Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Getting ready for the Season Opener

By Shari LeGate

A comment was made the other day that shooters weren’t really athletes. Not in the sense of a track athlete or baseball or football athlete. I would argue that point, saying those who make those types of statements have never stood on a trap line in the heat of summer for a few hours hitting target after target. That’s a true athlete. 

Shooters are athletes in every sense of the word. Preparation for competition may not be like a football player lifting heavy weights or a jogger running 25 miles a day training for a marathon, but shooters still train, even during the off season. 

Preparing for the shooting season doesn’t mean just throwing ammo down range and shooting as many targets as you can. Granted, you have to practice the execution of shooting at a real target, but there are non-shooting activities you can do to prepare for the upcoming season, and those can help improve your overall shooting even more. 
Review your shooter diary: The off season is a perfect time to look back at your scores. Find patterns in your performance and use those patterns to work on areas that are weak. That doesn’t mean if you miss the same type of target a few times during one match, it’s a pattern. That could just mean you were a bit off that day. If you check your performance over the entire season and that same missed target keeps showing up, however, then you’ve got something to work with. Set up a training routine to change that behavior. Work and execute that change for about a month, so it becomes part of your muscle memory and when you step on the line, you’re confident about hitting the target. 

If you don’t keep a shooter diary or journal with your scores, mental training routines and other information….start. Keeping track of past performances is the best way to improve future performances. 

Exercise the eyes: You can’t hit what you can’t see. When you have time off, you need to keep working your eyes. The eye is a muscle and it needs to be exercised. Like other muscles, the eye muscle will get lazy if it doesn’t work out. Go to a shooting range and watch targets, even if you’re not shooting. Just by looking at targets as much as possible, you’re training and exercising your eyes, preparing them for the next few months of staring hard at targets. 

Do regular eye exercises. Focus on something close and then move your eye out focusing on something about 35 yards out. You’re getting your eyes used to the movement of looking close in at the barrel when you first bring up your gun and then moving the eye out to find the target. Muscle memory begins to set in and you’ll find it takes less time to acquire and focus on the target. 

We all put our guns down when the season ends, and then a few months before the new season begins we start preparing and set up a practice schedule. Keep in mind that even if you haven’t been physically shooting at a target, you can still work on your game before that first match, just by doing a few simple things. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.