No matter what event you find women participating in, they are competitive. The more competitive they are, the more confidence you see in their demeanors. From very stereotypical “girl stuff,” such as shopping, to sports, like women’s rugby, women can be fierce. But what separates the demure from the tenacious? How do you encourage a proper sense of competition, while still maintaining healthy friendships? How do you teach a woman to be confident with firearms, but at the same time cautiously safe? I am going to share my experience from participating in NRA Women’s “Love at First Shot” this June, and what I took away from working with a young woman who was not only new to competition, but also relatively new to using guns. What I saw was that with good direction, support and encouragement, women are capable of quick growth and mastery of skills, but most importantly, they are capable of developing a confidence in themselves and their skills.
Not a Soccer Mom is sponsored by Jagemann Sporting Group
Like every other human being on the planet, women are each different. When we partake in competition, we see cheerleaders, goalkeepers, drill sergeants, mother hens, squad leaders, babysitters – all sorts of personalities can show up. The trick is seeing what personality you are working with, and directing it in ways that inspire growth. My teammate on the show, Breann, is young and confident, yet self-aware enough to know that she doesn’t know everything. That was a huge strength for us as a team. She knew and admitted that she needed to listen. Not only did she listen, but she also dove into every idea, skill and plan we laid out with her whole self.
She didn’t say, “I can’t do this.” She said, “Show me how.” She never said, “We don’t have time.” She said, “Here’s what I have, how can we work with that?”
People talk about the rapport a team has or its unity, but that isn’t something that just happens, it’s something you work for. My view on teamwork or unity is that it starts inside the individual person, with personal goals, drive, ambitions and ego. Success in competition comes down to a well-balanced ego. By that, I mean having enough faith in yourself to know you can do things, knowing yourself truthfully and deciding when to ask for help and not let your ego get in the way.
How personalities relate and interact plays out with groups or teams of women in interesting ways. I’m sure there is a male equivalent to “Mean Girl.” A “Mother Hen” personality is probably the same as the guy who makes sure his team has all the gear and that everyone’s on time to practice. But as a woman who competes, not just for fun, but at the national and world levels, I know that mental outlook and ego can affect your performance, and your team’s performance.
When we were filming the show, I focused on performing well enough to help my teammate, make her comfortable and use our skills and a little strategy to the best advantage possible.
What if that was how we as a community approached every exposure women have to firearms? And not just us ladies, but what if that was how the guys approached time on the range or hunting or even gun shopping? What if we struck for a balance of the “Mother Hen” not letting you do anything unsafe, coupled with “Cheerleader” – who knows that you can do it if you are shown proper technique? Then, throw in some “Drill Sergeant” – who will make you repeat it until you can do it successfully? How many women might just tell their husbands, “Sure, Honey, I’m going hunting!” if we were patient enough to give them the skills that make them confident?
In the final challenge we had on the show, my teammate made a choice about something and I trusted her. Did I know she could do what she wanted to do 100%? Yes. But that required me to have faith in her belief in herself. And that was our biggest win! Here was a girl who had, until very recently, been a little hesitant to pull the trigger (Literally … her dad’s GLOCK and the snappy ammo she had to practice with actually required respect and wasn’t easy for a beginner to shoot.) Here was this girl now, sure of herself and her skill, and her mental game on the clock, under pressure. It sounds corny, but it brings tears to my eye to know that an inexperienced 19-year old, without any kind of shooting background, had developed so much tenacity from our work that she was stepping up to claim her own victories. That’s something I will be forever proud of. But, it required me to make sure my ego wasn’t in the way; I stepped back and let her make a choice.
That can be all that you need to do in order to empower other women – whether it’s on the range, hunting or in some other sport. Don’t let ego make a mean girl out of you. Nobody likes to see someone who has been years at something show off. And just the same, ladies, remind the men that take your daughters hunting and shooting that they need to safely let girls and women make mistakes.
Mother Hen will remind you that this means you can her to forget to rack a round into the chamber, and watch her dry fire and maybe flinch. Then, teach her that it’s normal and means she’s anticipating the shot. Help her build a good position and manage the recoil. But, do not let her fail to have a solid grip, stance, or control of a firearm. There’s no watching anyone fail when it comes to being safe (Those are the places to be the “Drill Sergeant.”). Make sure you have taught them enough so that shooting is not scary or overwhelming, but a challenge that they have been given the skills to master. Give them confidence by being a Mother Hen until you are confident that all that’s left is to cheer them on and be proud of their tenacity.
Becky Yackley primarily competes in 3 Gun, USPSA, Bianchi pistol, but has competed in shooting since 1989 in disciplines from service-rifle, to NCAA Air Rifle and Smallbore, air pistol and a little bit of long range rifle. She shoots guns and cameras at competitions around the country, and writes in her fictional spare time. Her writing can be found here The WON in her column titled "Not a Soccer Mom" and sponsored by Jagemann Sporting Group, as well as Guns America and Gun World. View all posts by Becky Yackley