PROFILE OF A CHAMPION
There are many types of competitive shooters in the United States: The weekend shooters, the two hour a night shooters, shooters who are satisfied with being second or third place, and the champion, the shooter who will accept nothing short of winning. The weekend shooter is usually not dedicated or motivated. It's a hobby to him. He is usually satisfied with just shooting along with the champion. The two hour a night shooter is a little more dedicated but after his two hours he goes home and forgets shooting altogether. He will never be a champion. Shooters who are satisfied with a second or third place do not have much more going for them. They will never be champions. Champions are never satisfied. They are a hungry lot. They live shooting day and night. They make many sacrifices and their loved ones make many sacrifices. For example, he might enjoy two or three cups of coffee for breakfast but he knows coffee isn't good for shooting so he either cuts down or quits. The same goes for tobacco and his bad drinking habits. His wife and children will also make sacrifices. Their every day lives must be formed around his every day living.
My shooting career started in 1954. Ever since I was a child guns always fascinated me, so it was very easy for me to get into the competitive shooting program in the U. S. Army. I began shooting on a battalion team and I was a winner in my first match. Winning that match gave me the boost to drive myself toward becoming a top competitive shooter. I remember shooting much more than my friends. I was always the first to the range and the last to leave. I couldn't learn fast enough. I constantly sought out shooters with experience to learn more about shooting, and learned quickly to accept everyone's techniques of shooting. I always had an open mind and still do. I believe all shooters should keep eyes and ears open. Maybe an inexperienced shooter will help you in some phase of your performance.
During training a shooter should work on one phase of his technique. Too many little things can be wrong with your performance; it is very difficult to correct them all at once. In training I never shoot for score. I try to perfect my technique. If a shooter cap perform in all phases of shooting, the good scores will come. At all times think performance; concentrate on delivering a well controlled shot each time the gun fires. If he can do this in training and it becomes a habit, it will carry over in competition. Never underestimate the aid of dry firing. During dry firing a shooter can see all errors he is making and easily correct them. All phases of shooting can be perfected by dry firing and this includes building confidence in yourself. If a shooter does not have confidence that he can fire well controlled shots at any time, he will never become a champion.
I believe in shooting in as many matches as possible. I think a shooter can learn more by shooting in one match than he can with ten training sessions on the range. If possible, shoot with as many top competitors as you can. Sure, you might get beat, but defeat will give you that drive to learn more to become a better shooter. Defeat makes you hungry; learn from it. This also helps your confidence. You might think "The winner didn't beat me by too many points, he didn't learn anything--l did. " You are motivated to work harder and train more to perfect your technique and you are building confidence in yourself. Confidence combined with lessons learned, good training habits, and determination will allow you to perform at your best.
In the shooting sport, I believe, physical conditioning is over emphasized. Physical exercise should be on an individual basis. A shooter should do any exercise he thinks will make him hold the gun still. For example, if a shooter feels that running helps him, let him run. The only exercise I ever did was a few pushups each day and hold the gun and arm extended for as long as 30 or 40 seconds. What I'm saying is I don't believe one particular exercise will help 3 or 4 different shooters. I believe in each shooter doing his own thing. It has been tried in the Army to train a shooting team like a football or baseball team. It just doesn't work. Again I say find an exercise that will help you hold a gun still and stick with it.
My last competition was the 1970 World Championships in Phoenix, Arizona. and I can't say that I've missed it. First of all it gave me an opportunity to devote full time to coaching. I've always enjoyed teaching and coaching so I was constantly observing other coaches; how they performed their duties and applied their techniques in certain situations. I felt, with all my years of shooting experience and the knowledge I've gained from observation, that I could become the best coach in the world. I quickly found out that experience and knowledge are only a small part of coaching. I learned that each shooter must be coached in a way that you can reach that individual. If you have a team of four shooters or forty you are dealing with four or forty individuals. That means a different approach to each shooter.
A good coach must be a salesman; a persuader. First a coach must sell himself. Convince the shooter that if we work together as a team, his scores will rise. Some shooters are set in their ways; therefore, they are hard to get to. But never give up on a person--there is always a way to reach each individual. If you let it be known that you have given up on an individual this will be seen by other shooters on the team, with the result that some of them could lose confidence in you as a coach.
Although I believe you approach each individual in a different way, there are times when a team must be treated the same. For example, you might have a 2670 shooter and a 2550 shooter. These two shooters must be given the same treatment off the firing line. If not you will have a split team. A split team will never perform up to its capabilities. A coach must always be on the alert and prevent preferential treatment to the few top shooters. There are other ways to award the champions.
I have been a firing member of three United States World Championship Teams and three Pan American Teams and on not one of these has there ever been a coach. This I cannot understand. A pistol shooter needs a coach to help him if and when he's in trouble and to encourage him along when he is going great. Many times during the matches I mentioned I wished that I could have looked back and there was a coach available to give me encouragement and to know he would stick with me regardless of the results. All the U. S. Teams that I've been associated with were not teams, we never trained as a team, we were a group of individuals who gathered together to shoot a match, When the United States shooting officials realize that top coaches are needed for training the shooters as a team, the United States will be back on the top in world competition.