Precision Quest

I hear a lot of complaining as a junior precision shooting coach on a precision quest.

  • I’m shooting like crap today.”
  • I’m shaking like a nervous leaf in a high wind.
  • I’m tired.”
  • My (stupid high-school sport) coach made me do 10,684 push-ups and I can’t lift my arms.
  • I’m sick.
  • I’m just getting over being sick.”
  • I feel like I’m getting sick again, even though just getting over being sick.
  • I don’t feel ZEN in this range like I do at home.

As a matter of fact, I can’t really recall any point in the past six years of being involved with these kids that at least two of them didn’t have something wrong with them, occasionally portrayed as life-threatening. Such is the callous that I have developed to such excuses (legitimate or not), that I have recently taken to examining my own levels of “excuseage” in my own personal quest for precision.

Excuseage is not a word

My self introspection and examination has proven what? Yes, that I am just as prone to making excuses to myself and others as my juniors are.

I approach my personal examination of shooting technique, history and hard facts with more than a few grimaces and collar-tuggs and then force myself to remember that it is not actually about precision. Precision is the pinnacle. The absolute. A 900 out of 900 = absolute precision. But we, fellow shooters and those who love us, we are on a quest for precision. A journey of building upon skills from yesterday in the hopes that tomorrow’s scores will show the work we have put in. In the acceptance of this definition, I have discovered that all the skill building activities that we embark upon–everything from dry-fire to weekly practice to league matches to real matches–all can be severely hindered by the attitude we take on performing poorly.

I’ll spare you the speech about how failure teaches more than success does, and instead suggest that the excuses used while shooting are technically a form of self deprecation created to try and avoid the appearance of failure. You read that correctly–we make up a hinderance to cover for a hinderance that we already have–yet we think it presents as “not my fault” and therefore excuses us from the result. We have to stop this. Our shooting precision quest dictates out of necessity that we NOT make excuses for our shortcomings and instead embrace and learn from them.

So there

I am certainly not immune from this shortcoming and probably do it more regularly than I even care to admit to myself. So what gives me the right to say that “we all” do this? How does the evidence consisting of a group of junior padawans and their fallible head coach offer proof of concept? It’s in the fact that current experience has proven to me that there are excuses flying from the faces of competitive shooters up and down firing lines everywhere I go. I am now careful to take note of every muttered, “Crap…shakin’…damn coffee.” to every expounded, “Oh yeah, sure… NOW the wind picks up!”.  Precision shooting matches have become the generating source of more excuses than a white shirt with red lipstick on the collar.

You don’t suck–accept limitations to overcome

One of my best friends for years has muttered the words “I suck” every time he shoots a so-so target. While we usually laugh about it because of the tongue-in-cheek nature of the regular comment, it has always bothered me, regardless. I think it “irks” me solely because of the fact that he doesn’t suck at all. He can shoot some truly spectacular targets and I always try to remind him that it’s all going to be about isolating what is causing his limitation and overcoming it (as if I’ve already overcome all of mine).

The challenge with this is not that we all have limitations, which we do, but the fact that all limitations are excruciatingly personal. Nature provides plenty of obstacles for us as the years tick by, but we also work hard in building new limitations for ourselves in all aspects of life. But in a sport like precision shooting, some of our limitations are frighteningly measurable. We fear those little representations of what we consider to be personal failures and try to hide them instead of embracing and finding the source.

We are all bad losers

You are not shooting like crap today. If you’re shaking, go stretch and have some water. If you were too tired to shoot, you wouldn’t be here–go have coffee or chocolate. Ice your shoulder between matches. If you’re really sick then go home and get better–no?–then figure out what is bothering you. It doesn’t matter where you are shooting, indoor or outdoor, Camp Perry or your basement, windy or rainy, hot or cold–it’s you, the gun and your target, and that’s all that matters. This is not a negative discussion–it’s the opposite. Do I ever complain about a lousy shot these days–absolutely. Do I still make excuses for the lousy shot? I try not to but can’t promise that I don’t/won’t, but I am trying. I find that laughing at a “bad” shot and looking at the “good” shots helps. Maybe it could for you as well on your own, personal, Precision Quest.

Go have a match. No excuses.


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