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Sports Psych The Psychology of Pistol Shooting


One of the questions we get asked a lot is how much overlap there is between different sports when it comes to the mental side. I am not aware of any research that has been done to answer this question but I’d suggest it’s about 80% - 90% and even higher within team sports and individual sports. With this in mind, I thought it would be a nice idea to use the content below that we were recently asked to produce for Australia’s largest pistol shooting publication. I’d be very interested in the comments from both our pistol shooting reader as well as the non-pistol shooting followers about if my estimation of 80% - 90% seems ‘about right’ or not.

As a sport psychologist, one of the most interesting parts of spending time with pistol shooters and coaches is witnessing how many of

sports that we can skip this part and jump straight into working on the aspects re- lated to mental training. Having said that, it can be

agree amongst themselves on some common notions about what it may be. In defense of those who may be confused, sport psy-

development. By ‘defi ning’ mental training you provide a greater purpose for its importance and with that comes a propensity for the athlete’s motivation to be

Assistant National Team coach Vladimir Chichkov gives Brad Balsley some advice during the World Cup in Fort Benning, Ga.

them acknowledge the fact that the sport of target pis- tol shooting incorporates a huge psychological compo- nent, yet few understand how to train the mind effec- tively. Unlike the work that we do with some sports peo- ple (rugby league, for exam- ple) whereby the fi rst goal is to actually convince the ath- letes that spending time to develop mental toughness is benefi cial, it is the case for most of the target based

useful to explain why mental training is so commonly over- looked and/or underdone. By far the biggest reason for this is that ‘mental strength’ or ‘mental toughness’ hasn’t been defi ned amongst those trying to improve it.

If you

ask fi fty pistol shooters ‘who wants to become mentally stronger’, you’ll get a uni- versal affi rmative. Ask the same group what mental toughness is and all you’ll hear is chatter as they try to

50 USA Shooting News | May 2014

chologists themselves are only just starting to agree on what ‘mental toughness’ is and, just as importantly, what it is not.

The reason

why this is such a vital step in terms of mental training is that the mental techniques or mental methods (see be- low) proposed to address the issue tend to be more effec- tive when the shooter knows why he/she is spending his/ her valuable time on this as- pect of his/her training and

heightened. This is the core reason why people will stick with something as opposed to quitting when they don’t notice immediate benefi ts after an hour or so of trying. Mental toughness is the umbrella term used to de- fi ne fi ve general sport psy- chology targets:- confi dence, emotions, concentration, communication and motiva- tion. This could mean that improving mental toughness as a whole can be counter- productive in that the meth- ods used to improve each of these fi ve components tend to be very different


one other. However, mental toughness is not about im- proving technique, it’s about making improvements to these fi ve aspects separate- ly. While some would argue

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