“How do you become a pro?” is one of the most common questions I receive. There really isn’t an easy answer to that, because the question is actually asking many different things. Below are my 5 tips to becoming a pro in competition shooting.
What is a pro?
First, there’s the matter of defining a “pro” — other than saying, “professional.” To be a “pro” doesn’t necessarily mean lots of sponsors and perks. It’s in skill and presentation and perseverance. The professional markswoman, of course, has put in hours and hours, on and off the range, to tone all elements of the sport. That’s the markswoman end of things, but there’s an entirely different realm of professionalism. A professional anything has to do much more than the “trade,” including conducting herself in a manner that provides an atmosphere of awareness, knowledge and maturity. A professional is someone who can take both successes and failures and turn it into something greater.
1. Perform well
Perhaps the most obvious element, performance is the prerequisite for being a professional. Annette Aysen, Team Smith & Wesson member, as well Lady Limited Champion of the International Revolver Championship, explains, “Going on the basics of stance, grip, sight picture, trigger press has done a lot for me.” No matter how much you’ve shot in the last decade, month, or week, the fundamentals of shooting always are important.” When it comes to the actual competition, Aysen says, “I always shoot my own game and try to better myself each and every time I compete.”
2. Experience the competition
This is crucial and may seem obvious. Actually going to competitions is a major element of progressing from an amateur to a professional — even local events, and even when you believe you won’t place particularly high. Doing this shows commitment, and the training under “match pressure” is something that you can never have enough of. This makes you a better competitor, and by raising yourself among scores and rankings, you’re opening up a new realm of professionalism through experience. Experiences don’t have a definite monetary value, but they do have the potential to shape an individual into someone who could be called a professional. Aysen says, “I try to shoot everything as if it was my last match that I would ever get to shoot.” With that attitude, putting all of one’s effort into the competition, the most benefit will be taken from the experience.
3. Present yourself well
A sport must be taken seriously, of course, if the competitor is aiming to become a professional. Conduct reaches a new level of importance. Sportsmanship should always be a priority, but even more-so for a professional. When it comes to looking professional, you might be wary of wearing your business suit to the range. You should be. Don’t do that. But wearing a clean shirt, appropriate pants (This can be a struggle for youngsters: I still haven’t found tactical pants that fit my frame!) and shoes that are reasonable, helps demonstrate to others your seriousness about the sport as well as encouraging the best performance.
4. Get sponsors
Remember that business about competing? There’s actually more to it than experience. When it comes to getting sponsors, which many people consider as the line between amateur and professional, the major point you need to consider is what can you do for your sponsor? Sponsors don’t want to give people products willy-nilly, without a plan. These are businesses, looking for profit. If you become sponsored, the expectation is that you will be able to discuss products and increase visibility. Now, what’s the main way that visibility is reached? Competition!
Though you’re sponsored by a business, this is not purely a money-game. There’s definitely the personal element involved. Building relationships is crucial — not only because having friends is delightful, but also because you can network and meet other people with similar goals. This means potentially more sponsors, and allies for future projects.
5. Aim to be a role model
A professional is the person who others can look to as a role model. A professional is someone who is accomplished, yet does not represent their accomplishments through medals alone, but by exuding a gracious attitude. A professional is someone whom the industry can be proud to have as an ambassador for the sport.
A professional can be anyone — and it’s not determined by the number of logos on your jersey. Remember: everyone starts somewhere — taking those first shots. With practice, dedication and use of the tips above, reaching that professional-level is more than possible.
California teen shooter Molly Smith shoots for Team Smith & Wesson, and prefers a 627 Smith & Wesson iron-sighted revolver. She attends several matches each year, and loves to write about them at her column, "Millisecond Molly." View all posts by Molly Smith