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The Well Armed Woman, Prescott Chapter, meets the 2nd Sunday of the month at the Prescott Gun Club at 1200 Iron Springs Road, Prescott.
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Shooting is 90% Mental
by Chip Lohman, Dr. Judy Tant and Dr. Mike Keyes - Wednesday, August 5, 2015
We generally agree that “shooting is 90 percent mental,” but apply it in very personal ways. When a coach emphasizes the need to focus, for example, one shooter’s interpretation may be to bear down and think harder, while the next may visualize “living in the moment” and relaxing.
This article touches on recent studies in critical thinking, brain fitness and even modifying the brain (plasticity) from the perspective of shooting sports. Drs. Judy Tant and Mike Keyes help interpret some of the more complex clinical findings and share their own experiences, as they are both accomplished shooting athletes in their own right [see endnotes for their biographies].
From Dr. Keyes: “I think you have a very good article in the making that combines your previous interviews, the SEAL study, and the latest knowledge on training and teaching. The crux of the article, that you have to train for competition, has been out for decades, but modern science has both verified and localized how this is accomplished.
I was especially interested in what Ernie Vande Zande, Lanny Basham and Lones Wigger said, since I met them on a number of occasions at Ft. Benning and had a chance to talk with them and watch them shoot. I've also been following the Doug Koenig TV show and it is clear that he has very actively dealt with match pressure by training for it.
One of the important points for your readers is that each of these shooters has a very personal approach that might not work for others. The basic principles of determining your reaction to stress, finding a set of specific answers that work for you and practicing them both in matches and on the practice field hold up throughout the interviews.
At the very highest levels, the problems of learning to shoot and how to deal with match pressure have been solved, more or less, but in order to achieve this level, the resolution of these issues has to have been worked out in a deliberate, layered manner that sets a solid base for the next level. Talent, i.e. a set of physical, mental and psychological attributes that give the shooter a step up on the ladder to success, has a place, but mostly this is a starting point. It takes hard work—work that is specific to the training task, to improve to an elite level. This is the “ten thousand hours” that you read about, and it can't be a random amount of work. It has to be focused and deliberate, which means that when you train you have to have goals and a good idea about what is going to help you.
After a while the very best shooters have a good idea about what is needed to succeed and their analytic abilities are at a peak. But even the very best can be helped by a good coach who can help with that incremental increase in training that might make all the difference in the rarified competition that marks the very best. The bottom line is that you have to work in order to succeed and you have to have the right kind of work, or you are wasting time. If you don't have a good base of training, all the talent in the world will not help at the edges of your talent when stress becomes the most acute.
In retrospect, I realized that shooters like Lones Wigger and Lanny Basham had these skills and I know how hard they worked at improving them every day. What we didn't have back then was a broad knowledge and good methods to make sure that every shooter had access to what has to be done in order to be the best. The hard part is still the amount of work that has to be put in, but now we know more about the direction of that hard work.”
Observations: When we’re not expected to do well, we often shoot to our full potential. Dr. Judy Tant mentioned this in her November, 2009, interview with SSUSA when she reflected: “I discovered that, because I had been doing well, I felt like I had to do well.” On the other hand, during Jock Elliott’s series on How Not to Crack Under Pressure [see endnotes], in anticipation of a lengthy interview with National Rifle and Pistol Champion Carl Bernosky, he suddenly found himself with plenty of spare time when Carl answered: “I just never thought of shooting as being all that difficult.” So it’s important to reflect on our perception of pressure, to understand how to manage it.
From Olympic Gold medalist Lanny Bassham: “Here’s a myth—Pressure causes performance to drop. Pressure does not cause your performance to drop. What I learned about pressure was that when you feel the physical effects of pressure, it’s real. You feel an adrenaline rush and your heart rate and blood pressure go up. I’ve seen shooters shoot extremely high scores with their legs shaking. Pressure doesn’t cause your scores to go up or down, but your attitude does. Your attitude is what’s important.”
Research: Navy SEAL Study on Working Through Fear.
Having doubled in size during our evolution, the brain weighs less than five pounds, yet consumes nearly one fourth of our body’s energy. According to Eric Zillmer of Drexel University, we can compare our brain’s structural evolution to an old house, with additional rooms added over time. The original “house” was simply the brain stem, sometimes called the reptilian brain. We know that this part of the brain governs automatic functions like temperature, heart rate and the instinct to flinch from loud sounds— things that happen without having to think about them. Fast forward a few hundred thousand years when the next “room” was added to the brain—the cerebellum, where procedural memory (learned activities) is stored. (More about this room, later.)
During this same evolutionary era, scientists believe the next room created was the amygdala, [a-mig'-də-lə] near the brain stem, which is responsible for emotions, including fear. So if a bad “case of nerves” is imbedded in the oldest part of the brain, how then are we able to control these ancient instincts?
Navy SEAL training has drawn from neuroscience for special techniques to help recruits change the way they react to the extremes they will face in combat. The principle goals of this training include: Goal Setting, Mental Rehearsal, Self-talk and Arousal Control. Sound familiar? These same themes are found in shooting sports literature, but perhaps not in the same context as found in recent neuroscience research.
Through repeated exercises, the U.S. Navy conditions recruits to control their reactions to the natural fear signals initiated by the amygdala. Practice (repetition) helps control or even suppress our instinctive reactions that detract from shooting well. Or, perhaps the repetition helps us to view these fear signals in a non-threatening way—to accept them as a natural consequence of our competitive sport.
SEAL training also seeks to replace panic, a lack of preparation for the brain’s “fight or flight” alarm, with rehearsed options, an approach presented by National Smallbore Champion Ernie Vande Zande in his November 2011 interview where he reflected: “Back in high school, I felt that pressure was normal. I started noticing in speech class that sometimes I got pretty nervous, but I didn’t get nervous every time. Over time, I realized that I became more nervous on days when I gave a speech when I felt less prepared. I started thinking about that in relationship to my shooting. It was the same kind of thing: At those times when I wasn’t prepared, I felt more nervous.”
This learned behavior, goal setting and problem solving occurs in the most recent “room addition” to our brain—the frontal lobe, located just above our eyes. Science explains that master shooters have created signals in their frontal lobe that are strong enough to override instinctive distractions from the earliest parts of the brain. Yet these frontal lobe signals are much slower than those of the ancient brain. (More on this point in a moment.)
Self-talk can also help to override fear from the reptilian brain. According to History Channel’s 2008 movie—The Brain, the average person speaks to them self at a rate of 300 to 1,000 words per minute. If these messages are positive, then these “signals” from the frontal lobe help override any fear signals coming from the brain’s center.
For arousal control, Navy SEAL training focuses on breathing. Long exhales mimic the body’s relaxation process, delivering more oxygen to the brain for better performance. So science teaches us what our coaches have been telling us all along: Slow breathing helps diffuse pre-competition nerves.
Full article is here.
GENERAL CLUB INFORMATION:
• A new mailbox with a sign-in book has been installed at the rifle and pistol practice bays, next to the range flag. Please use this sign-in book and range flag when using these bays.
• All members may use practice bays at any time. You may also use these areas on match days during regularly scheduled matches. Please, as always sign in and obey all range rules.
• Please check the club calendar for range maintenance or events that require the practice area to be closed.
• There is no restriction on the time of day you may use the range.
• The speed limit on the dirt road to our facility is 15 MPH. It's one lane in and out.
• No incendiary, tracer or explosive ammunition allowed at any time.
• Be sure to lock the gate after passing through on non-event days to make sure the range is secure even if you or someone else is there.
• ATV's are not allowed on the range without the express permission from the Range Master.
• PractiScore electronic scoring tutorial video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYQAEDfdndw
• Range Safety is Everyone's Job. See the video here
• The upper parking lot behind the rifle bay is not to be used as a shooting point.
• There will be no placing of additional or personal steel targets on the hillside behind the rifle bay.
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