May 15 2012
I am not a professional shooter; I do not even attempt to compete outside of my local ranges. If I were to be spending every weekend at local, regional, state, or national matches; I wouldn’t have the time to do what I really love, teaching firearms courses. However, I do make the time to shoot and participate as a range officer in our monthly action pistol matches because I think it’s great training; it tests your capabilities as well as the capabilities of your gear under stress. And heck, it’s just plain old fun!
As more women are becoming involved with the shooting sports, more women will shoot competitively as well. Depending on the competitive shooting programs a woman is shooting in, she may be shooting in a women’s division, or she may be shooting up against men too.
Having been a competitor in the action pistol program at my range for the past three years, I have mostly competed against men. In the past year or so, we have picked up two other female competitors, but before that, I was the only girl shooting in our matches. Therefore, my only competition was made up of men who had been shooting for thirty plus years. What I realized, was that with the right mindset, I could stop worrying about the competition (as nothing good would come of it), and start focusing on my performance.
I have learned a lot along the way, and would like to share some of my little nuggets of wisdom with the woman who is just starting out in the world of competitive shooting. Hopefully these will help keep competing more fun and less stressful.
These are not tips pertaining to gear, but state of mind and attitude.
1. Shoot for fun. If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong (or you need to look into another sport).
2. Compete against YOURSELF. Don’t even pay attention to the scores and times of your fellow competitors. Every time you shoot, your goal should be to do better than in the last stage you shot. Randi Rogers sets goals for herself for each match, this is a great method for keeping your focus where it needs to be… on you.
I have been competing against seasoned shooters since I was a beginner in the sport. Keeping the focus on me instead of everybody else helped me to keep my confidence up and my spirits high.
3. Stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar up. I like Smart Water because it replenishes electrolytes without all the sugar that is in Gatorade; but when I feel my blood sugar levels drop, Gatorade is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get it back up to where it needs to be.
I also make sure I’ve packed a healthy snack to munch on as I get hungry (nobody likes me as a RO when I’m hungry and grumpy).
4. Bring a friend. Whether your friend competes or not, it’s nice to have someone there to bounce ideas off of and cheer you on.
5. Relax. The more stressed you are, the worse you are going to shoot. When you are on the firing line, waiting for the buzzer to go off, take a few deep breaths and talk yourself through the stage.
6. Speaking of breathing, that’s a pretty good idea as well. It may sound stupid, but it’s easy to forget. Just last weekend, as I was running one of our best competitors through a really tough stage, just as he neutralized the last target he froze. I asked him to “unload and show clear”; he looked at me and gasped “wait!” He had to catch his breath for a few seconds because he had forgotten to breathe throughout the entire course of fire (and it was a long course).
7. Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Being well rested will help both your physical and mental capabilities.
8. Keep from drinking too much caffeine before the match. You don’t want to get the jitters.
9. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Everyone makes mistakes; everyone has days where they couldn’t hit the ground if it weren’t for gravity. Every match is a learning experience. If you didn’t shoot perfectly and at lightning speed, that’s a good thing. The mistakes let you know what you need to work on for next time.
If you only take one thing away from this article, I hope it’s that competitive shooting should first and foremost be fun, and not because you won (although, winning most certainly helps), but because you got to put rounds down range. If you are having fun shooting, the competitive part will fall into place.