Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Making the most of the situation

I am sure you all are aware of the COVID19 virus situation and how many sports events are being cancelled. With my first two international competitions of the year being cancelled and I have my doubts whether any of my international competitions will happen, I am thinking how best I can use my time now I don't have the pressure of competitions coming up.

In a way it probably is a good timing for me as I really have not been happy with my standing shooting over the last year and I feel part of the problem has been putting too much pressure on myself. So this break from competition will be a good opportunity for me to lower the pressure and may be even have a break from standing if I feel that is needed for a couple of months.

There is something else I want to get done, that is to put my IBSA shooting committee chairman hat on and produce some information on vision impaired shooting. The sort of things I want to include are details of how the sport is done, the different disciplines, some tips for coaches, etc. Ideally I would like to get some videos made, but that does require the help of others. Again with the pressure of competition being removed for a few months, now may be that opportunity to get on with it with minimal impact upon my shooting.

So whilst turning on the radio seems to bring doom and gloom news, I intend to make the most of the next few months and have some good come out of it.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Melton Times Sports Awards presentation evening

Yesterday evening was the Melton Times Sports Awards and I was up for the Sportsman of the Year award. Those who read my social media will already know who won the award, but I felt now I have returned to the office it is time to write a blog post on the evening. Just for clarity, the office is not the shooting club, rather it is the room where I have my computer set up at home.

For those who do not know what the Melton Times Sports Awards are, they are local awards recognising the achievements of those involved in sport in and around Melton Mowbray. There were 14 awards to be presented with 18 sports represented. As I said I had been nominated for the sportsman of the year award.

When you read through what the nominated people have done, it is really impressive and I can imagine the decision was quite a tough one for the judges to pick out the winner in each category. The presentations started with the junior sportsman and junior sportswoman awards and then it was my moment with the presentation of the sportsman of the year.

As I said in a previous post, it is a slightly strange thing for me to realise I am not in the disabled sports person category, this time up against non-disabled sports people. The other two finalists both also had a good number of achievements to their name so I really did not know who would get the award until the name was read out.

Finally you patient blog readers now can be told that the name which was read out was mine and so I am this year's sportsman of the year.

The evening continued with awards in other categories, such as the community sports award, a coaching sports award, junior team awards, etc. It was a really good evening and it was nice to hear about all the nominees and what goes on in the local area.

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.

Making the most of the situation

I am sure you all are aware of the COVID19 virus situation and how many sports events are being cancelled. With my first two international c...