By Kyle Jillson | October 21 2011 07:36

Doug Koenig mentally reviews his X count at the mid-point of the 2010 Bianchi Cup on NRAblog.

Last Month Shooting Sports USA began a three part series tackling the issue of keeping your nerves calm and making the shots that count in a high pressure match. Numerous professional shooters were interviewed for the series and the second part has just been released with the Shooting Sports USA's October issue.

The Fine Art of Not Cracking Under Pressure - Part II
By Jock Elliott // Photo by Chip Lohman

Lanny Bassham, Smallbore Rifle

My answer might not be the same as others. It doesn’t mean they are right, or I am right. There are multiple ways that people deal with pressure. One of the things I learned in my early shooting career is that I had some wrong ideas about pressure. The reason that I wasn’t able to deal with it was because I didn’t understand what the right ideas were. Initially, I was able to find some information outside of shooting. When I started working on this in a lot more detail, I found a lot of misinformation about the sensation of pressure.

The major reason why all this is a problem is because people are very interested in outcome and accomplishment–they want to do well. They want to finish the event on top of the leaderboard. While we’re thinking about outcome, the probability is that we can’t simultaneously be thinking about executing the shot. This can cause us to “over try” – and that’s the number one reason why good shooters don’t shoot well under pressure. Shooting is a “trust sport” not a “try sport.” You need to train so well that you can trust your training. The minute that you try to get that national record, things come unzipped. You are applying more mental effort than it actually requires. Our conscious thoughts are interfering with our subconscious mind. The best scores that people shoot happen when they are not thinking about the outcome.

Here’s a myth: Pressure causes performance to drop. Pressure does not cause your performance to drop. What I learned about pressure was that when you feel the physical effects of pressure, it’s real. You feel an adrenaline rush, your heart rate increases and your blood pressure goes up. I’ve seen shooters shoot extremely high scores with their legs shaking. Pressure doesn’t cause your scores to go up or down, but your attitude does.

Another myth: If I could avoid pressure, I would do better. Actually, pressure is an amplifier. It is my friend. Pressure makes me realize what I’m doing is important so I pay better attention. Be careful what you care about. It is more important to focus on your shooting process. The primary reason people “over try” is that they go into competition with an incomplete goal. People tend to seek out what society rewards them for and accomplishment is easy to measure. It has a number associated with it. But it is the focus on the process that will get you there. Attaining that goal–how and what we learn from our mistakes, is valuable ...

Read the rest of the article, featuring input from Jessie Harrison, Launi Meile, Julie Golob and Jason Parker, on Shooting Sports USA's website here.

Did you miss Part I? Just go to, select the current issue and then look for the archives menu choice.


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