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.

Monday, 7 October 2019

In Australia for the World Championships

As the World Championships gets closer, now less than a week away, I thought it was time to write another blog post. Last week saw me take the longest flight I have taken up to now as I flew out to Australia. This is also the first time I have been outside Europe for shooting, so many new things for me. I had decided to fly out early so that I would have time to acclimatise.

The first couple of days were not shooting related, time to be a tourist and find where things are in Sydney. However by Sunday it was back to work at the shooting centre doing some training and to take my first shots on another continent. First up was training standing It was good to get going again and find out that everything had survied the flight and was working correctly.

After a break for some lunch and it was into training the prone. May be I started too soon after lunch as things weren't quite feeling right and I was feeling a bit sleepy. After a short walk around to wake me up a bit, back into the prone shooting and everything was back to normal again.

So all seems to be going to plan and I am feeling positive for the upcoming championships. So today I was back being a tourist, going on one of the access tours of the Sydney Opera House and then to the maratime museum. Both were very interesting and had things I could appreciate, well worth doing if you are in Sydney.

I plan to have a couple more training sessions before the championships begins. My first competition is prone on Tuesday 15 October. Keep watching here on my blog, my FaceBook page or my Twitter page for updates.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Changes in my prone

Since I started my prone back at the end of march this year we have made many alterations to my position as we keep learning things. I thought I would give a bit more detail on how my position has been evolving and why we are still changing things when there is only weeks to go until the World Championships.

Right at the beginning we started by trying to have me square on to the target facing down range, so my upper body was somewhat like the standard prone position. I just could not get on with that position at all,I kept dropping my left shoulder, the rifle never felt correct in the right shoulder, etc. Then there was the problem of the pain in my left hand, although that might have been related to the glove I was using.

The next thing I tried was to sit at an angle to the target. This brought my shoulders round to something closer to my standing position and I seemed to have much less trouble with keeping the shoulders level. Whether this was to do with the position being better for me or whether it was that it was just more familiar because of it being closer to my standing I am not sure. After changing the glove I had a position comfortable enough that I could start thinking about shooting a full 60 shot match.

I stuck with this position for a while getting used to it and it was the position I used whilst out in Croatia at the World Cup. The problem though was that the angles of my arms were quite low and so we had fitted a long extension to the butt plate. This made it difficult to reach to load with the rifle in position and the only way to adjust the sights was to take it out of my shoulder. This is when we started looking at a forend extension and reducing the length of the butt to bring everything back towards me. At first I was borrowing a forend extension from a club member, this did seem to help as it reduced the stretching when loading, I could adjust the sights in position and it moved the weight back a bit. The forend extension I borrowed had a height adjustment piece which unfortunately was getting in my way and so we looked at making a forend extension.

The custom forend was not going to be attached for long as last Friday we had Mike, one of the coaches at British Shooting, come to have a look at my prone and give us some help. His suggestion was to increase the angle of my arms, which we did by raising my seat. By bringing the arms up a bit means that they are better able to support the rifle and my hold seemed to improve when we did that. It also means my left hand is not as far forward and so we could remove the forend extension.

I may have joked about all these changes and how it seems like I have something different every time I go training. However I think now probably is the time to do all this as I don't want to get too attached to one position which might not really be ideal. We have much learning to do and we won't find things out unless we experiment. Based on how well I did in the World Cup, hopefully with these improvements, I should be in with a good chance at the World Championships and I am feeling quite positive.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Call for VI shooters

In the past I have mentioned about wanting other vision impaired shooters to take up the international disciplines. One reason is that I enjoy the sport and I want to share it with others so that they too have the opportunity to participate in the sport and to do it at the highest level they can. However this is not the only reason.

Here in the UK we actually have quite a strong domestic form of the sport with may be about 100 or more vision impaired shooters. The vast majority of these do support rest shooting from a spring stand, only a few in the UK actually shoot either of the international disciplines. Also the national vision impaired shooting competitions are all shot using the larger air pistol target where as internationally the air rifle target is the standard. In short I am the only vision impaired shooter from the UK who currently shoots internationally. There are times it can feel quite a lonely place to be as I don't feel like I belong to any team.

My local shooting club has been very welcoming and supportive, in fact I couldn't have asked for more. I have mentioned about going to national competitions and shooting against sighted shooters. It has been great going to those competitions with fellow club members and in some cases working to place higher in the results. However these competitions are only a fraction of what they do and over the summer there have been a number of outdoor competitions where club members have gone to which I cannot compete in. Then there are my international competitions which I am doing separate to club members.

Historically vision impaired shooting has been quite separate from the rest of disabled shooting in GB, probably partially due to the competitions being held separate. Even though I am now going to the same international competitions as the rest of the parasport shooting team, I still feel external to the team. At this point I have not done any training with the rest of the team and so when I am at the competitions whilst I may recognise some of the names, I would not say I necessarily know the other GB shooters. Also for all my international events I have had to make all my own arrangements for travel and hotels rather than being invited to travel with the rest of the team. This though does have its advantage as it gives me the freedom to choose what suits me better, such as taking a cheaper route to the World Cup and not being restricted to wheelchair accessible hotels.

So if we had a few more British vision impaired shooters doing international disciplines then may be we could have a vision impaired shooting team. It would be nice to have some others doing the same shooting as me who I could relate to and may be we could even look at competing for the team medals at international competitions.

So how do I see more people taking up the international disciplines? I feel that prone might be the way in. For people trying shooting for the first time you could start them doing 10m air rifle benchrest with a support whilst they learn the basics of shooting. If they started on the air rifle target then they could enter league competitions against sighted shooters from the beginning. As they get better the only thing which would need changing is the support for a sling. As they learn using the sling they could still enter the benchrest leagues and once they reach a standard where they could be considered for international competition they would be able to start shooting internationally. Standing is quite challenging and I accept fewer probably will take it up, but hopefully those capable of it would be willing to give it a go once they have had the taste of prone at international competition.

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, w...