Many people have different ways they prepare for shooting competitions. They go by what feels natural and comfortable. So, how I prepare for a shooting competition may not work for everybody, but it may work for some.
Usually, I will lay out all my gear in the living room and go through a mental checklist to make sure I have everything. Then, I will pack it all up and put it in the car and start gathering everything for the car ride. I will always have gum, headphones, phone/iPod, pillow and snacks with me for the car ride.
Having everything with you is very important. It’s better to have more than needed than to need something and not have it. The reason I always pack everything up the day before is because when competition day come you won’t be running around trying to grab everything to put it in the car. The other reason is because on competition day most people tend to get the nerves and jitters on the car ride to competition and always have the feeling that they forgot something. But you can remind yourself that you packed everything up the day before and you made sure you had everything.
The mental part of shooting competitions is the hardest part. I get nervous all the time when I am on the way to a competition or at the competition. Getting nervous is something that is very easy to do and it’s even easier to stress yourself out even more – but, the good news is that once you are nervous, there are lots of ways to get them under control fast and easy. Lots of people get nervous from the thought of how many people are going to be there, people are going to be watching me, and from thinking about “OMG what if I do terribly?” Something that I learned is this fact: you can’t control everything, so why try.
What you can control is how you do in a competition. That should be your main concern. The other main concern is just having fun, because in a competition, you’re not going to do any good if you don’t have any fun.
Lots of sports are a lot more mental than physical. You have to mentally prepare to physically do well. I should know, because I have my days when I doubt myself and I tend to let things I can’t control bother me and then it gets in my head and I just end up doing poorly, because I let things I can’t control get to me. I went to the Amatuer Trapshooting Association (ATA) Grand in Illinois and shot one of my lowest scores because I let the little things get to me and because I couldn’t control my nerves. Let’s just say I was an emotional wreck that week because I couldn’t mentally prepare myself and because I was an emotional wreck, I didn’t have fun when I was competing and that’s when my scores dropped off the deep end. I mentally just dug myself the biggest hole and nobody could really help me but myself.
So, I needed to find a way to help get rid of nerves and get out of my own head when shooting. I tried so many things for getting rid of nerves, but in the end, I found that the simplest things helped me. Here’s what helps me to calm down before a shooting match:
Listening to music
Singing a song in my head
I know a lot of organizations don’t like the idea of people listening to music while shooting, for safety reasons, but the ATA they allow it. So, when I was at the Grand, I went to a booth where they make specially molded ear plugs with a cord so I can plug in my phone and listen to music. It helps a lot I use it when I shoot ATA, but when I’m not shooting ATA, I will chew gum before I go to shoot, and I will sing a song in my head just so I can’t think of anything else. These things help me with nerves, but only you can help yourself with mentally preparing it takes some time but once you figure out what helps you the most you will be so much better off.
When preparing for a competition you just need to make your own routine, by going by what feels right. Just go by what feels natural and comfortable, and when you find a good routine you like, make sure to try it out for at least a month, because it takes more than a week to get comfortable with a routine. Just remember it takes trial and error to find what works for you.