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1st stage nervousness ...how to shrug it off?

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I seem to always make a stupid mistake on the 1st stage. Sometimes it costs me a procedural or points down. I am fine after that. What do you do to shrug off those beginning of the match jitters?

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While I am certainly not immune to this very common affliction, the following helps me. When I am on deck, I switch my electronic ear muffs in favor of standard muffs that pretty much silence everything. I then do slow controlled breathing while imagining that I am actually the shooter (trying to replicate some of the stressors). This routine paired with more and more experience/practice seems to be helping. Just remember, you've done it before and it's just another stage.

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Are you new(er) to the sport?

If so, first stage/maatch jitters are normal and something you should expect. As crass as it sounds, one of the best cures is to shoot more first stages i.e. matches. With experience comes a developed sense of confidence and abiltiy to execute your plan when cold on the first stage.

Now if you're an old dog who has been doing this for years and inexplicably always crash and burn on your first stage, you may have some mental block that is affecting your performance. I don't really have a lot to offer because I still crash and burn on first stages occassionally, OK, more than occassionally.

When this happens, I remind myself that I can't do anything about what has passsed and turn my focus to shooting the next stage to the best ofmy ability. That mean getting all my equipment preparations done and my stage plan in place mentally.

Everyone does this differently so you'll have to find what works for you.

Persevere. You'll figure it out. :cheers:

Edited by lumpygravy

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I still get nervous and feel butterflies in my stomach when I first get to range but with time and experience you tend to get over it quickly. Its normal to get the pre-match jitters. I find it beneficial to get to match early and walk stages by myself if I can of course with permission if your not allowed to do so. Gives me time to look over everything and then you know what, there is nothing on those stages that I can't do or haven't done. And if something looks new or gimicky, its just some monkey business I have to deal with, but ultimately there is nothing different at your local match vs. a national match that goes beyond knowing where that bullet goes when you pull the trigger and see the sights lift. Thats it. Focus on the shot you are taking in the moment and this game is very easy. Its all the other stuff, the props, the external pressure we put on our own performance that make us screw up or not shoot to our potential whereever we are skillwise. Its when we judge or second guess ourown skill against someone else that we fail because we are doing their plan, not our plan that is best for our shooting style.

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I find some draws and dry fire at the Safety Table before the match starts to help. USPSA is odd in that you can't really warm up like other sports. In golf you can hit the driving range and putting green, but in USPSA you start cold.

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Just see the sights. I had that issue for a long time, but before the buzzer I had to tell myself to just see the sights.

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Get there early and walk the stages. For a big match, walk the stages the day before. You won't have to worry about the conga line and can take as much time as you need to look at each position. This is what relaxes me the most, knowing my plan and having it totally wired. You don't have to worry about getting lost or doing the wrong thing, just go out and work your stage plan. That and reminding myself that this is all stuff that I've done before.

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Lots of good stuff here already. FWIW, I still get the jitters, even on the first stage of a club match after 4.5 years of shooting. With that said, get there early, have all your gear prepped and ready and have your first stage mastered before the shooter's briefing. Then continue to tell yourself that your first stage is your best stage.....because it is :cheers:

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Visualize, visualize, visualize. And visualize again!

I used to get the nerves going to the point where I would blow up in a hurry. What has helped me is simply visualizing the way I am going to shoot the stage over and over again. I look at the stage, formulate my plan and play the movie in my head over and over. This has done wonders for me in many ways.

Now I can't say that everything always turns out as planned but, it is a marked difference from the days when I would just go out and blast haphazardly.

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I shot my first match in 7 years 2 weeks ago on June 3rd. Hadn't shot anything since June 2005 until this past February. Second time I shot a gun since June of 2005 was Friday, June 1st; it was a brand new gun that I picked up that day and then shot in the match on Sunday the 3rd.

I was nervous as hell and barely got any sleep before the match. Got to the range, got my gear on and was still nervous. Got to the first stage (a Classifier) and thought "well, you won't be moving up in class today" and the realization set in that I should have no expectations and just enjoy myself.

Nervousness went poof.

Had a couple of jams that I cleared without issue and, overall, shot a decent match, all things considered (like the fact that I was spent by the time I shot the last stage). Came in 11th out of 26 Production shooters, winning C class.

A little sci-fi philosophy: "Fear is the mind-killer." We have expectations of our performance and we fear because we want to live up to those expectations (it's an ego/self-esteem thing). Drop those expectations and just enjoy the act of performing and see what that does for you.

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After a stage or two I ask my self...Self did you see the front sight...of course the answer is no.......LOL...It's getting better tho... Thanks again for the advice...

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All good stuff here.

My biggest things are getting to the range early enough and just bum around and get "settled in"

I always say "go pull the trigger",I shouldn't be worried about form this or that etc..all that is for the home range.

No need to add more to the plate at a match,be simple,break the stage down and Simply go shoot!

Enjoy it!

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I used to tell my daughter before she entered the show ring "it's just practice." Then she started winning. When she doesn't win she knows that today was just another practice. I try to keep the same mindset at the range because really that's why I'm there.

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The best thing I've done for first stage jitters is that the odds are better than average that everything on that stage, you've done. Therefore, it's simply doing the individual parts again. Endlessly walking the stages, doing it the day before, etc. is garbage and there are a number of the top shooters that would agree. For me I like to treat each stage as a new event. The progression I follow is:

- Read the stage description, round count and what I can and can't do (are there any goofy starts or stage requirements)

- Walk the stage. Find all the shots. No strategy, just confirm the number of shots required to the targets on the rang.

- Walk the stage. Strategy walk through. Find where you want to be, where to reload, etc.

- Walk the stage. Last time. Visualize all target positions, where is hardcover, no-shoots, partials, etc.

- Sit back and visualize shooting the stage and unless there's a tight or complex portion/position, don't walk it again. You've done it enough at that point, no point potentially building anxiety.

Hope that helps.

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After the make ready command, I'll take my stance and wiggle my toes in my shoes. It's scientifically proven to relax the mind and body and subconsciously takes your mind of the impending BEEEEEEEP!!!! By then hopefully some of my practice and muscle memory kicks in and I simply react. Doesn't always work because I'm still a relatively new shooter and can get wrapped around the axle pretty tight if my will is to shoot better than I am actually capable of shooting. You can also chug a few beers at the safe table and see how that works out for you :roflol:

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I can go off playing live music and just having a general anxiety problem : I take the nervousness, turn it into adrenaline, and gain enthusiasm. In USPSA, I just say, ah I'm going to lose anyway :)

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I've noticed, that for some reason, 1st stage seems to be the best stage for me. I've won a few, the one I remember best was 1st stage of biggest match of the year, with standard gun, after year and a half of shooting open only. There's something with the slight extra attention or something.

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"I seem to always make a stupid mistake on the 1st stage. Sometimes it costs me a procedural or points down. I am fine after that."

Lanny Bassham. "with winning in mind"

You'll feel like it was written with YOU in mind.

Read it immediately if not sooner.

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I always have the jitters on my first stage at majors, no matter how much I've practiced prior. Try and walk the stages the day before the match if its a major; for a club match thats probably not an option. I try to get to the match a little early on game day so I'm not rushing to load mags, sign in, etc. also try not to drink too much coffee. While shooting the 1st stage I go a little slower than my usual match speed, about 80-85% instead of the 90-98% that I usually go. I tell myself over and over "don't push too hard, make the hits and get those A's". Once the first stage is over then everything clicks into place.

It gets a little easier the more big matches you shoot

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Lot's of good advice here.

I don't shoot much anymore, but used to shoot a lot, and can assure you that "nerves" popped up on me every match. No matter the size of the match either, local or national, I always got nervous.

There are many ways to deal with this. The first, and IMO, the most important, is just accept that it's going to happen. It makes everything easier. Don't dread it, don't worry about it, don't do anything about it. The nerves really only mean one thing, that you care about how you do. So in order to get rid of them you can not care - which makes the sport all together unappetizing!

Normally I'd deal with it by trying to specifically focus on one thing. And hindsight being what it is, I dare say it doesn't matter what that one thing is. Front sight. Trigger pull. Seeing the mag well. See "A's" no matter what. Just focus on something core that'll lead to success.

And then at times I'd just do a math exercise. Because there's much to consider when shooting an IPSC match. First off, perfect (error free) matches are pretty hard to come by. So statistically if you mess up slightly on stage 1, or on stage 12, it really hardly matters. If you accept that errors are going to happen then "when" they happen hardly matters. It becomes a function of that old saying "it's now how hard you fall but how you get up that defines you"

And then thinking through a stage and understanding if you see all that you need to see to shoot the points you need, and IF (and that's a BIG if) you shoot it a second slower, is that better than a NS or miss or procedural? Nine times out of ten it is. The benefit of this thinking being that you'll see what you need to and odds are won't shoot hardly any slower. So you win on both fronts.

Regardless of all of this - the nerves are good. I guess that's what I'd most want you to take away from all of this. They are good. Find your "trick" for dealing with them, but don't ever wish them away (I know you aren't trying to)!

J

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I embrace it…In fact if it ever stops (getting butterflies) I'll quit.

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You could set up the same stage in practice and you won't feel these jitters. It's all mental because we "care". We want to look good and win. Some of this is acceptable because most of us DO care and we want to be good. We want all our efforts at practice to show in matches. On the other hand we don't want to walk up to a stage and be too calm and not care-it's a balance.

When you get up to any stage... you want to focus on executing all your acquired skills.. you want to be ready. You don't want to think about anything else but running the stage the way you did in your rehearsals.

Some people have posted great ideas. I'm trying to focus on my mental rehearsals more lately so I don't like to watch the 1 or 2 shooters before me if I can avoid it. I want to shoot MY match.

Controlling jitters and nervousness are like trying to manage recoil.... you can't stop it, but you need to manage it.

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