The Mental Marksman

By Tes Salb

In Sports Applications

December 01, 2007

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The power of the mind is immeasurable. When allowed, it is capable of driving the body past its perceived limitations and can help create desired physical outcomes. Through training, the mind can become an individual's foremost tool in sports.

To some extent, athletes, business professionals, military personnel, and law enforcement officials all rely on different, specialized strengths, both mentally and physically; however, the training derived in one activity can oftentimes be carried over into others. In a discipline such as marksmanship, the mind is an important tool, and when utilized, can lead the shooter to the podium and beyond.

It is commonly believed that the outcome for skills such as marksmanship and archery are 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. While these numbers could be argued depending on the situation at hand (combat vs. recreational or competitive target shooting), the mind is virtually limitless in its capabilities. Through mental training or visualization, an athlete can create a thought process that can reduce stress; increase confidence, self-awareness and control; lead to better form and faster improvements; help an individual perform more consistently; and lead to more desirable outcomes and greater success.

My first experience with mental training came at the age of 13 while attending an Olympic development clinic for modern pentathlon, an Olympic sport that puts athletes through a grueling, one-day test in the events of shooting, fencing, swimming, running, and horseback riding.

Tes Salb is the managing editor of the magazine Shooting Sports USA, a National Rifle Association pistol instructor, a level-1 CrossFit trainer, and a former member of the U.S. national shooting team. She is a 2001 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she fenced both epee and foil and played trumpet with the Band of the Fighting Irish. She was the lone member of Notre Dame's pistol team, earning a bronze medal in the 2000 NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships in air pistol and was a two-time First Team All-American. She was a member of the 1998 U.S. World Championship Shooting Team, has represented the U.S. in five World Cups and placed tenth in the 2000 Olympic Trials. Aside from shooting, she feeds her joy of multisport competition with CrossFit, sprint adventure races, and triathlons, completing her first Ironman in 2006. After taking some time off from the range, she plans to pursue her Olympic shooting aspirations for the 2012 Games.

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