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training sessions. We did talk about a few concepts, but left it at that for this camp. We wanted them shooting the way they are currently familiar with. This is very important for what followed. Instead, we focused on

the mental and emotional aspects of high performance under pressure. What holds us back from

top scores? Once we handle the physical and technical topics that make up 5% of the game (which is, para- doxically, where we spend 95% of our time and effort!), the entire rest (95%) of the game is mental and emo- tional. The latter areas are where we hold ourselves back from the performanc- es, scores, and place ranks that we desire. It starts with ego. We want

to be in control. We want to be inside our comfort zone. We want to “guarantee” the outcome. We want, we want, we want. And we look outside ourselves for the an- swers — and the excuses. The very best perfor- mances come from deep in-

About the Author

Based in the Atlanta, Georgia area, JP O’Connor (email: and blog: is involved in shooting as a competitor, offi cial, and coach. He is a former Assistant National Coach – U.S. Paralympics Shooting Team and ISSF Judge, serves on the National Coach Development Staff in both rifl e & pistol, and is Coach Emeritus of the NCAA rifl e and intercollegiate pistol teams at the University of North Georgia. He enjoys working with a number of pistol and rifl e athletes and junior club teams from around the country, ranging from beginners to the highly advanced, in training sessions, clinics, and one-on-one private coaching. Previous installments of this series, additional resources, and book suggestions may be found at http://www. and via his blog.

Links “High Performance Olympic Target Shooting” blog, books, and additional resources: “On The Firing Line” article series and additional resources:

March 2015 | USA Shooting News 57

side ourselves. They come to us when we “let go” of con- trol, trust ourselves and our training, and allow the shot process to unfold, seemingly on its own. How do we learn to do this? First, we must under- stand the concepts. Understanding the dy-

namic of outcome (results, score, place rank, not fi n- ishing last, looking good, not messing up, etc.) vs. do- ing (just doing the activity, experiencing the moment, etc.) is the single most criti- cal element in learning how to thrive and excel under pressure. Make the move about the move, not about the outcome. Make the shot about just doing the shot, not about the outcome — or about the last outcome. It’s not about controlling the shot; just doing the shot. Outcome, in its many

forms, is in the past and the future. We have no control over the past and future! None! That’s right, it is criti- cal to understand that we have no DIRECT control over our own score! We wish we did! If someone claims oth-

erwise, ask them why they don’t shoot perfect scores. Is it because they are lazy or incompetent? Of course not! We do NOT have direct con- trol of the outcome. We just wish we did. The only thing we can

control is ourselves. What we do, what we think, how we approach the doing. When we learn to manage ourselves properly — that is, in a manner that is condu- cive to top performance — then the desired outcome is much more likely. When we focus on the outcome itself, or control the doing, the de- sired outcome is much more unlikely. Yes, it is a paradox. Overcoming that seemingly “illogical” concept is para- mount. Funny thing is, once it is understood, it is perfect- ly logical! We have been training

our deeper mind to shoot, we just don’t realize it. Have you ever had the rifl e or pistol come down on target, arrive on the area of aim and in- stantly the shot is released, seemingly by itself and it’s a deep ten? Or have the shot- gun swing and shoot a nice

powdered bust, seemingly all by itself? And you were surprised or scared because you were not ready? The surprise is because the ac- tive thought part of the mind was distracted allowing the deeper part to shoot. The ac- tive part of the mind, and our visual system, are too slow for this sport, as they are for many other activities. The deeper mind, when trained and then ALLOWED to just “run the program” without interference, can produce stunningly good results on an otherwise unbelievably consistent basis. In Part 2 of this article, we

will continue on to the next steps in putting the concepts to work. Those who cannot wait until the next install- ment is published here may go to http://jpoconnor.word- hard-work-pushing-the-enve- lope/ and read the rest of the article.

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