Shooting is 90% Mental

posted on August 5, 2015
Editor’s Note: Dr. Judy Tant and Dr. Mike Keyes contributed to this article.

We generally agree that “shooting is 90 percent mental,” but apply it in very personal ways. When a coach emphasizes the need to focus, for example, one shooter’s interpretation may be to bear down and think harder, while the next may visualize “living in the moment” and relaxing.

This article touches on recent studies in critical thinking, brain fitness and even modifying the brain (plasticity) from the perspective of shooting sports. Drs. Judy Tant and Mike Keyes help interpret some of the more complex clinical findings and share their own experiences, as they are both accomplished shooting athletes in their own right [see endnotes for their biographies].

From Dr. Keyes: “I think you have a very good article in the making that combines your previous interviews, the SEAL study, and the latest knowledge on training and teaching. The crux of the article, that you have to train for competition, has been out for decades, but modern science has both verified and localized how this is accomplished.

I was especially interested in what Ernie Vande Zande, Lanny Basham and Lones Wigger said, since I met them on a number of occasions at Ft. Benning and had a chance to talk with them and watch them shoot. I've also been following the Doug Koenig TV show and it is clear that he has very actively dealt with match pressure by training for it.

One of the important points for your readers is that each of these shooters has a very personal approach that might not work for others. The basic principles of determining your reaction to stress, finding a set of specific answers that work for you and practicing them both in matches and on the practice field hold up throughout the interviews.

At the very highest levels, the problems of learning to shoot and how to deal with match pressure have been solved, more or less, but in order to achieve this level, the resolution of these issues has to have been worked out in a deliberate, layered manner that sets a solid base for the next level. Talent, i.e. a set of physical, mental and psychological attributes that give the shooter a step up on the ladder to success, has a place, but mostly this is a starting point. It takes hard work—work that is specific to the training task, to improve to an elite level. This is the “ten thousand hours” that you read about, and it can't be a random amount of work. It has to be focused and deliberate, which means that when you train you have to have goals and a good idea about what is going to help you.

After a while the very best shooters have a good idea about what is needed to succeed and their analytic abilities are at a peak. But even the very best can be helped by a good coach who can help with that incremental increase in training that might make all the difference in the rarified competition that marks the very best. The bottom line is that you have to work in order to succeed and you have to have the right kind of work, or you are wasting time. If you don't have a good base of training, all the talent in the world will not help at the edges of your talent when stress becomes the most acute.

In retrospect, I realized that shooters like Lones Wigger and Lanny Basham had these skills and I know how hard they worked at improving them every day. What we didn't have back then was a broad knowledge and good methods to make sure that every shooter had access to what has to be done in order to be the best. The hard part is still the amount of work that has to be put in, but now we know more about the direction of that hard work.”


Observations: When we’re not expected to do well, we often shoot to our full potential. Dr. Judy Tant mentioned this in her November, 2009, interview with SSUSA when she reflected: “I discovered that, because I had been doing well, I felt like I had to do well.” On the other hand, during Jock Elliott’s series on How Not to Crack Under Pressure [see endnotes], in anticipation of a lengthy interview with National Rifle and Pistol Champion Carl Bernosky, he suddenly found himself with plenty of spare time when Carl answered: “I just never thought of shooting as being all that difficult.” So it’s important to reflect on our perception of pressure, to understand how to manage it.

From Olympic Gold medalist Lanny Bassham: “Here’s a myth—Pressure causes performance to drop. Pressure does not cause your performance to drop. What I learned about pressure was that when you feel the physical effects of pressure, it’s real. You feel an adrenaline rush and your heart rate and blood pressure go up. I’ve seen shooters shoot extremely high scores with their legs shaking. Pressure doesn’t cause your scores to go up or down, but your attitude does. Your attitude is what’s important.”

Research: Navy SEAL Study on Working Through Fear.

Having doubled in size during our evolution, the brain weighs less than five pounds, yet consumes nearly one fourth of our body’s energy. According to Eric Zillmer of Drexel University, we can compare our brain’s structural evolution to an old house, with additional rooms added over time. The original “house” was simply the brain stem, sometimes called the reptilian brain. We know that this part of the brain governs automatic functions like temperature, heart rate and the instinct to flinch from loud sounds— things that happen without having to think about them. Fast forward a few hundred thousand years when the next “room” was added to the brain—the cerebellum, where procedural memory (learned activities) is stored. (More about this room, later.)

During this same evolutionary era, scientists believe the next room created was the amygdala, [a-mig'-də-lə] near the brain stem, which is responsible for emotions, including fear. So if a bad “case of nerves” is imbedded in the oldest part of the brain, how then are we able to control these ancient instincts?

Navy SEAL training has drawn from neuroscience for special techniques to help recruits change the way they react to the extremes they will face in combat. The principle goals of this training include: Goal Setting, Mental Rehearsal, Self-talk and Arousal Control. Sound familiar? These same themes are found in shooting sports literature, but perhaps not in the same context as found in recent neuroscience research.

Through repeated exercises, the U.S. Navy conditions recruits to control their reactions to the natural fear signals initiated by the amygdala. Practice (repetition) helps control or even suppress our instinctive reactions that detract from shooting well. Or, perhaps the repetition helps us to view these fear signals in a non-threatening way—to accept them as a natural consequence of our competitive sport.

SEAL training also seeks to replace panic, a lack of preparation for the brain’s “fight or flight” alarm, with rehearsed options, an approach presented by National Smallbore Champion Ernie Vande Zande in his November 2011 interview where he reflected: “Back in high school, I felt that pressure was normal. I started noticing in speech class that sometimes I got pretty nervous, but I didn’t get nervous every time. Over time, I realized that I became more nervous on days when I gave a speech when I felt less prepared. I started thinking about that in relationship to my shooting. It was the same kind of thing: At those times when I wasn’t prepared, I felt more nervous.”

This learned behavior, goal setting and problem solving occurs in the most recent “room addition” to our brain—the frontal lobe, located just above our eyes. Science explains that master shooters have created signals in their frontal lobe that are strong enough to override instinctive distractions from the earliest parts of the brain. Yet these frontal lobe signals are much slower than those of the ancient brain. (More on this point in a moment.)

Self-talk can also help to override fear from the reptilian brain. According to History Channel’s 2008 movie—The Brain, the average person speaks to them self at a rate of 300 to 1,000 words per minute. If these messages are positive, then these “signals” from the frontal lobe help override any fear signals coming from the brain’s center.

For arousal control, Navy SEAL training focuses on breathing. Long exhales mimic the body’s relaxation process, delivering more oxygen to the brain for better performance. So science teaches us what our coaches have been telling us all along: Slow breathing helps diffuse pre-competition nerves.

From Dr. Tant: “Even the notion of ‘match pressure’ is variable. If you saw fifty guys on the line, you might think they were aiming for the same thing (the 10-ring, of course), but if you had a psychological X-ray machine to look inside them, you would find a whole kaleidoscope of motivations, emotions and reasons for being there, ranging from run-of-the-mill fear of failure and determination to shoot well, to the sheer joy and gratitude about being a free people with the Second Amendment protecting us (so far.) I guess this is obvious, but it is easy to assume that the other guy sees things the same way we do. I love it when shooters approach me about their mental game and I get a peek at what makes them pursue the sport.

“When I look at my own mental game, I can see that my ability to focus intently is at the core of it. I’m one of those shooters whom Dr. Keyes refers to as ‘self-selecting’ on that variable. I’ve never had much trouble sitting still and paying attention for long periods of time, and my profession has honed this ability through thousands of hours spent listening to my patients. Plus, I seem to be able to look inward to note what is going on in my mind and also sense what my body is doing and feeling, which is helpful when I’m trying to figure out what just happened to a shot. Some of this comes naturally I think, but again, my work as a psychotherapist helps. (Tracking my own thoughts and emotions helps me track and reflect on my patients’ experiences. A classic example is feeling suddenly sleepy in a session and using that clue to locate what a patient is blocking, consciously or not.) Having this internal ‘data’ gives me the foundation for experiments and adjustments to my game on an ongoing basis. For instance, I have noticed that my brain knows to not pull the trigger if my conscious mind isn’t on the topic of executing my shot plan. Sometimes I don’t realize that I have been saved from myself until after I’ve lowered the pistol, abandoning the shot, and it comes to me that my mind had slipped off somewhere. So, I’ve learned to trust my (unconscious) mine to make decisions for ‘me’. I find this analytic, problem-solving process endlessly fascinating. Some shooters are far less interested in it—another of those variations among us—and for others, their access to it is lessened either by their upbringing or lack of practice.

“Another component of my game is clearly relational in that it occurs in a group context. I have performed at my best repeatedly when shooting for a team. My favorite example of this was shooting my personal best with hardball .45 when I was ‘burned’ as a new shooter on the Michigan State Team at the National Trophy Team Match at Perry in 2003. Another was being ‘high man’ on the Springfield team when we won the center fire team trophy at the Nationals at Perry in 2011. (Or maybe it is just being at Camp Perry that does it?!) There is something about being part of a team that helps me settle down and get on with it—as a sense of security, support, having a shooting ‘family’ that diffuses negative pressure and channels my energy effectively. I know I’m not unusual in this.

“Finally, I am convinced that my early experience performing as a flutist has helped my bullseye shooting, not just because of the need to activate fine motor skills on demand, but also because I had to deal with being watched while doing it. This goes to the basic notion that repeated exposure to stress, given adequate preparation, helps develop resilience in the face of it. I sympathize with shooters who say they hate shooting alibis or being the last to finish a slow-fire string because then others will be watching them. When I ask what they dislike about it, they always mention worry about being judged negatively. I’ve worn out that worry pretty much and have come to think of those situations as quiet time (for alibis at least.) And I’m pretty sure that what the watchers are thinking is, ‘I’m glad it’s not me!’”

Performance Anxiety
From The Brain, “Performance anxiety is the largest culprit of poor athletic performance.” In the SEAL study, recruits were taught that performance anxiety is simply their fear of losing. Stated another way, it is when the amygdala wins. The SEAL study concluded that shooting an assault rifle is a low level activity and under these circumstances, the frontal lobe should just be turned off. Sound familiar? In her interview, Olympic Rifle Gold Medalist Launi Meili called it being “in the zone.” It has been said that sports success is the ability to modulate the brain by balancing fear with strategy, and the trained ability of the cerebellum—sometimes referred to as “letting go when it counts.”

undefinedQuieting the Mind
The autonomic nervous system controls several functions unconsciously, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, pupillary response, etc. This “auto-circuit” causes us to flinch when first learning how to shoot, or to blink when a rock hits the windshield, before we’re even aware of the threat. This same part of the brain controls the much broader reflex known as the “fight-or-flight” response for superhuman effort. Included in this “blitz” of neuro responses is the release of hormones, specifically—norepinephrine—responsible for vigilant concentration. Sounds appropriate for a competitive shooter, doesn’t it? Norepinephrine also affects the area of the brain where attention and responses are controlled. Unfortunately, this “all hands on deck” reaction of the body against a threat includes a rise in heart rate. As one report put it, the fight-or-flight reaction “bypasses our rational mind,” which is clearly not appropriate on the firing line. Or is it? In Jock Elliott’s series How Not to Crack Under Pressure [see endnotes], experienced competitors explained that shooting lots of matches helped them feel less threatened when walking up to the firing line—that there was no saber-tooth tiger that required a full-on, flight-or-fight reaction. 

So how can we selectively cause this hyper concentration on demand, without a rapid pulse? As Lanny Bassham was quoted previously, your attitude towards the physiological reactions to stress hormones may determine whether you perceive the match as positive or negative. The fear component of fight-or-flight prepares you to do just that – stand your ground or run like the wind. But a positive “hyper-interest” in a subject, without fear, can trigger a clear mind rather than panic. Pick a hobby: Preparing your vintage car for a show by meticulously removing every spec of dirt; achieving wonderful lighting for a photograph; or hitting a perfect note on a violin that has no frets. These require your full attention, without attaching fear to the experience.


What does practice accomplish? Am I building strength, or just a habit?

Research: Neuroscience has countered long-standing views about the brain, revealing that it can change. The medical terms for this are plasticity and neurogenesis. In her book, Train Your MIND Change Your BRAIN, Sharon Begley reviews studies by neuroscientists that have replaced old myths about how our brain reacts to repetitious training. Where the scientific community used to believe that we were born with and maintained our neuro programming for life, recent research confirms that the mind is much more adaptive than once believed. One of Begley’s examples recounts how Drs. Michael Merzenich and Jon Kaas “severed the medial nerve in a monkey’s hand, leaving the monkey unable to feel anything on the thumb side of the palm. Several months after the surgery, time enough for the monkey’s brain to realize it had not received any signals from the thumb for quite a while, the Doctors re-examined the somatosensory cortex (the brain’s processor for sense of touch). Up until now, the standard view was that one would discover a ‘black hole’ in the cortex where it used to receive input. What the two Doctors, in fact, discovered was that the region of the brain that had originally received signals from the severed nerve, now responded to stimulation of other parts of the hand. Instead of receiving signals from the thumb side of the palm, this region now responded to signals from the pinkie side of the palm.” While the study was initially dismissed as a quirk, the surrounding controversy led to more experimentation that ultimately discharged the myth of the stagnant brain. “In fact, these studies showed that our brain’s physical layout, how much space is apportioned to certain tasks and how strongly one neuronal firing is connected to another, is shaped by experiences and the life we live.”

From Dr. Tant: “Research on humans has confirmed and extended such findings. Brain scans of concert violinists and taxi drivers show enlargement of brain areas important to the practice of their profession (left hand for violinists, the hippocampus—important for spacial memory—in taxi drivers.)

More directly applicable to shooting is research establishing that growth in the middle prefrontal lobe occurs in mindfulness practitioners who are adept at paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental and non-controlling manner. Think of an ideal shooter focused on the center of the bull, observing but not forcing, accepting the random movement of the sights and noting the outcome of the shot with detachment. Now think of doing it yourself, over and over again, knowing that you are exercising and growing your brain with each repetition.”

Muscle Memory
Further research suggests that not only can the “second room” (the cerebellum) of the brain store procedures, but that the trained brain has a better idea of tripping the correct nerves and muscles, leading to memory within the muscle itself.


Observation: If I don’t over-think things and just let my eye trigger the shot, I do much better.

Research: Scientists believe that the newer frontal lobe may not be able to keep up with “deep” brain signals that transmit at nearly 300 mph. This is explained when athletes talk about “letting go,” rather than over-thinking the shot. As Tim Conrad explained in his January, 2013, article on muzzle flip this conscious signal can take up to 0.3 seconds from recognizing the desired sight picture to moving the trigger finger—too long to capture the opportunity for a perfect shot. However, if the signal is initiated spontaneously in the cerebellum where such procedures are thought to be stored through repetition, the reaction speed is much quicker. Signals are processed by the “deep brain” almost twice as fast as the problem-solving frontal lobes.

From Dr. Tant: “Instructions, however well-meaning from the conscious (left brain, frontal lobe) are a sure recipe for suboptimal shots (producing a donut pattern, for instance.) Working with an electronic training system can illustrate this concretely. Often, I have found that the best possible score would have come around 0.3 seconds before the actual “shot” was released. Diagnosis: I forced the shot and lowered my score.”

As an example of how patterns can be imbedded into the “deep brain” without direct control from the frontal lobes, consider how very experienced amateur radio operators have learned to recognize the Morse code. While the highest level of licensing requires that amateur radio operators copy Morse code at 20 words per minute, very experienced “Hams” can copy signals at 100 words per minute, while reading a separate message out loud from a newspaper. With years of repetition, the deep brain for these radio operators has learned to translate the sound of Morse code dots and dashes directly to the written symbol, while the conscious brain reads concurrently from the newspaper. From Lones Wigger’s interview, “It takes 3-4 years to learn how to shoot, and another 3-4 years to learn how to win—to deal with match pressure. It takes several more years to learn how to do it when it counts.”


When I’m in “the zone,” I shoot my best. But, it’s hard to get there on demand.

Research: This condition has been studied neurologically in a number of studies showing how the brain works when an expert is viewing an action in their area of expertise or when they are working at a high level. From David Rock’s Your Brain at Work, “a key part of maintaining good focus occurs based on how well we inhibit the wrong things from coming into focus.” There’s that concept again—inhibiting what comes naturally, like ignoring the instinct to flinch. Brock continues: “Using scanning technologies, neuroscientists have observed people inhibiting their natural responses, and discovered the brain networks that are activated when this happens. There is one specific region within the prefrontal cortex that keeps showing up as being central for all types of inhibition. It's called the right and left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.” So it is with well-practiced shooters—this part of the brain that inhibits unwanted activity is stronger than in less practiced athletes. While we might say these athletes really know how to focus, it may be more precise to say they have spent more time in the “brain gym,” strengthening the part of the mind that keeps out unwanted distractions.

From Dr. Tant: “This is different than telling yourself to stop doing something, which perversely increases the emphasis on it. It is more a process which is a byproduct of focusing; the brain adjusts by reducing firing in nonessential or interfering areas.”

Finally from Brock, a slightly different take on the concept of being in the zone: “Here's a big takeaway from all this. Manage what you focus on. Pay attention to your attention, and stop yourself from getting on the wrong train of thought early, before it takes over. This is the opposite of being mindless: It's being mindful.”

Rather than attempting to be mindless, practice being mindful.

From Dr. Keyes:
“As for focus, there is a large range of ability to focus among people in general, and probably includes a genetic component. I did an accidental experiment with the U.S. pistol shooters in which I asked them to work with a biofeedback machine. Originally I was going to teach them relaxation, but they all beat the machine right away. In fact they had races to see who could do it the fastest. There was no need to teach relaxation—they all had that talent (none had ever been taught a technique), but none had a way to use it when they were at the world championships or the Olympics. They also had the ability to focus intensely, but again were not able to use that ability to their advantage. Focus can be learned, but most shooters are self-selected and have the talent to focus in the first place. The trick is to be able to use that ability in high stress situations which does require a lot of training and coaching. As for the SEAL study, it's not surprising that they found that conclusion as these men were not only chosen in a vigorous selection environment, but are very highly trained to the point of brain change, the way classical musicians and a lot of other athletes are.

In addition, classroom teachers and trainers often refer to a student’s attention span or inability to focus, when describing their ability to learn. An inexperienced person’s mind may wander during stress with thoughts such as ‘Will I win? Will my teammate do better than me? What will my parents or friends think? Will I be embarrassed?’ With experience and maturity, we begin to collate what is important and exclude that which is not. Put another way, we learn to focus.”


Yale Professor Steven Novella’s Your Deceptive Mind explains the many flaws of our mind’s emotions and its tendency to take the path of least resistance as a self-protective measure. “The default mode of human psychology is to arrive at beliefs for largely emotional reasons and then to employ our reason more to justify those beliefs, rather than to arrive at those beliefs in the first place.” An example of this is when we rationalize or attribute our behavior to external causes. Without the use of critical thinking (the frontal lobes), it is easy to give in to deep-seated emotions to protect our self-esteem. “I lost because of (external cause),” rather than “I was not prepared.”

Like practicing the fundamentals, the habit of critical thinking can become ingrained in the plastic mind. While we can’t change the evolved emotions rooted in our “lizard brain,” we can change how we respond to those emotions by “engaging the executive function of our frontal lobes.” As an example, rather than label pre-match nausea as a flaw that threatens to prevent us from shooting well, instead, view the excess adrenaline in our stomach as our body’s attempt to prepare us for the match. Embrace it. And, rather than look for blame to dispel the emotion of losing, use our evolved brain to identify and prioritize appropriate corrective measures toward the next match.

Dr. Tant: “What you are describing here relates to the whole area of rational, conscious reformulations of troublesome emotions and beliefs via self-talk, which is the province of cognitive-behavioral therapy, often referred to as CBT in my field. It is great stuff, especially when it is kept purely positive. I describe it to my patients as being a sort of mental hygiene regimen, to be used routinely to maintain a good attitude, just as they would brush their teeth daily or try to get enough sleep. Abundant research supports its usefulness for treating many psychological disorders and enhancing many types of performance.

“Opportunities for using it in competition come up all the time for me. Just yesterday, I shot a 2700 match at an indoor range where the temperature was stuck at around 86 degrees and I had come dressed for about 70 degrees at most. Even as I knew I was in for a long ordeal, I told myself that everyone was in the same boat, reminded myself that I tolerate heat better than many due to my low metabolism and that in any event, it was going to be good practice for the outdoor season. I didn’t shoot well, but I didn’t sink into the negativity and I enjoyed the match.

“The CBT/self-talk approach is easy to understand, well-researched and a great place to start for anyone because it is so accessible. Its hallmark quality is the suppressing of unwanted beliefs through the installation of counteracting beliefs or positive self statements. Studies in animals and humans have shown that the old (negative) learning remains encoded in our brains alongside the newer (positive) learning. The old learning may not be active, but suppressing it is only temporary unless we periodically refresh the more positive, desirable thoughts and beliefs that we seek. (Yes, like brushing our teeth!)

“There is newer (2004 and later mostly) research however, that fits beautifully into the neuroplasticity model that you describe above. The research establishes that the brain has a way of completely, not just temporarily, revising what it knows, erasing memories without just sidelining them or suppressing them. Termed “memory reconsolidation”, it is a process that rewires a memory or belief when three key steps occur: (1) Reactivation of the original learning (belief, negative self statement, etc.) in an emotionally real way, (2) Creating or encountering a mismatch with the belief or expectation while the original learning is activated (produces instability in the original learning) and (3) Within a period of about five hours, installing a new learning that contradicts or at least alters somewhat the problem thoughts. (This process is not what behavioral scientists call “extinction”, which appears to be a form of suppression and not true elimination of memory. Memory reconsolidation has been demonstrated for various types of memory (e.g., procedural memory, declarative memory, classical fear conditioning) and applied in a whole range of psychotherapies, though rarely explicitly. According to Ecker et al (2012) in Unlocking the Emotional Brain, (p. 26): ‘As of this writing, this (three step process) is the only behavioral process known to neuroscience that achieves true eradication of an emotional learning, and it does so through the only known form of neuroplasticity capable of unlocking the synapses maintaining an existing learning: memory reconsolidation.’

“The relevance for our purposes here is that knowing about memory reconsolidation gives the shooter a powerful tool to transform negative experiences and do it when they are at their most intense. While having a coach at these times would be a real asset, there is nothing to keep us from deliberately using these experiences as reminders to search for mismatching information or evidence to help us change and strengthen our mental game.

“As a personal example, I remember a 2700 match some years back in which I crossfired early in the slow-fire portion of .22 and had to face the rest of the day, down a bunch of points. I recall feeling embarrassed and defeated, as if the match was over and a disaster already. Like a good cognitive therapist though, I reminded myself almost mechanically to hang in there anyway (positive self-talk of the suppressing sort) and hunkered down to “do my best” (more positive self talk.) At the end of the day, I had shot some of my best short lines ever with the .45, resulting in a half-decent aggregate score. It was an “aha” moment for me. With the distress of the cross firing (old intense negative experience) still accessible but destabilized by the conflicting, contradictory reality of an OK aggregate score, a new knowing settled in my gut (memory reconsolidation): “Never give up, ever!” I’ve crossfired since, not a pleasant experience certainly, but I don’t go back to that old defeated place. Something shifted for me that day and I believe the mismatch of my initial negative assessment with the tolerable outcome gave substance to the conviction that it’s never over until it’s done.”


With timed fire, standing in the wind, moving trigger fingers and even fatigue from holding the firearm, our training regimens eventually address shot timing in an effort to shrink target holes to a winning group size. As discussed in Begley’s book, extensive training can produce a direct, neurological circuit between procedures stored in the “deep brain” and the trigger finger, and may even educate the muscle itself in the proper technique.

Slow-motion cameras produce many more frames per second in order to reveal details not visible at normal speed. In slow motion, we are seeing a fraction of the original movement, in the same time interval. If only the human eye could slow down the shooter’s sight picture so we could split that last second into 10, or better yet, 100 frames, enabling us to select the precise sight picture “frame” prior to releasing the shot. As it turns out, we can.

Recall the phrase after a moment of crisis: “It was as if time stood still.” Law enforcement officers have described their actions under stress as seemingly “in slow motion.” During a slip on the ice that left the author hovering several feet above the asphalt, I felt I had a minute to prepare for the fall, all due to the intense, momentary crisis and subsequent focus from the part of the brain dedicated to “fight-or-flight.”

Research: As we’ve learned, training can improve our ability to exclude unnecessary thoughts. As Lanny Bassham explained, a proper attitude can re-cast the “fight-or-flight” reaction of our early reptilian brain into the positive component of hyper concentration. If we replace “frames per second” with “procedures per second” and eliminate most of the unnecessary data through better focus, then the same amount of time is devoted to fewer procedures. In effect, we are seeing in slow motion.

Put several people in a circle and each will provide a slightly different description of the object in the center, based on their unique perspective—experience, lighting, angle, etc. Our perspectives lead to judging facts and their relative importance—as they apply to us. Deciding what part of this article is important to you is a matter of knowing what you need to succeed. If you’re a coach, identifying what each of your shooters need is the first step toward their success.


Contributing Editors:

Dr. Judy Tant
, Clinical Psychologist and National Bullseye Pistol Champion.

Dr. Tant has been the National Woman Bullseye Pistol Champion eight times since 2003 and has been the Michigan State Indoor, Outdoor and Service Pistol Champion numerous times as well as the Michigan Woman Champion twelve times. She currently conducts her psychotherapy practice in East Lansing, MI.

Dr. Michael J. Keyes, Psychiatrist and former physician for the U.S. Shooting Team.

Dr. Keyes has written 200+ articles on mental training for Shotgun Sports; authored Mental Training for the Shotgun Sports; and is a former Tennessee State Pistol Champion and coach of several national championship teams. He currently conducts his medical practice in Fond du Lac, WI.

Reference Books, Videos and Articles:

Your Brain at Work, by David Rock

With Winning in Mind, by Lanny Bassham, Olympic Rifle Gold Medalist

Train Your MIND Change Your BRAIN, by Sharon Begley, Senior health & science correspondent, Reuters

Mindsight, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

Unlocking the Emotional Brain, by Bruce Ecker, Robin Tieie & Laurel Hulley, Routledge

Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills, from The Great Courses, by Professor Steven Novella, Yale School of Medicine

PBS Home Videos:

The Brain Fitness Program

Brain Fitness 2, Sight and Sound

History Channel’s 2008 movie, The Brain

I Deserve to Win


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