Simple Steps to Ensure Your Success
“Shooter ready….stand by….BEEP!” The stage started to flow, all was going well and then it happened. The first position went great, zero down so far…the next position good as well, but in the third position I visually indexed the first target and the sights appeared in the center of the zero incredibly fast and I pressed the trigger two times resulting in two more zero down hits.
A millisecond later my brain realized what happened. Disaster! Did I move the gun resulting in a couple down threes or misses? No. The shots landed perfectly in the center of the target. The only problem? IT WAS A NON-THREAT! And I did not shoot it by accident, I shot it with purpose…although obviously wrong. So what caused this dreaded mistake to happen so fast that my conscious decision-making mind could not keep up with my subconscious skill of executing the shot? Simple, I had failed to follow the stage planning “process.”
In analyzing my performance (at the 2015 IDPA World Championships) I realized that the errors made were, not surprising, all resulting from two key areas, one in training and one in the application of the skills. This article will break down those two key areas and help you set yourself up for success in your next match, if you put the time and effort into practicing and then deliberately executing with a process.
Let’s define the two key areas that I can attribute ALL of my mistakes at ANY major match when I look at them objectively. The two key areas are:
- Dedication and work in ALL of the six training modules.
- Following a set “process” when shooting matches.
The first thing I look at when analyzing my mistakes at any major match is whether or not I followed my preparation plan. Think of this as more than just doing training drills on the range, but rather a way to break down and develop your skills from a broader perspective. Years ago when I wrote my first book Your Competition Handgun Training Program I looked at the various methods of preparing mentally, physically, and technically for a match, and I can up with the following “training modules.”:
Six modules of success
There are six key areas that you can focus on to ensure your success.
They are: live-fire training, dry fire training, visual training, mental training, physical fitness, and game day quizzes (matches). The symbiotic effect of addressing all of these training modules in a systematic manner will dramatically increase your chances of success at a big match. Your training program should be a systematic set of processes that will give you the skills needed to reach your goal, rather than a random set of practice sessions that are unlikely to work as well.
The key is to realize that each area must be addressed, but each might require more or less time depending on your individual skills and abilities. For example, you can see that two of the modules are live and dry fire training. I found years ago that if I worked hard and practiced in those two key areas I would possess a great deal of technical shooting skill, but if I failed to address the “game day” module (shoot matches), I could never truly use that skill to it’s potential in the stress of competition. That is the difference between talent and skill. Talent is the ability to use your skill under the stress of competitions.
In my example, in the past, I have failed to perform because I simply could not process the information as quickly as I would need to in order to be competitive because I had not shot enough matches. I had failed to test my skills on “game day” enough times to be talented enough to use my skill.
Look at each key area and assign yourself a value on a scale from 1-10 on how good you are in each area. A 10 being the best and requiring little attention from you, and a 1 requiring your more work. For example, you might have great vision and simply shooting your practice drills is enough in that module, where a different person might have vision deficits and need work in that area. The solution would be to spend some time on vision exercises (yes the eyes can be trained). Another of you might be very physically fit, and need to pay little attention to that module, but sorely lack the mental confidence and skills to perform well. In that case you will need to research and utilize mental tools to improve in that area.
Take a look and see where you fall.
The next area I want to talk about is “the process” I referred to early in this article. This simply means that if I want to perform at my best in a match, I need to do more than just practice and then hope when I get to a match it will all come together. I need to follow a process to ensure it does. I like to tell my students that I don’t “shoot” a match, instead I “work” one. This simple means that the entire time I am working through the process. Mine looks like this (at the match):
- Prepare (magazines loaded and double checked, gun checked, gear ready).
- Recon (the stage). This includes finding all targets, learning the stage procedure, observing the activators if there are any, and beginning my process of putting it all together. It is in this step that I like to take what I would describe as a “kodak picture” of each array of targets so visually I know what I should be seeing when I come into the shooting position.
- Plan (the shooting sequence). This is where I take the information from my recon and start developing my plan. From the very first target to the last, I figure out how I will shoot the stage. This inlcudes the target order in each array, and to get that order correct I take mental pictures of each target array. You need to remember that your vision leads everything when shooting. This means that from the first shot fired your vision starts to flow from the sights, to the next target, to your stage and stop markers (spots on the ground or on walls that get you into position), etc. I know if I can find my visual flow, I will perform well on the stage.
- Validate (the plan). This is where I take my plan and bounce it off other shooters, or simply watch how they are planning to shoot the stage. This is my chance to see if I missed something.
- Visualize (the plan). Now it’s time to work. After the plan is set, now I have to run it in my mind until I can turn away from the stage and close my eyes and see every single visual shift I plan to use on the stage. (see step 3) I normally visualize my plan until I am up to shoot, often ten times or more.
- Execute (the plan). Now it’s go time. If I have done steps 1-5, all I need to do is use my vision and subconscious skills (developed in practice) to lead me through the stage.
- Debrief and document (the execution). This is a key step that has nothing to do with the stage, but rather helps you prepare for the very next stage (and future stages). The key is to find a way of assessing your performance on the stage, and documenting anything you can directly influence in future practice. I like to have the match booklet, and analyze how my stage went. If I can write something down that I can address in future training sessions I do so, and then when I close my logbook (or match booklet), that stage is over. I DO NOT carry it over to the next stage. This is a good tip for those of you that tend to carry negative thought to the next stage.
So in closing, what area did I fail on that caused the mistake in the beginning of this article? I simple failed to take my “kodak picture” of the arrays in that stage. When I came into the shooting position, mounted my gun perfectly based on the stage marker, and shot…I shot the wrong target. Had I really possessed a picture in my mind of the array I would see, I would have keyed my conscious mind to index on target number two in the array instead of number one. Problem solved! I got lazy in my stage recon, and paid for it.
Take some time to address your own success modules and figure out where you might be lacking. Then add your own “process” you can follow to ensure that hard earned success in matches. The rest is simply following the plan! Put the work in, you will get the results.
In a near future article, I will show you exactly how to use the six modules as a framework to build a training plan for whatever goal you have. Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get it!
Want to learn more and actually follow a plan? Check this out: ACSS
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Until Then – Train Hard!