Tactical Pointer

Building Routines

Živa Dvoršak

Dec 4, 2021

This Practical Pointer will follow two shooting friends on their way to the competition. One athlete is you: you are prepared, calm and confident – you are simply following your routines. Your teammate, however, is a different story.

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Junior shooters focusing on breathing

Step by Step

Imagine yourself driving to a competition. Even though you felt some nerves kicking in last night, preventing you from falling asleep on time, you still woke up feeling fresh and energised. You knew this could happen a night before, so you prioritised going to bed earlier throughout the week, “collecting” extra hours of sleep beforehand. You’re thinking about the last week of practice, you trust in your position, you’re able to recall how to execute a perfect shot, and you can’t wait to step on the firing line, dive into those feelings and start shooting.

Meanwhile, your teammate has been whining about feeling tired since you started driving, saying how he binge-watched a whole season of some series until the middle of the night. He continues scrolling through his phone during the drive before falling asleep in some weird position. You take your headphones, listen to calm music, focus on breathing deeply, and visualise your preparation and shot routine.

Stepping out of the car, your teammate drags himself in, finds the first chair to sit down, and remains there until the last minute before the call to the line. You take a few minutes to walk around the building to re-energise your body. When you enter the range, you continue with your warm-up routine and stretching. Next, you prepare your rifle and everything you need on the shooting line while listening to music and observing your thoughts. Whenever something negative pops up, you imagine how this thought passes you by and then you shift your focus on the feeling of having control over executing your shots.

You look at your teammate who’s talking loudly to other shooters, cracking jokes. You see him checking the clock, realising he only has a few minutes left before the start. He rushes to get himself ready. Meanwhile, you’re going through your Shooting Notes, checking if you wrote down anything particular about the shooting range the last time you shot here. You also take time to write down your goal for today’s match.

You hear the range officer announcing the call to the line. You walk to your shooting line, set it up and take time to dry fire, allowing your body to adapt to the shooting position. You look at your colleague to signalise “good luck”, but he’s still running up and down from his shooting line to his bag, putting together everything he needs.

Sighting time starts. Your body still needs time to adjust fully, but all in all, you’re satisfied with where your shots are going. Match starts. A rush of adrenaline kicks in. Self-doubt and negative thoughts pop up. You begin to feel a bit tense in your neck and shoulders. Your teammate started with a bad shot, and instead of letting it go, he’s still frustrating over it and rushing through the first few shots like he’s trying to run away from the unpleasant feelings of competition. He’s anxious and getting angry over bad shots. But you’re aware that you can only overcome this state by slowing down. You focus on breathing deeply, imagine a place where you feel relaxed, and visualise having control over your shot process. Even if you shoot a bad shot, you quickly return to visualising the control and the process of a good one. You know those visualisations increase the possibility of the next shoot being great. You remain patient and remind yourself that pressure also helps sharpen your senses, and it’s because of this that you see and feel like your rifle is moving more. But heightened senses also mean that you see a clearer picture through your sights and use the timing of triggering better.

You quickly accept this state and use it to your advantage. Soon you fall into a flow and reach your shooting potential. In the end, when you come from the shooting line, you feel satisfied, and you have a feeling you controlled the competition. You pay special notice to the parts you did well, you know what needs improvement and how are you going to reach it. Your teammate, however, finishes his match feeling frustrated. He’s blaming different lights at the range, complaining over his neighbour standing too close to him, and how the range officer was constantly watching him. Finally, he’s making excuses about how his rifle wasn’t working correctly.

You’re motivated to go back to practice and work on things that still need improvement while you don’t see your teammate coming to the range for the next ten days.

Build Routines to Build Confidence and Improve Performance

Different situations happen in a competition; most of them are unpredictable, and we often have no control over them. It is up to us to carry out our routine as smoothly as possible. However, routine only becomes routine when it is properly defined and used in practice, too. This does not mean we have to consciously think about it and be rigid and inflexible because of it. It just means that we are carrying out steps that have already become automatic for us. Operating at a steady and automated pace means that we have things under control. Having control means being more confident. And greater self-confidence gives us better performance!


infographic; building routines makes you more confident and improves performance

Building routines is one of Aiming Art’s primary philosophies. This is why there is space in Shooting Notes to write down different routines. How many routines are there? Many! Shot routine, preparation routine, mental approach routine, physical preparation routine, warm-up, stretching, practice, match, and final preparation routine. The more steps you have worked out, the fewer things can surprise you. And when your colleagues run around and stretch differently every time, forget to pack their shooting stand or even come without a rifle, you have a set system, do your steps automatically, and confidently move forward.

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2 thoughts on “Building Routines”

  1. All common sense. The earlier you can learn to do this the easier it becomes. I’ve been the teammate in the story! As I’ve gotten older there has been a natural relaxation in attitude due to experience, but there is still work to be done in the things stated here, like equipment preparation – check it all the night before. A written checklist for every competition is a good start. A routine, for breakfast, travelling, preparing your kit when you arrive. Avoidance of arriving late, having to grab stuff and put it together, etc. Check your surroundings, has anything changed since you were last here? Even little things like in a rifle prone competition – are the sighters on the same side as you have them at home? You should put them on either side in your home range to be ready to shoot “the opposite way round”. Have you prepared by practicing to shoot two cards in one detail, even though at home you only shoot one? Have you timed yourself to allow that you can still complete the detail if any mishap occurs, misfires, jams, etc. You might need to change filters if on a strange range for the first time and the lighting is totally different to anything you’ve experienced before. Finally, notes. Take notes of anything that might help you on your next visit.

    1. OMG, yes, yes, and yes!
      There will be enough things to throw you out of balance without you being one of them. So making sure you have as many things under control is essential. The more routine your approach is, the less stress it causes you. Like you say: organisation, routine, and taking notes.

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