I have seen many competitors get nervous during shooting matches. Some of the signs and symptoms of their nervousness include hand tremors, sweating, nausea, and self-doubt. What is the root cause of these manifestations?
Fear can have an incapacitating effect on the human body. Fear is learned, and is only useful for the purpose of survival. Competing in 3-Gun is not life or death, so you must remove fear in order to perform your best. There are two types of fear that can affect your mental game: fear of the known and fear of the unknown.
Poor past performance can cause you to worry that it will happen again. If you haven’t had enough trigger time and are aware of your areas of weakness, you might dwell on parts of a match where you expect failure. Feeling like you are being watched while shooting can cause you to worry about what others are thinking or saying about you. All of these examples are fear of the known; you are familiar with how similar experiences have made you feel and now you are letting them hinder your future performance.
You might be completely new to competitive shooting and not know what to expect. A match that has further shots or different stages than you anticipated can cause you to feel unprepared for this new experience. Fear of the unknown can be just as debilitating as fear of the known because your mind can construct some very irrational possibilities.
Both types of fear can be handled in the same way because fear is not productive in your growth as a competitive shooter. Build your confidence by strengthening your fundamental shooting skills and believing in your capabilities. Do not think of the match as a whole entity, instead focus on each stage. At each stage, focus on each target. Concentrate on the present in order to keep your mind free from the fears that could inhibit your performance. With so much focus on what is about to happen, there should not be any room left to worry about what other people think. Their thoughts have no impact on how you have prepared, so what they think absolutely does not matter in reference to the stage you are about to shoot.
I like to view every stage as a new, fun experience. By doing so, I prevent myself from worrying about my overall standing in a match. Even though I am not the best shooter, I am not intimidated by the outstanding performance of my competitors. I believe that their success does not mean my failure; it just means I have a lot to learn. I do not remember the last time I have been scared or fearful in a situation. Have no fear and you will improve your game.
Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine