Monday, February 24, 2014

You're ready...but are you prepared?

By Shari LeGate

“My ritual is the same before every game…. Maybe I play cards with the guys or watch a movie on television, but all day I’m going back and forth between thinking about those things and thinking about the game. I start picturing the way I want to play…..” Michael Jordan, NBA All-Star

No matter what sport we compete in, we have to prepare ourselves, and so we do all the exercises that prepare our bodies. In shooting, we do stretching exercises limbering up our arms and legs, twisting our backs and waists to be able to rotate to that hard left or right. But while it’s important to physically prepare, it’s just as important to mentally to prepare. I know most of us say we do it, but seriously ask yourself ….do you…..really?

Too many of us think mental preparation will happen automatically, because we want it to. What separates the good shooter from the great shooter is those who purposely prepare both their mind and their body.

“It’s hard to separate the mental and the physical. So much of what you do physically happens because you’ve thought about it and mentally prepare for it” Dan Fouts, NFL Quarterback.

Ask any shooter and they’ll tell you they have a routine to get them ready to walk out on the line. Whether it’s listening to certain music, planning their strategy, reviewing their shot sequence, looking at targets, etc.  But is this really a purposely-developed warm up?  Most times it’s been developed by chance and when things start to go south, what do you have in place to draw on to get out of trouble? Worry, failed expectations and negative thoughts. Not a good mental game.

So what is a good mental game? A consistent routine of specific thoughts, images, words, feelings and behaviors that prepare your mind for competition. You want to reach that ideal mindset or “zone” and that takes practice and preparation. So, while your preparing your body with stretches and twists, prepare your mind at the same time.

But what kind of mental preparation routine do you need. I can’t answer that for you, but I can offer some advice on what to work on:

1) Attain the appropriate energy level.

2) Attain the appropriate focus.

3) Rehearse your competition strategy.

4) Develop a competition focus and refocusing plan.

5) Prepare for distractions and unexpected events.

6) Develop a strategy to work through discomfort, fatigue and frustration

7) Keep on task.

Do these things over and over again, the same way every time. This isn’t going to happen overnight. You didn’t get to be the good shooter you are now, overnight, did you? In order for any mental game to be effective, it takes practice, just like it took shooting practice on the range. But with honing a mental routine, you don’t have to be at the range. You can work on your mental game at home. The more you practice it, the better you’ll be.

So, start practicing and show up at this competition with a competitive edge no one is expecting. That alone will get you a few more targets!

I look forward to your thoughts.