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On The Firing Line

By J.P. O’Connor

Working Hard & Pushing the Envelope: Part 2

“I love intensity training! Even though it is scary at fi rst, I learn to shoot even better!” In Part 1 of this article,

we explored the topics of practice vs. training and staying in the comfort zone vs. stepping outside our comfort zone. We then be- gan the discussion of put- ting those concepts to work, starting with the strategy for a particular training camp, the all-important topic of outcome vs. performance or doing and intensity training. To summarize: • “Training is not just shooting or just fi xing. Training is focused activity. Yes, some- times we do need to evaluate and adjust. Other times, we need to “just shoot” with- out care or concern for outcome (score) yet with intensity and focus on allowing the shot to unfold proper- ly. (No controlling!)”

• “We only improve when we force our- selves (or our coach- es force us) out of our comfort zone.”

• “Intensity train-

ing - that is, training where the athlete cares about the out- come - is required in order to 1) learn how to thrive under pressure, 2) prevent choking, and 3) set the stage for enter- ing fl ow state (the so- called “zone”).”

Now to continue: Second, we must spend

time in training to experi- ence different modes and then do a lot of intensity training. Forget about the comfort zone! After an initial discus-

sion, we started the camp’s shooting activities with

some shooting on black paper. (For air pistol, we use 9’’x12’’ piece of black construction paper.) The athletes were not used to this “target,” so they were introduced to shooting with no aiming reference and no outcome. Disoriented at fi rst, they soon discovered that they could “let go” and “just shoot” each shot. Thus, they could experience the “mysterious” mode of let- ting go and just shooting the shot that we so often hear about yet do not fully grasp. Experiential learning is the best form of learning, so we like to do training exercises that maximize the experien- tial aspect of learning. The idea is to set up a

properly optimized combi- nation of position, balance, and natural point of aim. Then trust and recreate that feel for each shot. In es- sence, one’s body becomes the sights. This is very disori- enting at fi rst, and eventu- ally the ego has to “let go” of attempted control. When this happens, the athlete shoots freely. We then did some “tradi-

tional” shooting to let them feel comfortable about their baseline shooting. They were reminded of the “black card feel” and encouraged to dare to “let go” of their

desire to control the shot and instead allow it to un- fold. Shooting without “tak- ing control” did get them a bit out of their comfort zone, but not very much. That was fi ne since this was a warm- up for what was to follow. Then the real “fun” can

begin! We used many differ- ent intensity drills or games. Some coaches and athletes see or hear of us doing these “games” and dismiss them as frivolous. Yet they are the key to high performance. With a group of athletes

of varying skill and experi- ence levels, we chose to use a modifi ed version of a clas- sic drill called “First to Five Tens” which is a race to see who can be fi rst to get fi ve shots that score 10 points. Go too slowly, in order to control the outcome or make it perfect, and you lose. Go too quickly - thus shooting sloppily - and you lose. The athlete must go quickly, with trust and no “controlling” of the shot, in order to win. This favors athletes who have a robust shot process, who trust it and who allow it to run without interference or checking. To run the drill, after a

prep and sighting period, athletes are instructed to load, have guns down, and then “Go!” After that, they

May 2015 | USA Shooting News 49

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