Back to training after the UCD August Open, and started with Matt and I having a talk about what went wrong in the Open. With the few days rest between the Open and tonight, there was a bit of perspective and we both came to the conclusion that while there are still small technical things to work on (like my trigger finger alignment), the main problem is a complete lack of proper mental preperation for the match.
Thing is, y’see, we’ve never really worked on mental prep before. Logistical planning for matches, yes; technical training, intensively yes; physical training yes; but mental training is the next thing for us to learn how to train in. When I started shooting air back in ’98, we didn’t know how to train people to shoot properly. Safely, yes – we weren’t exactly lax in the safety department at any time – but we just didn’t know how to train people. We’d show them the rifle, show them how to safely shoot, and then just let them repeat that until they got good or went home. We practiced, we didn’t train, and there is a very significant difference. Some individual shooters would go off and get coaching from outside the country, but that rarely works, if ever. At the time, we had a contract with a coach who’d come over to train the national squad once every 4-6 weeks, and he went blue in the face saying this over and again – you can’t train properly through this “masterclass” approach. You need to have your coach there on a far more regular basis, to see you progress, to see the failures, to see you under pressure and relaxed, and to figure out what route is the fastest from where you are to where you want to go.
Dirty little secret in target shooting – while good kit is important, you gain more points per euro spent if you spend the euro on good coaching than on any other possible outlay.
Which is why people drive hundreds of kilometres to get to WTSC – it’s not the range, it’s Matt and Geoff’s coaching.
However, we’ve spent the last decade going from not knowing how to train to knowing how to train physically and technically and how to do logistics; how to train mentally has always been the next step to take, but until now, we’ve never really been ready to take it. Now, we are, and now we’re taking that step. That’s going to be the next phase of training for me and Paul and Ashling and all the other WTSC shooters.
Though we will be fixing my trigger finger alignment too 😀
Anyway, after that rather productive chat, I kitted out and we just started shooting. Nothing specific, just shoot so Matt could watch the trigger finger again. Almost immediately, I could tell the difference between Sunday and tonight – my hips weren’t moving as much when they came forward at the start of the shot routine, and I noticed that that DURC dance (face the wall, hips square to the wall, then swing your hips from left to right repeatedly. It ain’t catchy, but every DURC airgun shooter seems to do it…) wasn’t happening because I was naturally moving my hip right slightly to load and then left properly to mount the rifle. In UCD, I’d had trouble with that – perhaps my stand wasn’t as well placed as I’d thought.
Some dry-firing to start, and after 20 mins or so, ten shots to check the sights:
Matt didn’t say anything, so I just kept on shooting, but I kicked it over into the first string because I’d moved the sights and wanted a clean target.
Matt still hadn’t said anything by this stage and I just figured what the hell, I’d shoot a match. Wasn’t planned or anything, and it didn’t feel like my position was as rock-solid as I’d like, but I wanted a baseline after Sunday’s mess.
At this point I had to take a short break for five minutes – my right knee was in a fair amount of pain (I couldn’t bend it) and my feet were going numb. Unfortunately, this was the point where I noticed the score, and between that and the physical fun, things just went downhill fast…
And at this point, I’m thinking “Feck. Just shoot another 95/96 here and I’m looking at a new PB in the mid-70s” which is of course, the stupidest thing in the world to be thinking. It wasn’t helping that my knee was now telling me that it was formally considering seceding from the rest of me and filing for independent recognition with the UN on the grounds of inhumane treatment (I hyperextended that joint rather badly a few years back and it’s never really forgotten or forgiven me for that). The next nine shots got progressively harder and more disappointing, and the tenth was pretty much everything I had to give…
So there we go. Another MQS, under rather imperfect circumstances physically. Kindof proves Matt’s point – I was far more rested and in far less pain on Sunday, but my head wasn’t relaxed and centered and so my performance was dire; tonight I was in agony at the end, hungry and tired after a long day of work, and I still managed a 70 despite two tail-end strings that were ridiculously bad.
Talking about it with Matt afterwards, we both agree that even with the ridiculously bad suit and shoes I’m using now, there’s a 580 there for the taking. Going over the actual shots and looking at the scores, there’s a good six or seven 9.9/9.8 type shots that just squeaked out, and an 8.9 at the start – that’s not even counting the falling apart shots in the last strings. So there’s a new goal – get that 580 in the current suit. Once I do that, and change up to a proper new suit, well, that should be another few points of a jump 🙂
So bring on the mental training!