Top tips for keeping your cool in competitions

Andy McLachlan offers some tips for keeping your perspective when a competition doesn’t go your way

A dose of healthy competitiveness can be a great help in any sport but don’t be a sore loser!

Those of us who regularly shoot outdoor airgun competitions will, I am sure, have experienced the occasional disappointment at what we consider to be our poor performance. This has been something that I personally have struggled with greatly over the years, as I lose sight of the reason for being there in the first place – I am supposed to be enjoying myself.

Unless we find the time to practise regularly, we are unlikely to fulfil our own expectations of ourselves. Professional sports people understandably devote a considerable proportion of their time to practising and keeping themselves fit. Nowadays they also appear to receive counselling on how to prepare themselves mentally for maximum performance in their chosen discipline.

So, how are we mere leisure shooters to go about improving our own performance? I include here my own personal thoughts on how I intend to enjoy my shooting. Let us remember that is why we do it – for enjoyment. If we miss a target, it is not going to shoot back at us!

Enjoy the company of your friends, your family and your fellow shooters.

Do not take the occasional miss too seriously. Try to ask more successful shooters for advice. They will always provide advice when they can – and they do not bite!

When shooting the next target, forget any error you may have made previously, and concentrate upon the one in hand.

Do not try to compare yourself with the best shots who make the process look remarkably easy. This will put you under even more personal pressure.

Practise when you can without jeopardising family or work commitments.

If, like me, you become obsessive about trying to improve, one of the skills that you can develop during your normal day-to-day activities is to estimate range more effectively. You will find yourself pacing things out, often gaining a series of strange looks if you make it too obvious!

Expensive top-of-the-line equipment does not make up for a lack of skill or practice. It is nice to own, but the best gear is designed to make life easier for those who tend to be at the top of their game and know how to use it.

Smile at yourself and others more frequently than you do now. (Note to self.)

Put shooting into perspective in your life. It is your hobby, not your job, so you can afford to enjoy yourself!

Try to shoot with others of a similar ability to yourself. This helps a lot.

There have been occasions recently when I have failed to take my own advice on board. This has mostly been due to me attempting to match the abilities of some genuinely great shooters, and has caused me to question my own ability on a regular basis. However, this is just plain daft. I will never be able to match the best shots, and the sooner this penny drops, the better it will be for me. I am no longer a spring chicken with 20/20 vision and the ability to stand with a 12lb target rifle for hours on end, practising standing shots. Age has caught up with me, and I will just have to get used to it!

To get the most enjoyment out of your shooting, whatever discipline that might be, do not take things too seriously when things don’t go well. Just take a step back; when you put things into perspective, missing a few knockdown targets really doesn’t matter.

I have had to come to terms with my inability to compete with the younger generation. What I must learn now is to fully accept this, make the effort to not be disappointed by this fact, and just enjoy it!

This article originally appeared in the issue 103 of Airgun Shooter magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online

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