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Clay Thornton

What's Your Mental Process?

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I've heard it over and over again from so many different seasoned Cowboy shooters but there's a significant portion of this game that's mental.  So over the last year I've worked a lot on putting my mind in the right place at the beginning of every stage and for me it starts at the loading table.  I try to make every stage the same I try not to deviate from it as much as possible.

 

I walk up rifle is always in the right-hand, shotguns always in the left hand and pistols are holstered.  Soon as I get up to the loading table I lay my rifle and shotgun down.  Then lever my rifle to show clear, close the lever and drop my hammer.  From there I immediately load my rifle and then set it off to the side.  I always pull my right pistol first, load it, and then draw my left pistol, and load it.  From there I double check that I have the shotgun shells that I need and to be a good pard I look at the guy in front of me and the guy behind me to make sure they have shotgun shells, a trick my old buddy Chilli Pepper Kid taught me.  From there I try to stay as relaxed as possible and go through the scenario in my head but once I'm on deck I go through a short mantra of "smooth is fast, and transitions are key". When the shooter in front of me shoots I don't watch them shoot but I certainly listen to them shoot and I visualize every shot that they make hitting the target that it's supposed to as I've laid it out in my head.  It helps if you try to shoot after someone that is a smooth or methodical if you can.  Once they're done shooting again I'll put my rifle in my right hand my shotgun my left hand and point them vertical awaiting to be called the firing line. For me the next step is the most important part of my entire process.  As soon as I get called up to the firing line I put the biggest smile / grin that I can on my face and remind myself that this stage is going to be the most fun stage that I shoot all day and to enjoy the moment. Trying to channel as much positive mental attitude as possible. Once I stage by firearms I keep that smile on my face and go to the starting position and wait instructions for my TO. Once I hear the beep we're off and running following muscle memory sending lead down range. 

 

While that was long winded I try to do this on every stage. It helps me focus and get my head in the right place. 

 

What is your process, what do you do?  What little mantras do you say in your head?

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I repeat (in my head), "Don't screw up. Don't screw up. Don't screw up."  :(

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as evidenced by this past weekend,, apparently, not much,,,

 

I go over the scenario several times, with movements included... as in shadow shooting, not on the line before shooting, but before

 

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Posted (edited)

@Buck D. Law, SASS #62183 recommended this book to my beautiful wife, @Alchemist Belle 93666, at one time.

 

It was invaluable to her.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Winning-Mind-3rd-Ed/dp/1934324264

 

For some tidbits from the book, you can look on YouTube, or even read this:

 

https://www.njlifehacks.com/with-winning-in-mind-lanny-bassham-book-summary/

Edited by Branchwater Jack SASS #88854
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Before the stage, Shot count, shot placement, movement (hands/feet) over and over the stage. 

After the stage, stupid, stupid, stupid

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It's 100% mental and 100% physical......one does no good without the other. You can have all the speed in the world but without a solid mental game you will not consistently perform at a high level. You can have the best mental game in the world but without the physical ability you will not perform at a high level.

 

You have to work on both parts to be successful. Keep in mind that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Try different things and see what works for you. Also keep in mind that as progress your "mental game" will probably evolve and somethings that are helpful now may not be necessary in the future. 

 

I agree with Doc's suggestion to ready Brian Enos' book......I would add

 

Mental Training for Peak Performance

 

Zen Golf was extremely helpful to me

 

Thinking Practical Shooting: A Guide to outstanding Match Performance

 

That's plenty of reading and concepts to keep you busy for a while. 

 

Stan

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41 minutes ago, Branchwater Jack SASS #88854 said:

@Buck D. Law, SASS #62183 recommended this book to my beautiful wife, @Alchemist Belle 93666, at one time.

 

It was invaluable to her.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Winning-Mind-3rd-Ed/dp/1934324264

 

For some tidbits from the book, you can look on YouTube, or even read this:

 

https://www.njlifehacks.com/with-winning-in-mind-lanny-bassham-book-summary/

I second this!

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I seem to recall having been called ....... mental ..... from time to time   :P

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When I first started I had the whole routine I needed to do. Now I try to make  my mind go blank when I shoot. I Don't worry about if I hit or miss, all other distractions. Just the motions and enjoyment.  I tend to do better that way.

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31 minutes ago, Santa Fe River Stan,36999L said:

It's 100% mental and 100% physical......one does no good without the other. You can have all the speed in the world but without a solid mental game you will not consistently perform at a high level. You can have the best mental game in the world but without the physical ability you will not perform at a high level.

 

You have to work on both parts to be successful. Keep in mind that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Try different things and see what works for you. Also keep in mind that as progress your "mental game" will probably evolve and somethings that are helpful now may not be necessary in the future. 

 

I agree with Doc's suggestion to ready Brian Enos' book......I would add

 

Mental Training for Peak Performance

 

Zen Golf was extremely helpful to me

 

Thinking Practical Shooting: A Guide to outstanding Match Performance

 

That's plenty of reading and concepts to keep you busy for a while. 

 

Stan

 

My 'mental' game is basically non-existent.    Like most, I do think about not screwing up.

BUT, Stan is the Man and on any given day, he's World Champ Cowboy.   His advice above

should be wisely considered if someone is wanting to excel in this game/sport.

 

And anytime DOC gives advice/info, it should also be wise to listen.   When DOC speaks, even

E.F.Hutton listens..... ;)

 

..........Widder

 

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This is a great thread, thanks Clay. 

 

When I started Dirt Merchant recommended I read 'With Winning in Mind' by Lanny Basham and 'Breaking the Shot' by Doc.  Both were very helpful.

 

This is a great reminder for me that although I've been working on pistols to try to find another .5-.75 seconds, upping my mental game is probably more important to help get consistency up.

 

Thanks to all for the resources! Looks like I have some reading to do.

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1 hour ago, Widder, SASS #59054 said:

 

My 'mental' game is basically non-existent.    Like most, I do think about not screwing up.

BUT, Stan is the Man and on any given day, he's World Champ Cowboy.   His advice above

should be wisely considered if someone is wanting to excel in this game/sport.

 

And anytime DOC gives advice/info, it should also be wise to listen.   When DOC speaks, even

E.F.Hutton listens..... ;)

 

..........Widder

 

 

My advice is worth exactly what you paid for you it....LOL. Hope you find something that helps. Instead of thinking about "not screwing up" try focusing on "doing it right"....replace "don't miss" with "get your hits" unless you're talking to your competitor then "don't miss" is perfectly fine :D.

 

Stan

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12 minutes ago, Santa Fe River Stan,36999L said:

 

My advice is worth exactly what you paid for you it....LOL. Hope you find something that helps. Instead of thinking about "not screwing up" try focusing on "doing it right"....replace "don't miss" with "get your hits" unless you're talking to your competitor then "don't miss" is perfectly fine :D.

 

Stan

:D

 Good points.

 

..........NimbleSOB

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Most importantly, DON"T over think it!!!   :mellow:   That's when the brain farts appear!!!   :blink:   98.7% of stages are simple and straight-forward. I concentrate on keeping target engagements and transitions smooth. That usually works out well.    :D

JC

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Posted (edited)

I also start at the loading table..

I load all my firearms.. :D

I do not talk to the shooters in front of me.. :mellow:

I feel they are trying to get the stage, as they want it, in their mind.. :huh:

I hope the shooters behind me give me the same respect.. :rolleyes:

I go over the stage and transitions as I want to shoot it

If I know there is a good smooth shooter in front of me

I might watch them..

Sante Fe River Stan has given his  mental and physical advice here before.. Great advice.. I've purty much have all his advice 

down pat..  :huh: except fer the mental and physical thingy.. :mellow:

still werkin' on those two.. :D :D

 

Rance ;)

Thinkin I then go to the line and hope :huh: and pray :) I'm ready :D

Edited by Rance - SASS # 54090
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Posted (edited)

Since I write the stages at our club, I usually try to shoot first. Hopefully if there are any questions as to how I intended the stage to be shot, others can see what I did (and hopefully I won't screw it up!) After I read the stage instructions and confirm there are no unanswered questions, I get my long guns and go to the loading table. Shotgun goes on the left, rifle on the right and a box of cartridges to the right of that. Rack rifle twice then close lever and release hammer (ALL the way down). Load rifle from the box, so I know how many went in. Pull each pistol, check for empty and open the loading gate, set it on table. Load each from box and have them checked for hammer down on empty chamber, set em down. Put bullet box back in cart. If I haven't already, load shotgun belt. Move back to table and put pistols in holsters. Take a breath, clear mind (watch it) and focus on target order and how exactly I'm going to engage. Pick up long guns and hold with butts on the table and wait to be called.

I like to have fun and banter with the best of them, but when I'm shootin, I don't talk. (and I try to do the same when others are preparing/shooting). Have fun but don't be a distraction.

Edited by The Rainmaker, SASS #11631

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I don’t even read the book the night before. Just too many changes. Listen to the reading ask any questions watch several shooters, get my guns and go to the loading table. That’s it, Fort Pitt.

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One opinion-

your hands and feet will move faster than you can think once your muscle memory takes over. Just like a roper throws a thousand loops on the ground before he saddles up or a pilot flies 10 simulations before actual take off you must put in the work prior to stepping on the stage if you want to be competitive. you must see yourself succeeding. seeing the rounds hitting the targets, feeling the rifle set into your shoulder or the flick of your wrist to kick the shells out of your sxs.

another great read is Becoming Supernatural.

Your goal should be to achieve "flow" which is a natural state of being in your element where "mental" is not even a component because your physical is performing without you even thinking.

Its like when you finish a stage and don't remember how you got to the end. everything worked exactly right without you even having conscious thoughts.  

 

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5 minutes ago, Moe T Vator said:

Your goal should be to achieve "flow" which is a natural state of being in your element where "mental" is not even a component because your physical is performing without you even thinking.

Its like when you finish a stage and don't remember how you got to the end. everything worked exactly right without you even having conscious thoughts.  

 

 

I'm a relatively new shooter but I find this, the flow, is the case. It's no different for me in rock crawling or desert racing or whatever else I do. Tune out the extraneous and then just do what needs to be done. That doesn't mean I'm fast or good, it just means I'm trying to reduce the noise in my head. If you asked me what I did with shots 4,5, and 6 out of my revolvers, I likely couldn't tell you but I will remember I was having fun doing it.

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My suggestion would be to start the mental process before you leave the gun cart.  The loading table is a tough place to sort through things.  Visualize before you leave the gun cart and feel confident of your perfect stage before you get to the loading table. The loading table is a place for reinforcement and relaxation.  My biggest problem is going on auto pilot rather than awareness.   I do not often adapt to a reload or stuck shell.  My daughters favorite saying was "nice 10 second reload dad".:o   Not sure how to find that place.  Any ideas?  Brian Enos and Lanny Basham talk about it, but not sure how to get there.  Seems like a fine line.  

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3 hours ago, Widder, SASS #59054 said:

:D

 Good points.

 

..........NimbleSOB

 

We need to shoot together NimbleSOB

 

Stan

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Posted (edited)
On 3/21/2019 at 2:24 PM, Kirk James said:

My suggestion would be to start the mental process before you leave the gun cart.  The loading table is a tough place to sort through things.  Visualize before you leave the gun cart and feel confident of your perfect stage before you get to the loading table. The loading table is a place for reinforcement and relaxation.  My biggest problem is going on auto pilot rather than awareness.   I do not often adapt to a reload or stuck shell.  My daughters favorite saying was "nice 10 second reload dad".:o   Not sure how to find that place.  Any ideas?  Brian Enos and Lanny Basham talk about it, but not sure how to get there.  Seems like a fine line.  

How often do you practice doing reloads with the rifle? I make it a part of every practice session and when it is a known part of a stage it's not too bad. Jack out a round and you never know what you may get.

 

There is a skill set that most shooters could use but have probably never thought about.....The ability to throttle back whenever a problem arises. It takes self awareness and control to slow down when the wheels feel like they are coming off. The natural reaction is to speed up because you know you have lost time due to the jacked out round or stuck shell. What you should do is become more deliberate and make sure you don't give up even more time.

 

Have you tried mixing in dummy rounds with your practice ammo to simulate a jacked out round? 

 

Stan

 

Edited by Santa Fe River Stan,36999L
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7 hours ago, Santa Fe River Stan,36999L said:

It's 100% mental and 100% physical......one does no good without the other. You can have all the speed in the world but without a solid mental game you will not consistently perform at a high level. You can have the best mental game in the world but without the physical ability you will not perform at a high level.

 

You have to work on both parts to be successful. Keep in mind that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Try different things and see what works for you. Also keep in mind that as progress your "mental game" will probably evolve and somethings that are helpful now may not be necessary in the future. 

 

I agree with Doc's suggestion to ready Brian Enos' book......I would add

 

Mental Training for Peak Performance

 

Zen Golf was extremely helpful to me

 

Thinking Practical Shooting: A Guide to outstanding Match Performance

 

That's plenty of reading and concepts to keep you busy for a while. 

 

Stan

 

Finally, the keys to the kingdom.

 

I asked Stan to help me shoot my rifle faster and all I got, after he looked at my rifle, was, "You might wanna clean that gun once in a while."

 

:lol:

 

Waimea (still feeling the sting)

 

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Thanks Stan-I will start now.  Mental Training for Peak Performance was excellent.  Thank you for your suggestion.  Looking forward to Thinking Practical Shooting!  Appreciate your response on the wire.  Had this conversation with Ray Heartless concerning auto pilot vs awareness while he was in AZ.  I will start practicing reloads with dummies and I don't mean the friends I shoot with.  No offense kids either!  LOL  Thanks for the advise.

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I'm not sure I'm qualified to give advice on the "Mental" side of preparing to run a stage/match...but what the hell.

 

Since a lot of excellent points have been brought up already (read above), my only suggestions would be:

 

1. Never think about how fast or slow you'll want to shoot a stage. Your subconscious mind will control your speed.

2. Think of only two things while prepping at the loading table. Nether of which should be something that has been programmed into you through practice (ie: holstering, levering, laying long gun down...speed...). My favorites are "Front Sight" and "Smooth" cuz China Camp always told me that Smooth is Fast, Quick is Slow.

3. It's just another match. Mistakes happen...misses happen...P's happen. This mindset (Thank you Taggart),  helps soften glitches that you can encounter during a match.

 

Cheers!

Phantom

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3 hours ago, Santa Fe River Stan,36999L said:

 

We need to shoot together NimbleSOB

 

Stan

 

I agree.   One of my more memorable times in my Cowboy life was when the Cracker crew, Deuce, Doc Noper, etc.....were at the GA State and I was blessed to be on that posse with everyone.   What a match.....and super fun posse.

 

Keep em smokin and hopefully, I can get out enough this year to maybe see ya at a match.

Right now, it looks like the TN State in October and maybe Hell Fire (Louisiana at Slick's place) in November.

 

..........NImbleSOB..... and still nimble.    ;)

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Santa Fe River Stan,36999L said:

How often do you practice doing reloads with the rifle? I make it a part of every practice session and when it is a known part of a stage it's not too bad. Jack out a round and you never know what you may get.

 

There is a skill set that most shooters could use but have probably never thought about.....The ability to throttle back whenever a problem arises. It talks self awareness and control to slow down when the wheels feel like they are coming off. The natural reaction is to speed up because you know you have lost time due to the jacked out round or stuck shell. What you should do is become more deliberate and make sure you don't give up even more time.

 

Have you tried mixing in dummy rounds with your practice ammo to simulate a jacked out round? 

 

Stan

 

That's a good idea. I actually do that for Shortcake and I for our everyday carry autos. On the job we called it the "ball and dummy" drill. You would pair up, and load your partner's magazine with a dummy or two in any order, and then insert the mag into his/her pistol. Keeps you on your toes.

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