After every match, but especially after disappointing matches, and even after practice sessions, I'm finding it more and more helpful to take some time to look back at how I performed. While analyzing successes and failures on the spot is necessary for immediate feedback and adjustment, sometimes I need to take a couple days to put that performance into perspective, especially if I managed a late-game crash and burn. It's normal to remember the bad and let it overshadow what you did well. But fortunately, it's also possible to retrain your memories. After I've had some time to think about and remember the high points, I try to use them to reframe my perception of what didn't work out so well for me. For instance, instead of dwelling on how I bombed a stage, I try to think about how I nailed that difficult mover halfway through. (Some of you will remember this as a tip I give for shooting your own match.) I also think it's incredibly important to put current performance in context. You might not be happy that you only shot an 8-inch group in practice, but don't forget that maybe it was only 6 months ago that you couldn't even keep all your shots on paper. And maybe you came in last place, Again. But only by a few points or seconds, and not by the insurmountable-looking margin you came in last place last month...I've totally been there. The mantra in my house is to beat that back is that a bad day on the range now is still better than a good day used to be. Chances are pretty good you'll find the same if you look at the big picture of your shooting experience.
At the same time, I want to keep improving. So winter is when I try to get back to the basics and improve my foundation so that next season, I can have more successes to mentally wipe out the bobbles and mistakes. An instructor once told me that good shooting is just the basics done smoothly and quickly. That means shooting boring drills like groups, and buckling down for dryfire practice, to really ingrain fundamentals into my muscle memory. It can also mean changing things up to make you really think about what you're doing. Try it: shoot a revolver instead of a semi-auto, or put some time into your rifle instead of your pistol. Go out and shoot a discipline you've never tried before. It can help break you out of a rut, concentrate on skills you've started to take for granted, or focus your practice on a new area. I know that for me, going back to my double-action only guns forces me to work harder on consistent trigger press than I ever will shooting my striker-fired or single action guns. And as much as I struggle with shooting flying clays, time spent behind a shotgun always shows in more comfort with moving pistol and rifle targets. More importantly, playing in new areas reminds me that at the end of the day, much of what we do on the range is for fun. Even when training for self-defense or similar, range time should be enjoyable.
This winter, I'll still be shooting the matches that run year-round (including the one I help run!), but I'm planning on spending some time teaching, on reinforcing my fundamentals, and on rediscovering the joy of shooting. I hope you'll join me.