Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fighting the Mid-Season Slump

Having just returned from the Grand American Trap Shoot, I talked with many shooters, both young and old, who told the same story and asked the same question. “I was shooting great at the start of the season and now I can’t hit a thing. What am I doing wrong?” The dreadful mid-season slump, we’ve all experienced it and when we do, we get the same advice, ‘just shoot your way out of it.’

Well, there’s some truth to that, but it’s how you approach shooting your way out of it that makes all the difference. The fundamentals of golf are similar to those of shooting and I play and watch a lot of golf. Not surprisingly, even pro golfers suffer from mid-season slumps, but what caught my attention was how they deal with it. 

To put it simply, they go back to the basics. Tiger Woods is a perfect example. His struggles on the golf course these days are well known, but he’s working his way out of it. How? He went back to his basics. He pulled footage of his swing when he was at the top of his game and did a comparison of then and now. To the average person, it looks the same, but not to Tiger or his coach. To him, it wasn’t even close to the same swing.  He and his coach went out to the driving range and he’s working on bringing back that swing. He is going back to the basics; going back to what made him a champion.

That’s what we shooters should do, go back to our basics. However, there’s a little more to it. First off, it’s easier said than done because we think we are doing so, but a minor little obstacle gets in the way that we’re not even conscious of. It’s called Muscle Memory.

It took a few months to get into this slump and remain in it. Over those months, we made slight changes to how we do things. Changes we don’t even notice. Whether it’s a small cant in the gun, how we make the initial move to the target or how we finish the execution of the overall shot. We did it over and over again and it’s become so ingrained in our muscle memory, it’s now habit and we don’t even realize it. It could be one thing or several.

It’s easy for the pro golfers. They have old footage from matches they can turn to and professional coaches they pay a lot of money for to watch them practice and analyze their swings. We don’t have that luxury. So, what do we do?

First, forgive yourself for shooting badly. Put aside all those bad scores and awful shots you keep remembering and give yourself permission to take the time to fix it.

Then, put down the gun and think back to the days when everything was in sync and making the shot came easily. Think about how good that felt and how you executed the shot, from start to finish. Not just pulling the trigger, but from the time you stepped on the station until you stepped off.  Go out on the practice range and most importantly, take your time and think about what you’re doing. Don’t just shoot shot after shot, throwing ammo downrange. Think about the basic fundamentals that got you to this level and make sure each shot is executed with those fundamentals. The first couple of practice rounds will take time, because you’re carefully thinking about what you’re doing.  You have to implement new muscle memory and that takes concentration and consistency. But it will happen.

Remember, you can’t pull yourself out of a slump by just shooting your way out of it. It takes patience, going back to basics, and belief in yourself and your ability to beat the slump and finish the season strong.