25 October 2012

Cramming for a Major


I'm getting ready for a sanctioned IDPA match. I haven't made it to many majors this year and we're getting to the end of the season, so this is probably it for me until spring. While my club runs year round, many large matches happen in warmer weather and not when major snows are threatening (Frozen Penguin and Arctic Blast aside...). As I've been coming down to the wire on this one, I've been thinking a lot about how match prep is like getting ready for an exam or a performance. The athletic part is pretty far down the list at this late date.

I recently read some great advice about mental preparation for a match. In addition to working on internalizing those concepts, I'm also trying to draw on a lifetime of test taking, auditions and recitals as I prepare for tomorrow. The tactics I used for staying calm and collected, and to ensure my best possible performance, on in my 3-degree career of exams and over a decade of playing a musical instrument are the same ones that are helping me focus tonight. In my case, that means reviewing and visualizing the rules and techniques I know trip me up the most. There's been quite a bit of under-the-breath muttering of 1-1-2-1-1 around here today, along with the all-important front sight front sight front sight mantra.

Less shooting-focused, but still important, are eating a good meal of foods I enjoy (mmm, pizza) and hydrating now while planning my food and water for the day of the match. For ranges you aren't familiar with, it's a good idea to check the shooter brief to see what food will be available and make sure that it's something that will work for you. Being hungry is not just a recipe for crankiness and sub-par performance; searching for food can add unneeded stress to your day. As long as I'm packing my snacks, I'm also double checking that my range bag has everything I'll need. From the obvious like gunmagazinesholster, mag pouches, and belt, to spare fibers for my front sight and blister tape...I'm making sure it's all there along with my standard requirements. Getting geared up to step on the line is not the time to find out that you didn't bring the shooting vest you've been training with all week.

During all of this, I'm also relaxing and clearing my mind. Before big exams, I used to listen to upbeat music on repeat. While waiting my turn for auditions and recitals, I'd often find a quiet corner or mentally create a little bubble so that I could gather my focus only on the few minutes I'd be judged by (not so different from handful of seconds that make up most stages, really, although the guns are louder). Tomorrow, I'll probably be using a safe handling area for a few last practice draws and to get my head in the game. And of course, I'll do my best to get a good night's sleep tonight.

In the end, the same tools you use to get ready for any sort of major performance are the same ones that you need to set yourself up for success on the range. Whether it's a big exam, an important interview or audition, a meeting with your boss's boss's boss, or prepping for a major, going through the steps that make you feel relaxed and prepared is the best recipe for success.

Now here's to hoping it works for me tomorrow!

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