What does the world think a shooter looks like? Perhaps a middle-aged male, wearing camouflage or blaze orange, speaking with an accent, and driving a truck. Is that a stereotype? Is that our stereotype?
That was the standard when I began shooting. But, today it is becoming less and less of a reality. I am not that shooter. Except for the orange. My closet is filled with orange. I speak with a slight accent and, I do, on occasion, drive a truck.
Sponsored by Vera Koo
The shooting industry is changing to better serve the growing diversity in our sport. According to a 2005 Gallup poll, just 13 percent of females owned a firearm. In 2011, that percentage rose to 23. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the demographic is younger than ever; 66 percent of new shooters fall into the 18-to-34-year-old category, while 37 percent of new target shooters are female.
1. Define your own personal path and vision. Write out your current capabilities, your future proficiency and your dream achievements. These may range from immediate practice sessions to prospective matches.
2. Never forget your goals. Even if you find yourself in last place, but have achieved your goals, then you have won.
3. Patience and practice will allow you to achieve those goals. You must shoot high volumes with great frequency to master your skills. Mastering your nerve is no different. Every time you shoot publically, regardless of the size or notoriety of a match, you will strengthen your own match nerve as you build your competitive mileage.
When I first started shooting, my dream did not include becoming a champion. I viewed that road to be much too long. My plan was simply to shoot a group on the target and improve with every session. Through the process, I discovered that I willingly put in 10 hours to see the smallest improvement. Those minor advancements were my own reward.
My goal, when I began to compete, was to survive the match. That was all. I had no illusions of trophies or hearing my name called to podiums. I simply wanted to maintain composure and remember to breathe.
In those early years, yes, I may have looked ridiculous out there. My pride was occasionally hurt and my ego was often bruised. But, it was just fine and I got used to it. I discovered that if you constantly face your fears, you can become immune to them. So many years were spent building match nerve. To be honest, to this day, I am still terrified of new environments, new places and new people. But, then I return to my first goal – survival . And I discover peace within that.
It is a very powerful position when you are so strong that you cannot be embarrassed by failure or surprise. No one knows when you are embarrassed, so long as you keep smiling and hold your head high.
Those small actions will allow you to dare yourself to return to the fray and test yourself again. In the future, you can be even better and achieve even more than you could ever dream. But, to achieve your goals, you must channel the common element of all great athletes – they are perfectionists. Great competitors are strong, determined, meticulous planners, who value self-control and pure strength. They are physically and mentally strong.
The size of a person does not matter in our sport. It is about size of heart and mind. Champions spend hours practicing for the smallest improvement. They continue to challenge themselves, even at the height of their skills, to reach their future goals. Champion shooters today are men and women, young and old. The only standard amongst all champions is that they are strong of heart.
Vera Koo with Elizabeth Clair.