…the other half is physical

Yogi Berra famously said, “Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical.” This month’s Shooting Sports USA has the best article I’ve read yet in an NRA publication: “Shooting Is 90% Mental”. It’s an overview of the best ideas to come from shooting champions, psychologists and medical experts on the brain related to shooting well, including Judy Tant (psychologist and National Bullseye Pistol champion) and Michael Keyes (psychiatrist and former physician for the U.S. Shooting Team). It covers how we prepare mentally, how we train our brains to work better, and how we respond to things that happen to us in competition – good and bad. Here’s the URL: SSUSA: Shooting Is 90% Mental

Here are couple of key quotes from the article:

At the very highest levels, the problems of learning to shoot and how to deal with match pressure have been solved, more or less, but in order to achieve this level, the resolution of these issues has to have been worked out in a deliberate, layered manner that sets a solid base for the next level. Talent, i.e. a set of physical, mental and psychological attributes that give the shooter a step up on the ladder to success, has a place, but mostly this is a starting point. It takes hard work—work that is specific to the training task, to improve to an elite level. This is the “ten thousand hours” that you read about, and it can’t be a random amount of work. It has to be focused and deliberate, which means that when you train you have to have goals and a good idea about what is going to help you.


SEAL training also seeks to replace panic, a lack of preparation for the brain’s “fight or flight” alarm, with rehearsed options, an approach presented by National Smallbore Champion Ernie Vande Zande in his November 2011 interview where he reflected: “Back in high school, I felt that pressure was normal. I started noticing in speech class that sometimes I got pretty nervous, but I didn’t get nervous every time. Over time, I realized that I became more nervous on days when I gave a speech when I felt less prepared. I started thinking about that in relationship to my shooting. It was the same kind of thing: At those times when I wasn’t prepared, I felt more nervous.”

On overthinking:

Observation: If I don’t over-think things and just let my eye trigger the shot, I do much better.

Research: Scientists believe that the newer frontal lobe may not be able to keep up with “deep” brain signals that transmit at nearly 300 mph. This is explained when athletes talk about “letting go,” rather than over-thinking the shot. As Tim Conrad explained in his January, 2013, article on muzzle flip this conscious signal can take up to 0.3 seconds from recognizing the desired sight picture to moving the trigger finger—too long to capture the opportunity for a perfect shot. However, if the signal is initiated spontaneously in the cerebellum where such procedures are thought to be stored through repetition, the reaction speed is much quicker. Signals are processed by the “deep brain” almost twice as fast as the problem-solving frontal lobes.

Read the whole thing, and follow up on the research listed in the end notes. It will improve your shooting.

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