent in all of your stages.
There's no point to going out guns a-blazing in the first stage only to lose focus and falter later on. Doing that, you're likely to lose the match. Realize that there's more than one stage and multiple opportunities to perform well.
Stressing about things you can't control can be exhausting and counterproductive. At multi-day events, this is especially true since you have all night to dwell. Stressing yourself and even losing sleep is just self-sabotage.
Save your energy and focus on what you can control.
There's a lot to think about and take in over the course of a multi-day match.
Let's say that you have a two-day match with four stages each day with roughly 30 round per stage. That's 240 very concentrated shots that require focus from your brain.
Now, what if you're also watching six shooters complete their matches. That's another 1,440 rounds that your brain is processing. You may find that this is too much, so find balance at matches.
Remember that your brain is receiving far more stimulus at matches than you normally encounter on your training days. On top of that, you're expecting to learn from what your competitors are doing. Then, you're translating that into what you need to do to complete on your stage.
The point here is that you need to find balance. Too much stimulus is going to fry your brain. By the middle of day two, you may find that your brain isn't firing on all cylinders.
Matches are a great opportunity to learn from competitors. But you're there to shoot, and you need to stay focused in order to practice and execute what you've learned.
Try picking a few shooters that you'd really like to watch (consider all levels of shooters...what to do and what not to do) and watch those. Then, give your brain some time to focus and prepare for what you have to do.
How many times have you gotten wrapped up watching others, then your name is called, and you suddenly don't feel prepared. Take some time to focus and settle your mind into what you need to accomplish. You'll find that you'll get more out of your performance.
We all get nervous for events, and our nerves affect us in different ways. Sometimes, we have to make frequent trips to the bathroom, or we lose our appetite and can't eat. Other times, our nervous energy is outwardly expressed.
My sister Lanny and I have different habits before a race. I am always quiet and don't feel like talking much. Meanwhile, Lanny is a motor-mouth, talking a million miles an hour to get her nervous energy out.
Everyone tends to express nerves a little differently.
Some people need to talk about the match (which helps them) while others talk negatively about how they might screw up. It's important to be self-aware about how you react when you are anxious or nervous. Then, you can learn to deal with it and even overcome it.
For me, I need time by myself to process what I need to do, running through and visualizing my competition. In my biathlon days, I'd always warm up for a race away from the screaming spectators. I needed space from all the other girls who were nervously warming up and doing sprints to prepare.
Maybe you'll need to take a walk away from the range. Sit in your car where it's quiet and you can't hear what's going on. You may also need to separate yourself from those that have that nervous energy.
Some people get incredibly nervous before an event. Just being around them, that nervous energy can be contagious.
Figure out what might be amplifying your nerves and get away from that. If it's the hustle and bustle of the range, then go walk somewhere else. Get your focus for your event.
If you need to watch a few people run the course, do so, but then take the time to prepare for your event. If you're the nervous, chatty kind, talking with someone might be the thing that calms your nerves a bit. Find someone who'll listen and help you settle down.
Being nervous causes us to expend a lot of energy. If we can limit and control those nerves, we'll likely have more energy and focus for the match.
Be attentive to what your mind can handle. Come up with a strategy that will keep your nerves at bay and let you mentally prepare for your match.
Oftentimes, we are traveling to a match late at night or early in the morning after we've gotten off work. We've thrown together a bag with (hopefully) all our gear. Ultimately, we arrive at the match looking and feeling disheveled.
A little prep work will go a long ways.
How many times have you gotten to a match and had to borrow a piece of equipment? How many times have you gotten to a match and had a malfunction of some kind? In the back of your head, you think, "I really wish I would have cleaned these guns before the match."
There's a lot that can go wrong in 3-Gun and not being prepared can turn a disaster in to a catastrophe. You start thinking more and more about things you forgot or equipment that isn't functioning. That's time you aren't thinking about the crucial things like picking up hits or knocking off seconds.
Make a list and respect it.
I have a master list of the things I need to pack for a 3-Gun match. The only thing that really changes is the amount of ammo that I need. Sometimes, I'll have to throw something match-specific like a sling, but at least I always have the basics.
Maintain your firearms.
A lot of people roll their eyes when I bring this up, but would a NASCAR driver forget to change the oil? They have a whole pit crew to make sure nothing on that car is overlooked!
Your equipment only functions as well as you treat it. If you never clean your firearm or forget to lube them, they will fail at some point. It doesn't matter how much you spent on the gun.
We use Otis products because they've proved themselves to us over the years. They're also easily portable, so we can easily clean at a match if we need to. At a multi-day event, you either brought everything you might need or you're stuck asking around.
There are a lot of good products out there. Find the ones that will work for you and maintain your equipment. A little work every now and then will go a long way and save you from headaches on match days.
Ultimately, being prepared leads into everything else I've talked about here. Over the course of a multi-day match, preparedness frees you up to focus on the important things. You won't be running around trying to find a gunsmith or a grocery store.
Do your homework, take care of yourself and your equipment and you'll be the one with a smile on your face at the end of your match.