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How Do You Respond To The Stress Of Competition?


Sharyn

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Lately I've been a bit disenchanted with competing in Open and I haven't quite put my finger on "why"? Is it the financial strain? the lack of free time? or my attitude?... I know I've put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself about my competition and I've been feeling "all-over" stressed, which has just taken the wind out of my sails... So, here I am, putzing around on the computer, avoiding practice, when I get this great email...

How Do You Respond to the Stress of Competition?

How do you respond to the stress of competition? Are you empowered by it? Do you feel that stress is a positive thing? Is it an advantage? No? If you feel that stress is not your friend you are not alone. However, most elite performers that I have worked with feel that stress works for them and not against them in competition. Competitive stress will not cause your performance to drop, however, your attitude about it may. Those that use stress to their advantage have several things in common. They believe that the stress of competition will help them achieve their goals, they are disciplined in their preparation for trials and they tend to be veterans of many competitions. How do you stack up in these areas?

Are your competition expectations realistic? Occasionally, there is a big difference between what you hope to have happen and what you expect might happen. Remember you are dealing with events and events are unpredictable, especially when you add people to the mix. I am a big believer in the reinforcement power of rehearsing a perfect process. Most people know that if you visualize something in advance it improves the chance that it will happen so rehearsing success is a good thing to do. How about also rehearsing that you are in complete control when things go out of control? We learn more when we make mistakes than when we are error free. I am suggesting that the best expectations for you in a competition are first to advance your personal growth as a competitor and secondly to reach your outcome goals. When the only acceptable expectation of a competitor is to win there is a huge chance that they will be devastated if the result is anything less than what was envisioned. So, what should you do? I recommend rehearsing that you are calm, collected and cool when inundated by events that cause others to loose it. It will become "like you" to handle the unexpected with grace, skill and good humor. Wow! Under control, whether or not you are the winner, is the ultimate goal.

By Lanny Bassham

Mental Management Website

Sign up for Mr. Bassham's newsletter!

p.s. XRe, I'm not looking for a solution to anything, but thanks in advance :P ... I'm just sharing some words of wisdom I received.

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That's a good email ! I used to get the same stress that you mention, it seemed to be worse when I was shooting Open. I tried Production for a while and was less stressed about it, though I have no idea why.

Now I'm able to just push the stress aside and ignore it. I just kind of switch off inside. This has the negative impact of making me appear stand-offish (is that even a word), but I find my shooting is better for it.

I don't have the same agressive shooting style as some people do, I find I shoot better when I just 'go through the motions' and get a reasonable time, not an awesome time. Over the course of a competition I'm doing better than I used to when I tried to shoot over now when I just shoot

Your email (from Lanny) is definately something for me to think about... thanks for posting it.

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I'm still not at the range practicing... but just finished loading 500 rounds. Yay me! :lol:

Paul, I shot a Single Stack match last week... I don't think I've touched that gun in well over a year... that match was so much FUN!!! I didn't care about performance, or competition, or the other competitors... it was just fun...

edited to add: Maybe the margin of error is smaller in Open?... just a thought.

Matt, gosh, I'm grappling internally to adopt the attitude you have. I wish it wasn't such a struggle for me. :(

Ironically, this newsletter from Mr. Bassham was erroneously sent twice this month... :ph34r:

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Hi Sharyn,

I'm looking forward to trying singlestack soon to take the edge off. It seems like every time I played in production, I had a blast. I just didn't feel any pressure. I suspect the same results from singlestack. Good post, thanks very much.

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How I respond depends on my level of preparation. I'm usually in two modes when the heat is on:

- totally jittered and tanking stages

or

- very focused, driven, and performing well

Increasing my level of preparation and shooting more matches is helping the first one. The one thing I know is that I rarely shoot as well or as aggresively without that "I'm a gonna get after it!" attitude that comes with shooting with others.

=====================

Oh, and changing my goals has dramatically altered the way I approach competition, and has really smoothed things out for me. Changing from a negative "Dont do that!" to a "I'm going to step to the line and perform X, Y, and Z" really takes the pressure off. Not sure if that makes sense, but performing tasks instead of performing to meet expectations is helping me.

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It is REALLY stressful for me and I LOVE IT!!!! Butterflies, shaking, knees knock, hell my leg even thumps like a dog with a bad itch once in a while waiting for the buzzer on the first stage. I get an amazing adrenaline high from shooting matches, my heart pounds like it is going to jump out of my chest. I am an adrenaline junkie. I shoot matches to get the feeling of the stress. That is what I like. I CRAVE that feeling.

I am trying to gain some control over how much and how fast the adrenaline comes on, I am usually off my ability a lot more on the first stage or two than on the rest of the stages and it hurts in the placings. If I can find a way to get 'wired' without blowing up on the first stage or two I will be much more consistent week in and week out.

After the first stage or two the stress level drops to 'really high' but comfortable and exciting. I don't think I could do nearly as well as I do if I were dead calm, but with my personality I don't think I will ever be able to find that out for sure. When the buzz is gone shooting matches I will move on to the next thing that gets me fired up.

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Maybe the margin of error is smaller in Open?... just a thought.

I think that may be it. Any division can come down to a fraction of a second but it seems to be more prevalent in Open. With the other iron-sighted divisions it seems less so. It may be perception but the pressure definately seems higher in Open, either that or we don't expect to do well in another division so the pressure that we feel is significantly lower...

In the meantime I will just continue to switch myself off at matches, if I walk right by you or ignore anyone at a match it's not personal (not in most cases anyway :P).

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I don't have the same agressive shooting style as some people do, I find I shoot better when I just 'go through the motions' and get a reasonable time, not an awesome time. Over the course of a competition I'm doing better than I used to when I tried to shoot over now when I just shoot

I like this attitude.

My last "big" match I just told myself this: "On Monday you will be back at work. Doing the same thing you were doing on Friday when you left for the match. Win, lose, or draw, this match, in and of itself, will not change your life."

Of course I am not a professional shooter in the point series, but I suspect many who read this might be like me... :D

There was another thread on here somewhere that it was posted "it is all just practice." Man I love that quote. :lol:

Ira

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My professional life started in music performance and it was very stressful to the point of develping tunnel vision (only seeing what seemed to be at the end of a long black tube) at times. I needed to eat so I learned to deal with it. When I shoot now I shoot about like I practice and for a 40 year old guy that is not in the greatest shape I finish ok. Eliminating visual and mental noise is most important to me, and remembering that I am competing against myself as that is the only person I have any control over.

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For me competition is really all about taking risks....getting out of the comfort zone. I've probably never done anything very edifying while I was comfortable. It gets pretty boring practicing alone, which is 99% of my practice time. I can comfortably shoot most of the well known drills we all talk about at a fairly high level. But, then there is always the next level, isn't there? The truth is, that until you get to shoot with or against, (however you personally view it) shooters that are more highly skilled, you just don't know what that next level looks and feels like. Like life, shooting is a journey. When you reach your destination, you die.

As for me, competition stress comes from one place and one place only: EXPECTATIONS!

I have to take a match stage by stage, bullet by bullet, moment by moment. By doing that, I keep just enough stress to motivate me, with out creating enough to make me "try things". And I have found that I have to maintain a certain level of detachment in order to function un-impaired. (Realizing that it is a journey with no destination helps immensley with detachment) So, there is a balance of detachment and concern. Too detached and I get great hits, but I'm slow. Too much stress or concern, and I shoot fast, but get wild and drop points. At the balance point, those "beauty runs"... just happen. (The detached badger?) :lol:

It's like the story of the two wolves. The stronger one is the one you spend the most time feeding.

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As an old bullseye shooter, I've found that I like to be cool, calm and relaxed. However, I've found that if I'm under a little bit of pressure that I will usually shoot better scores. All my best scores were shot in matches, not in practice. Without some pressure I will sometimes accept a less than perfect sight alignment or sight picture. Knowing that I need to shoot a certain score to win helps me bear down and shoot that score.

I also used to get lots of jitters, butterflies, etc. prior to and during a match. Then I learned to control the nerves and my scores went up. What really helped was telling myself that it was just practice and to not try to shoot the best scores or new personal highs. It was just practice for the next match. It was just practice, so settle down and shoot the type of scores that I shot in the weekly practice sessions.

Now if I can just get that to carry over into my IPSC shooting. There are times that I let my trigger finger get ahead of my brain, but if I can calm myself down and relax a bit my scores go up and sometimes even my times go down.

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Ask myself ... "Would I rather be doing this, or cutting the yard"?

Works every time. :P

I've heard this -- or something identical in meaning -- repeatedly, though I only have a couple of major matches under my belt...

When things have gone very badly wrong, I'm not sure it IS true. :blink:

It's painful to have an investment (money, ego, travel-time) just...evaporate because you trashed a stage. I guess it's a learning experience, and with that perspective perhaps you're right -- it's "fun" again.

I find this topic fascinating. It seems there's Lanny on one end of the spectrum, advocating a position in which no other option BUT success is conceivable. Then, on the other end, there's the removing-the-ego, just-for-fun attitude, too. Which is right?

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Ask myself ... "Would I rather be doing this, or cutting the yard"?

Works every time. :P

I find this topic fascinating. It seems there's Lanny on one end of the spectrum, advocating a position in which no other option BUT success is conceivable. Then, on the other end, there's the removing-the-ego, just-for-fun attitude, too. Which is right?

No, the question is "which is right - for you?"

BTW, after shooting, the yard still needs mowed....

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I find this topic fascinating. It seems there's Lanny on one end of the spectrum, advocating a position in which no other option BUT success is conceivable. Then, on the other end, there's the removing-the-ego, just-for-fun attitude, too. Which is right?

There is no dichotomy here. Mush this all into one attitude and you've got it. ;)

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I've found that my natural response to the stress of competition is to suck. I don't just mean a little bad either, I'm talking about stinking out loud here. If I want to avoid sucking, then I have to quit worrying about the competition.

Match before last I was just goofing off and having a good time with a good squad and I wound up doing really well. Then, this last match I made the mistake of noticing that there were enough B class shooters there to qualify for awards and I really wanted one so I decided to try extra hard. It wasn't pretty but it was predictable.

Try taking a new shooter with you to the next match so you worry about them instead of your own performance or get involved in running a match so you're more worried about scoring it than your own scores.

Remember, if you can shoot as bad as I do then competition just won't worry you that much anymore. I'm comfortable with you thinking of me as your role model from now on if you think that would help.

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I've found that my natural response to the stress of competition is to suck. I don't just mean a little bad either, I'm talking about stinking out loud here. If I want to avoid sucking, then I have to quit worrying about the competition.

Match before last I was just goofing off and having a good time with a good squad and I wound up doing really well. Then, this last match I made the mistake of noticing that there were enough B class shooters there to qualify for awards and I really wanted one so I decided to try extra hard. It wasn't pretty but it was predictable.

Try taking a new shooter with you to the next match so you worry about them instead of your own performance or get involved in running a match so you're more worried about scoring it than your own scores.

Remember, if you can shoot as bad as I do then competition just won't worry you that much anymore. I'm comfortable with you thinking of me as your role model from now on if you think that would help.

One way to look at any competitive endevour is that it gives you the opportunity to take all that you have learned and expirienced practicing and apply it. When practicing ahoooting or other sports I take breaks in whaat I am trying to accomplish and flat screw off, whether that be loading up a mag and just going nuts on one close target, shooting hoops with the off hand, trying to fade a golf ball when you are a hooker for life or whatever. Then prior to competing focus solely on those things you have practiced succesfully at and the results will amaze you.

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I've found that my natural response to the stress of competition is to suck. I don't just mean a little bad either, I'm talking about stinking out loud here. If I want to avoid sucking, then I have to quit worrying about the competition.

John, what if the outcome of the shooting didn't matter?

What if there were no future award for success or self-torture for failure?

What if nothing else existed except the here and now?

The part of us that most people refer to as our "subconcious" resides firmly in the here and now. (I really don't like there term "subconcious" as it is terribly misleading.) If words are like sign posts, that one points in exactly the wrong direction.

Anyhow, that part of us which is responsible for impeccable action, cannot manifest if we are attempting to control the same action with concious thoughts. Concious thinking is constantly evaluating something. It is either judging the past or predicting the future and it does both through filters of prejudice.

It's like two people trying to drive the same car. You may get 'er done, but it won't win the race.

Go back and read what Lanny B. wrote about "concious over-ride" in his excellent book, "With Wining in Mind".

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LMFAO...

I must be doing something right as my yard looks like CRAP!...

Ira

Well, um, we can attribute that to other than shooting also, right? ;)

Yeah, I'm home early.. I'll talk to you in the morning..

To keep somewhat on topic, I try not to let stress get to me. I do this pretty much for fun (but I like to win my class too). I know there are better shooters in my class at my club (Currently I'm shooting production). I know I can do better with a different prod gun, but I'm trying to get used to a Glock 34 for an upcoming GSSF match. So I'm shooting about my level with a fairly unfamiliar gun. When I shoot Limited, Open, or Revo, I pretty much shoot at my level and with the mindset of, "do the best you can this time and every time, and try to learn something new or refine something every match". The only advice I can give is, don't try too hard. Too many times I see shooters shooting above their ability or going too fast and they tend to get a lot of misses or other bad luck things happen. You can push yourself, but if you are doing it past say 10%, you generally notice that you are losing ground instead of getting better.

Vince

Vince

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