Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Competition Blame Game by Karen Butler

Competition shooting is one of my favorite sports! Why, because in the end it all comes down to individual performance and I thrive on trying to push myself to the best I can be. This seems pretty simple concept to grasp, that an individual sport would be up to the individual, but I’ve heard (and been guilty of) the blame game for not doing well – from our equipment being faulty, to the odor emitting from the shooter next to us to our competitors playing mind games with us – there is always a more acceptable reason for not shooting well, than looking inward, but excuses don’t really fly.

I’m going to share a few of these experiences I’ve had, and how I turn them around to positives and either maintain my shot or learn to improve another day! Equipment can break, there’s no “easy button” to push to ensure your gear is ready for each competition; however, there are simple steps you can take to prepare.
Invest in good equipment, but then do maintenance. You should always clean your bow and firearms after each use – that includes wax for your bowstrings and light oil for your firearm. In the event you have an equipment malfunction in a tournament, remain calm and declare right away.

I was in a field tournament, my sight fell apart, but instead of declaring a malfunction, I thought I could push my way through it…mistake, I shot a zero.  So was that my equipment’s fault or my fault? I would have preferred to maintain blaming my equipment, but in reality, my equipment could have been fixed, and I actually did declare and fix it before my next shot, but I now had to recover from a zero against some other ladies who were pounding the “x” all day long. Trust me, the next time my equipment failed, I stopped and fixed it! 

Oh that smell! This is by far, my funniest story in archery. I was at an international tournament, and I had the great (mis)fortune to shoot next to a man, who did not speak English (very well) and smelled like he hadn’t had a shower in days and definitely did not know what a tooth brush or mouthwash was intended for…it was bad – if you have ever mucked a horse stall or cleaned out a litter pan, take that smell and multiple it by ten. So, we had 2 ½ minutes to shoot three arrows. This man was right behind me, and at the beginning of every shot, he would inhale…and you got it, exhale…the first time he did it I was in the final stage of my draw…you guessed it, I shot a may have been an 8. Anyhow, I let this guy get under my last nerve. I did my best to overcome, I realized he shot all three arrows in about 30 seconds; then bellowed off the line; so I started waiting until he finished, and just stood on the line, holding my breath, then quickened my shot sequence and finished.  When I went back to practice in my shop, I had my friends really start putting the pressure on me and annoying the heck out of me so I could learn to put it out of my mind – again, it would be easy to blame the bad breath guy, but it was my lack of ability to concentrate that was my real problem.  

Hopefully, you haven’t come across those competitors that attempt to do better by encouraging others to fail. Competition can bring out the worst in some people, it is unfortunate, and I honestly do not come across it very often in this sport, but I am going to share a secret that can turn things around for you; at least it did for me.  I had a competitor who would always attempt to get in your head. She was honestly not much fun to shoot with, and at first I really let it get to me. You could shoot a perfect score, and she would say, “You have a nice shot, but you are really not following though with your shot.” Well, next end, guess what, I concentrated on shot sequence, lost confidence in my shot, and shot a “9”.  There was another time where this same person was pulling arrows for the group. We shot our practice end, and we went down to look, she started pulling my arrows before I could take a look at where my shot was landing, and asked her to please let me take a look at them. Well, that made her pretty mad, and from that point forward, she pulled everyone’s arrows but mine.  How do you battle those mind games, well here’s my tip, don’t let them push your buttons…it has an added benefit of giving them a small dose of their own medicine (not to encourage unsportsmanlike conduct – ever).  I simply, said great, I like pulling my own arrows and I can pull my own arrows all day long. It is hard to do, but for these types of mental challenges, I think it becomes a game of your own will, do you will yourself to shoot well, despite the conditions, or do you succumb to your competitors will? Again, here even when faced with adversity, it is really how you deal with it and there is no one else to blame.

The competition blame game is an easy trap to fall into, but ultimately shooting is an individual sport. We can’t control everything that happens during a tournament, but we can control our reactions to those things.
I hope these stories help you, and if you have some tips and pointers please send them to us to share with our readers. Keep shooting like a girl!

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