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How to improve on the First Stage Of the Day

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So I’ve been shooting 3 Gun, and USPSA for a bit now. I’ve become a higher mid pack guy, to which I’m happy with. However with my name, unless they randomize the tablet I’m first to shoot.

 

I don’t have Stage Fright about going first, but I’ve notice it’s not my best stage of the day. I tend to feel slow, and on most stages afterwards I feel better. 

 

What can I do to improve my performance on the first stage of the day?

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Agreed, some dry fire at the safe table is a good tip. Some dry fire at home before you head to the range is good. When you get to the match, make sure you are there early enough to walk the stages. Process and program a stage plan for the first stage, and even run the footwork at mid to full speed a couple times before you shoot. When you practice live fire put a lot of weight in the results of your first run of drills cold. Treat that first run the way you would a match. Running cold is something everyone has to do.

 

On match day it is imperative that you can close your eyes and mentally execute each position and shot in your mind by memory before you get up to shoot.

 

Do all this, and I bet your cold performance improves :).

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On 6/19/2019 at 5:54 PM, Smithcity said:

Agreed, some dry fire at the safe table is a good tip. Some dry fire at home before you head to the range is good. When you get to the match, make sure you are there early enough to walk the stages. Process and program a stage plan for the first stage, and even run the footwork at mid to full speed a couple times before you shoot. When you practice live fire put a lot of weight in the results of your first run of drills cold. Treat that first run the way you would a match. Running cold is something everyone has to do.

 

On match day it is imperative that you can close your eyes and mentally execute each position and shot in your mind by memory before you get up to shoot.

 

Do all this, and I bet your cold performance improves :).

I would agree with this whole heartedly.  Make live fire practice similar to match practice including the mental game. Visualize in your live practice as you would in a match. I try to practice my mental game as much as my shooting game. As Smithcity said put a large emphasis on cold live fire practice. 

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Walk throughs help. 

Some guys think it is weird to pantomime the stage, but I have found walking the stage and shooting it with my “air guns” (like air guitar) helps make up for not watching the other guys shoot it first. 

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I also get stuck going first pretty often because of my last name.  However, my first stage is usually one of my best since I'm nervous and I mentally rehearse it a lot more.  You might want to try visualizing the stage until you can flow through it in your mind without having any "Ummm... what was I going to do next?" moments.  One thing I started doing at major matches last year was filming my stage plans and then watching them the night before.  Something about going to sleep with the stage plan in my head really seems to help, but your mileage may vary.

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I tend to try to relax, visualize and focus on the front sight and shoot for all A's.  I've gone from the 1st stage being my worst to usually being my best.  I just kept focusing on being smooth and after a while I noticed that the 1st stage was becoming one of my best, then I started expecting it.  It fed on itself.  

Try some relaxation type habits.  There was a Front Sight article last year that wrote of it and the science behind relaxation techniques it made me realize that some of those things I was doing had an actual scientificly known benefit.

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So weird that you guys do it alphabetically. Never heard of that. Moving on...

 

Two important things to keep in mind:

 

(1) Get to that stage early, walk it, and plan it. Plan it twice as hard as anything else you shoot that day. Until you can close your eyes and run it flawlessly. Then two more times. Do at least three walkthroughs at full speed once you’ve done that.

 

I find the “bring 100% of the hustle” speed walkthroughs to really help on stage one.

 

(2) Execute that speed in your stage run, but really focus on seeing your sight(s) in the A-zone crisply. Push for a bit of the lacking speed, but don’t forget that racking up penalty points is the biggest way to dig yourself into a hole on stage 1.

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Posted (edited)

Introduce some cold stages to your practice routine. Instead of starting off with some group shooting or whatever you normally do for warmup, run an 8-12 round classifier stage like you would in a match, and score it, and keep track of the scores. I would pick 3-4 different ones to alternate over time, some with open targets, some with partials. spend a couple mins at the safe table dryfiring, look over the stage, visualize it several times, then shoot it like you would in a match.   I found this made the first stage much more normal.

 

Also volunteer to go first whenever possible at locals (I just did it today). The more you do it, the less it will bother you, and the more your first stage will be like your others.

Edited by motosapiens

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I have a dry fire routine I do before every practice. I do that same routine before a match, it helps me get in the right mindset. 

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Just about everyone has to be first at some point, so things even out over time.

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1 hour ago, GunBugBit said:

Just about everyone has to be first at some point, so things even out over time.

 

this is true, but not everyone has to do worse on their first stage than on others. That is a fixable mental and preparation problem, and fixing it gives you an advantage over the people who don't fix it.

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On 7/7/2019 at 5:52 PM, elguapo said:

Stop caring about the outcome.

This has helped me a lot. Last 3 Gun major I went to I set 5 or so obtainable, yet challenging, goals. I hit all of them except the "placement" one. It caused me to be down on my performance, and not appreciate the goals that I did hit. I started going to matches with process oriented goals. Not only am I performing better, I noticed I don't let the mistakes get in my head using this method.

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8 minutes ago, thepunishur said:

I started going to matches with process oriented goals.

 

And having confidence in the process can be a thing, at least for me on S1. It is easy to think I need to do something special, and then screw up. 

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Its a mind game. I tell myself not to be anxious or worried or afraid things will go wrong. Believing it is another mind game. With frequent practice (another game) I usually succeed. 

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It is no different than the middle stage or the last stage. Its a mental game. As others have said, dry fire at the safe area table is good, but allow yourself so space to warm up,, if you will, on that stage. Shoot it maybe at 85% speed and go for more A hits. Tell yourself that you would crush this stage if it was the 3rd or 4th one of the day. Set a reasonable goal and go for it. Like golf, the first hole doesnt have to be the bad one.

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On 7/7/2019 at 5:52 PM, elguapo said:

Stop caring about the outcome.

 

On 8/4/2019 at 4:15 AM, BoyGlock said:

I tell myself not to be anxious or worried or afraid things will go wrong.

 

Find myself being afraid of D's or Mikes or too many Charlies and slow as snot on the first stages this year.

 

Last match I started slow, & after three stages got pissed off about it, shooting pissed off worked really well. Anxious to see how that approach will work at my next match. 

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3 hours ago, IHAVEGAS said:

 

Last match I started slow, & after three stages got pissed off about it, shooting pissed off worked really well. Anxious to see how that approach will work at my next match. 

 

Sounds like you're a sith lord.

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3 hours ago, Barcode1337 said:

 

Sounds like you're a sith lord.

 

Whatever that is. 

 

I think it might require something to get motivated, and possibly a bit of adrenaline flow started, for some of us. After you've shot more first stages than you can remember nervous energy is gone and it is easy to find yourself just going through the motions. 

 

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On 8/17/2019 at 6:28 PM, IHAVEGAS said:

After you've shot more first stages than you can remember nervous energy is gone and it is easy to find yourself just going through the motions. 

 

Sounds similar to what Lanny Basham describes as occupying the conscious mind (being pissed off, a mindless pre- shoot routine, etc.) and letting the sub-conscious mind take over shooting the stage.  Being pissed doesn’t work for me, but you may be on to something that works for you.

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Steve Anderson went pretty in depth about dry firing in the safe area before a match on one of his podcasts. Made a lot of sense. 

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