Sunday, 9 February 2020

Step towards being Melton Times sportsman of the year

In my previous post I mentioned about being nominated as Melton Times sportsman of the year. As readers of my social media posts probably already know, I have now been selected as a finalist for sportsman of the year.It is now a case of waiting until 28 February for the winners to be announced.

In the meantime I have training to do in preparation for my first international competition, the World Cup in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates which is due to be held in March. Over the last year or so I have been finding I have been putting more and more pressure on myself and I think its starting to get in the way of my shooting, so the main aim I have for this World Cup is to get back to the place where I can relax in competition and enjoy it.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

My relationship with disability

This week the nominations for the Melton Times sports awards were announced. It was nice to find my name on the list, however to find myself in the list for sportsman of the year rather than the disability sportsman of the year got me thinking again about how I feel about my disability.

Whilst I do not try to hide my disability and I accept it as being a part of who I am, I do not want to be defined by my disability. I want people to see who I am first, someone trying to be the best shooter they can be, with my vision impairment just being another fact about me. So in a way its quite pleasing to be nominated and considered for an award where disability is not in the title. It feels like a step towards equality where I can be considered against everyone else and not just in a disabled category.

Those who have followed what I have done probably already know how I shoot in national competitions against sighted shooters. In these competitions I think I place more pressure on myself than at international vision impaired shooting competitions. This is because I feel in the sighted competitions I am someone different, may be even someone who others will view as being at a disadvantage, facing more challenges and may be even pittied. So I feel I need to shoot as well as I can to show people what i can do and so that when complements are given to me I feel I have earned it. It can annoy me when people are saying well done to me when I feel I have performed much worse than my best, it can feel patronizing even if that is not the intent.

When I compete in a vision impaired specific competition I feel more comfortable as I know that people will be comparing me against other vision impaired shooters. If I have a bad day, then people will see its not the best a vision impaired shooter can manage as they will see what the other competitors achieve. So in a way the disability is less defining about me in these cases.

Also the vision impaired specific competitions are required as you do need to create an equal playing field for all competitors, particularly when you are trying to find the champion. There are certain aspects which may be harder for someone with a vision impairment to do and so it may either require more work to achieve the same level of performance as their sighted opponents or it may not even be possible to reach that level of performance. In my case the competing in national competitions against sighted shooters is to give me a challenge and experience of shooting competitions, I know that in some of the competitions there is very little chance of me winning.

So whilst I do like it when I can achieve things in non-disabled categories, I do feel it needs to come with some caution as the disability specific competitions and categories do have their place. Sometimes when aspiring to break out of the disability world, it can lead to people feeling you view the disability specific categories as a lesser category, something we really should not do.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

What is to come in 2020

Happy new year to all readers of my blog. Time to start looking forward to what 2020 has for me. It looks like it could be a busy first half of the year with three vision impaired international competitions to go to. Starting in March with the World Cup in Al Ain, UAE, followed by the International Shooting Competition of Hanover in May and the 10m European Championships in June. Then there are the national competitions against sighted shooters to consider, with the British Open Airgun Championships in February and the ESSU championships in May. These are just the shoulder-to-shoulder competitions, there are the various league competitions to be shot at my local club as well. At this point I don't know if there will be any shoulder-to-shoulder competitions in the latter part of the year, however it may present a chance to have a bit of a break or opportunity to experiment in my training. So plenty to look forward to, keep tuned for further updates as the year goes on.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Why I do mental training

Readers of my FaceBook page will know that recently I have started putting a lot of attention on mental training. So why am I doing this, wasn't it already part of my training?

To answer the latter part first, yes it was already in my training, however I feel over the last few months something had changed and I felt much less confident about my shooting. Well to say something had changed is possibly understating it, almost all of my standing position has been changed and with all the attention being on the position I found my mind was being left behind.

As well as it being something I felt needed greater attention at the moment, it also is the part of training I can do independently. Unfortunately to actually go shooting I always need someone to assist me and so I am restricted to when someone is available to help. Even dry-firing at home is difficult, finding my standing position independently is almost impossible. On the occasions I have done dry-fire training at home, it was not about the position but rather familiarising myself with the EcoAims sound or doing trigger training, for which I could rest the rifle on a support rest.

Sadly many vision impaired people may know that books in an accessible form can be hard to find. Here are two suggestions of books I have got:

  1. With winning in mind by Lanny Bassham, can be found on Amazon Kindle.
  2. Bullseye Mind by Raymond Prior, you will need to email him regarding getting a PDF copy.
Another route may be to look for mental training apps. Certainly for those new to mental training I think it may be a good option as the interactive nature allows it to gather information about you and then make suggestions on what to focus on next. One such app is the Sport Psych app for Android.

The fact mental training can be done independently makes it even more important for a vision impaired shooter, you can do as much or as little as you feel is required. So if you are a VI shooter and you are not doing mental training, I would encourage you to take a look at it.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Reflection on 2019

With all my international vision impaired competitions done for 2019, it seems like a good point to review how things have gone this year and what I need to focus on next.

This year has had its ups and downs. The year got off to a fairly good start with me shooting at the British Open Airgun Championships where I put in a score better than the previous year's competitions despite having to move firing points within sighting time.

In May I had a change to my plan when there were problems in getting my therapeutic use exemption for one of my medications renewed in time for the International Competition of Hanover. This meant I had to withdraw from that competition and find a solution and to achieve my qualifying score for the World Championships out at the World Cup in Croatia.

This change in competitions meant the training plan needed to adjust as well. I had been going through significant changes to my standing shooting position and some of the time between May and the World Cup was used to keep making these changes. All these changes though started to get to me, with such a focus on only achieving the position and getting that right, I felt my shooting was slowing down. I was feeling detached from how I shoot in competitions and I started to worry about how I would shoot under the pressure of competition and the knowledge of having a time limit. My self image as a competitive shooter had been very badly damaged and whilst people were telling me that my thoughts would not be helping me and I needed to think more positively, I felt I was not getting support in knowing how to actually change the thoughts and the self image.

After the World Cup I was just relieved to have got my qualifying score for the World Championships. The silver medal in the prone was a very nice bonus, after the problems I had in getting started with prone and the significant pain whilst we were finding the correct position, it was nice to have something come from all that effort.

The focus then moved to the World Championships and being ready for that. I knew I needed to get myself back to a point where I would be comfortable and confident shooting in a competition. One suggestion I had from a club member was to trust myself and learn to just shoot through it. This felt like the best advice I was getting on how to get my mind back in the right place, so most of my standing training was spent shooting under competition conditions to reassure me that I could do it.

With prone still being fairly new to me, there was still much work to do on tweaking the position. Things felt like they were though improving. I was possibly starting to build the pressure on myself for the prone, if I could achieve a World Cup silver medal at my first competition, then what was the expectation on me for the World Championships?

At the World Championships I had nerves affecting me. For the prone there was that thought of what the expectation would be of how well I might do. My qualifying round was better than what I had in Croatia, but was still lower than may have been expected based upon my training scores. In the final I had some problems with the sighting and just could not settle after that.

After a disappointing time with the prone, I guess this meant I started putting more pressure on myself for my standing as it was the only chance remaining for me to show what I could do. I feel whilst my self image had somewhat improved since Croatia, it still had not been fully restored to where it had been back in previous years. This all added to my nerves and the sense of pressure to do well. It probably worked against me in the qualifying as I struggled to settle down. The result was well down on what I feel I am capable of and I went into the final in 8th place. The final was really the last chance I would have to show what I was capable of and yes the nerves were going and I could feel my leg shaking. However as the final went on and I realised I was doing reasonable, I started to settle down. The bronze medal was such a relief to win, I felt like I had really worked for it.

So enough of the reflection, it is only useful if I use it to take actions which should lead to improvements. Having had so much trouble with my feeling towards my shooting, this is why I started looking for a book to help with my mental training. The book I have ended up selecting is "With winning in mind". There are some things in that book which deal with how to change the self image and I will try some of those techniques. Another thing which the book mentions is over trying, something I thought I was possibly doing in trying to get the correct position.

Finally the other thing I am going to give a go is the performance journal. I had previously tried a shooting diary, but abandoned it when I found I was not recording useful things and also due to the difficulties I had in making the entries when I had the information fresh in my mind. In "With winning in mind" there is some details on how to structure the performance journal and may be with some of the technological developments since my last attempt I may be able to record the information better. I think it is worth trying it again as the performance journal can support almost all of the other aspects of training and make those more effective.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

An encounter with Kedok

Whilst out in Australia I met with Geoff Hunter who runs a shooting club for the vision impaired in Sydney. I got the chance to try out the Kedok aiming system. After having read about it for sometime, it was great to actually get my hands on one to test it out.

For those who do not know what Kedok is, it is another aiming device for vision impaired shooters designed by Wim Hager over in the Netherlands. It differs from other available aiming devices as all the design documents have been published online, so you could make your own and even modify it as you feel fit. One of the goals of the Kedok device is to make something which is much more affordable than devices like the ecoAims or the VIASS Pro.

Before discussing what it is like to use, I must note that it currently has not been approved for use in international World Shooting ParaSport competitions. So anyone wanting to compete internationally will need to use something else or apply to get their Kedok approved by WSPS.

Now for what i think about it. Unlike EcoAims and VIASS which use cameras to locate the LED, the Kedok uses a light sensor and so is more similar to the Swarovski device. This has the advantage that sampling of the sensor is much, much quicker and so the sound changes much more smoothly, however it does mean it is more sensitive to differences in lamp or LED set up. In fact when I tried it, Geoff had made a mistake in the set up and the device detected something was wrong when we were calibrating it.

Once the lamp was correctly configured, time to have a listen and shoot with it. As I noted the sound does change very smoothly, takes me back to the Swarovski scope although it does sound a little different. For me being used to the EcoAims sound now, I found the amount of variation in the tone was not really enough and I felt it flattened off too much in the middle. I felt the tone did impact upon my ability to shoot a good group and probably it was no where near what I can do with my EcoAims. I am aware that there are settings which can be changed, but I did not want to go and mess up someone else's aiming device so I left them alone. This though does mean I cannot judge how accurate the device really may be, so I cannot pass comment on accuracy.

Whilst on the topic of settings, it is nice to note how Kedok has speech prompts in the device which allows the shooter to alter settings and to warn the shooter of any problems it detects. It is good to allow the shooter to be as independent as possible. Also I like some of the prompts and how they give the device a bit of personality, such as wishing you good shooting after calibration, rather than just being very boring information only prompts.

Something which I am not so keen on is the separate processing unit which sits on the table. Having used a battery pack fitted to the rifle to power a Swarovski and now using the Ecoaims with its built in battery, I am used to only having a single cable whilst shooting. So it feels like a step back to have a cable from the scope to the processor and then a headphone cable from the processor. I think EcoAims have really set the standard here with the built in battery, so you don't even have a cable for a battery pack.

So in conclusion, I think the Kedok is a step forward from the Swarovski scopes by allowing calibration and customisation with voice guidance. When compared with the EcoAims it just does not do it for me. The problems I have about the sound being too flat might be possible to resolve either through settings or by tweaking the software. The external processor unit is a more significant issue to me and would need a more significant redesign. For those who want to do the sport recreationally or at national level, then this might be a reasonable option to consider if price is important. However for those who want to compete internationally, I would suggest save up and go for something like the EcoAims VIS500 or the VIASS Pro.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Medal success at World Championships

Now the World Championships is over and I have returned home back to normal life, time for an update here. Sorry its coming a bit later than I really would have liked, but things got rather busy out in Australia and I just never quite found time for writing a blog post. May be I need to alter my blog posts to be shorter but more frequent.

This was my first World Championships and nerves were a big part of what I was feeling. I felt I was fighting the nerves all the way through and I think they may have affected my shooting.

The first competition was prone. As I said nerves meant my score was not as good as I had been hoping and I entered the final in 7th place. Well enough to make the final and the score was better than my previous competition prone scores, so not all bad. Unfortunately I had some problems in the sighting of the final which disturbed me and meant I found it difficult to settle down. Not being settled meant my shooting was not competitive and so I ended in 8th place after the final.

After all the lead up to the World Championships and my success in prone at the World Cup, I was feeling a bit disappointed with my prone and I had to put my attention to the standing competition. Again nerves hit me and affected my qualifying score, with me getting through to the final in 8th place. With the reality of my performance being down at the World Championships and the prospect of not getting any medal, my mind was really focussed for the final and to make the most of it. Again the nerves were there and I could feel my hand shaking, so I was doing everything I could to help me calm down and relax. As shot 12 was taken and I realised I was still in the final, I started to relax knowing that I had at least gained a place in the final. This probably helped me on as I climbed to 3rd place. There was one shot which was really bad and cost me heavily, potentially meaning I missed out on 2nd place.

After the final I was so happy to have managed a medal place and relieved it was all over. Of course I wish I had done better but considering the nerves I think it is a reasonable result for my first World Championships.

Now the World Championships are over, time for a short break and planning for next year. Being a Paralympic year next year, there will not be any World Championships. It looks like the highest level vision impaired competition will be a European Championships to be held in Slovenia. There is a World Cup planned to be held in the UAE, however I am considering only doing European competitions and to make next year a cheaper year after all the expenses of this year with the change of equipment and travel to Australia.

Step towards being Melton Times sportsman of the year

In my previous post I mentioned about being nominated as Melton Times sportsman of the year. As readers of my social media posts probably al...