Seven Mental Skills of Champion Shooters: How Mentally Fit Are You?

Previously I’ve mentioned that there are seven essential mental skills for shooting success, all of which are learnable and teachable :

  • Precision Visualisation Skills
  • Positive Self Motivation
  • Powerful Goal Achievement Strategies
  • Emotional State Mastery
  • Positive Mental Attitude
  • Strong Concentration & Focusing Abilities
  • Positive Self Image & Unshakeable Self Confidence

All these skills of the SPORTS MIND can be learned and improved with some simple mental training techniques.

I have already covered the first skill of Visualisation, noting that it is the most important mental skill for shooters, and that to direct your shooting performance effectively you want to use clear visual images with feeling, not words, and that visualisation works because it has a measurable, physiological effect on our body. I also noted the importance of getting into the right mental state to visualise, outlined six specific applications for visualisation for shooters, and gave some simple tips for getting the best out of your visualisation sessions.

I introduced the important topic of motivation and said that motivation is an energy – an energy which is influenced by how you communicate with yourself. I noted that there are basically two simple motivation strategies : positive motivation and negative motivation. Negative motivation moves you away something you don’t want to happen, while positive motivation moves you towards something you do want to happen.

This led to a discussion about goals and how to attain them, and about the role your thinking, (notably what questions and statements you are making on regular basis), has on your ability to achieve your goals.

Most recently I provided a summary of some concentration and emotional mastery techniques for successfully coping with pre-performance nerves, anxiety and competition pressure – and I emphasized that the important positive emotional states necessary for optimum performance, (such as one-pointed concentration, enthusiasm, tenacity, motivation, and even happiness), are influenced by three important factors: your physiology, your ideology, and by the environment, and shooters can master their emotions by understanding and mastering these three factors.

In this issue I want to explain how your mental attitude is a powerful influence upon your shooting performances, and how you can improve your results by learning to be more optimistic.


To succeed in sport, business, education, or wherever, you really want to have an unshakeable positive mental attitude; the attitude and ability to continually focus on the solution and the goal rather than problems, obstacles or mistakes.

What we call optimism.

Optimism equates with personal, business, educational and sporting success. People who are the most optimistic are usually the most successful – and this is particularly true in sport. So one measure of mental ‘fitness’ is how optimistic your are. Answer the following twenty questions to gauge your level of optimism – mental fitness.


There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. Circle only one response per question, and answer every question even though the situation may never have happened to you. Read each description and imagine it happening to you; then choose the response that is most closest to how you would think in that situation.


1. Situation: You are asked to replace a shooter at a higher level who is sick :

A: I am good enough to compete in the higher level.

B: I have filled in occasionally before when needed.

2. Situation: You win a significant tournament / match :

A: I was feeling unbeatable that day.

B: I always put a lot of effort into my training.

3. Situation: You do exceptionally well in an interview for a coaching position :

A: I always perform well in interviews.

B: I felt very relaxed and confident in the interview.

4. Situation: Despite being new to the squad, you are put in a leadership role :

A: I’ve been shooting well recently.

B: I am enthusiastic and a good leader / role model.

5. Situation: You invite a few team mates over for a party, and it’s a raging success:

A: I host great parties.

B: I was particularly friendly that night.


6. Situation: You forget to go to training after a long weekend :

A: My mind was still on holiday that day.

B: I always forget when my routine is disrupted.

7. Situation: You lose your cool with the officials during a match :

A: That official is biased against me.

B: He / She didn’t didn’t treat me fairly in the match.

8. Situation: You put on a lot of weight over Christmas and have trouble getting back to your peak weight and fitness :

A: The diet I tried didn’t work.

B: It’s always hard to get back into training after a break.

9. Situation: Your coach says something that hurts your feelings :

A: He / She is always very cutting with criticism.

B: He / She was in a grumpy mood and took it out on me.

10. Situation: You’ve been feeling very tired lately :

A: I’ve been really busy this week.

B: I don’t get a chance to relax.


11. Situation: You successfully resuscitate a person who was pulled from the surf :

A: I stay calm in a crisis.

B: I’m trained in first aid.

12. Situation: Your coach asks your advice :

A: I know some good ideas for pressure situations.

B: I always keep an overall perspective on things.

13. Situation: You win a ‘most improved shooter’ award :

A: I was the most improved shooter.

B: I had important wins near the end of the season.

14. Situation: Your coach tells you you are at peak fitness level :

A: I stuck to my training program.

B: I’m very fitness conscious.

15. Situation: A team member comments on your confidence :

A: I am a confident person.

B: I’ve been performing well lately.


16. Situation: You perform poorly at an event for which you’ve been training hard:

A: The competition was fierce that day.

B: I’m not a natural shooter.

17. Situation: The coach says you’re not working hard enough :

A: I’m not as motivated as everyone else in the team.

B: I have been slacking off a bit lately.

18. Situation: Your romantic partner breaks it off with you :

A: I didn’t communicate well with him / her.

B: I’m too moody.

19. Situation: You are in charge of a team training session while your coach is sick, and no one enjoys the training :

A: I’m not very good at coaching.

B: I didn’t put much thought into the coaching session.

20. Situation: You forget to go to an unscheduled training session.

A: I forgot to check my diary that day.

B: I’ve got a bad memory for things like that.


Evaluate your answers using the following system:

1. Start by looking at every odd numbered question, and mark an ‘A’ choice with 1 point and a ‘B’ choice with 0 points. (For example, if in question 1 you chose response ‘A’, you would get 1 point for that question.

2. Now look at every even numbered question, and mark an ‘A’ choice with 0 points, and a ‘B’ choice with 1 point. (For example if you chose response ‘A’ in question 2, you would get no points for that question)

3. Next, look at the subheadings : PmG, PmB, PvG and PvB, and add your individual question scores to get a total for each of these categories. There are five questions for each category. Use the table to help you keep tally.

4. Finally, add up your total ‘B’ and total ‘G’ scores.

PmB = PmG =

PvB = PvG =

———————- ——————–

Total B = Total G =

———————- ———————


Your scores mean the following:

If your total ‘B’ score is

* 3 or below, is optimistic;

* 4 – 6, is average;

* 7 or above, is pessimistic.

If your total ‘G’ score is

* 8 – 10 is optimistic;

* 6 – 7, is average;

* 5 or below, is pessimistic.

Understanding Optimism

The above questionnaire measures what is known as your ‘explanatory style’ – or how you explain to yourself ‘why’ events happen to you. It’s based on cognitive psychology which suggests that there are two types of explanatory style, and they significantly affect our behaviour and performance.

A pessimistic explanatory style leads to feelings of helplessness, while an optimistic explanatory style provides feelings of self empowerment. In essence, how you explain to yourself ‘why’ events happen, (and particularly how you explain why negative events happen), determines how you face up to those events and how helpless, or empowered, you feel in the situation.

This is incredibly important because what we are measuring here is essentially the quitting response – how much of a fighter you are; how likely you are to give up when the going gets tough. How persistent you are.

Let me explain. When something negative happens to us, (for example, not being selected for the state team; or our partner leaving us; or losing a job; or walking to our car only to find we’ve got a flat tyre; whatever), all or us – no matter how positive we are – feel momentarily ‘helpless’. However, after that moment of helplessness, how you respond to the situation from then on is determined by your explanatory style.

If you tend to explain the negative event in an optimistic way, you’ll be more likely to pick yourself up and do what needs to be done, than if you explain the event in a pessimistic way.

Now persistence is really important to shooting / sporting success, isn’t it? To succeed in any particular sport requires persistence to overcome the numerous trials, setbacks and obstacles along the way. I don’t know of any great sportsperson who’s had an ‘easy’ road, do you?

Your personal explanatory style affects how you deal with those setbacks, and identifies how persistent you are – how much of a fighter you are.

Psychological researchers have worked with literally thousands of individuals, determined their level of optimism or pessimism, and discovered beyond any doubt that an individual’s, (or a team’s), level of optimism significantly influenced their performance in all areas of life. Optimism has been shown to be of significance in career performance, school and college results, sports performances, political fortunes, and even personal health and longevity.

Optimists are more likely to win when running for public office; generally have better health and immune function; achieve higher grades at school and college; succeed more often on the sporting field; and even live longer. Pessimists are more frequently depressed; fail more frequently, even when success is attainable; exhibit more and more protracted periods of illness and injury; generally don’t achieve their potential in their careers or sport that their talents warrant; and die younger.

Your personal performance in all areas of life is profoundly influenced by your explanatory style – by the explanations you’re making about ‘why’ things happen to you. The more optimistic your explanations, the more likely you are to succeed in any endeavour .

What many people have always said about the importance of being positive and having a positive mental attitude, and now been proven my modern psychological research to be true.

Optimism research has even been used to accurately predict an individual’s, or a team’s, performance based on prior measurement of their explanatory style. In work with college freshman and army cadets, researchers were able to successfully predict which students and cadets would drop out based on their optimism scores. In work for large corporations, it has predicted which new sales recruits would go on to become the best sales people. And in working with the National Baseball and Basketball Leagues in the USA it even successfully predicted which teams would win matches based on their collective optimism scores.

The good news is that optimism is a learned behaviour – and everyone can improve their level of optimism and positivity, and hence improve their performance.

In the next issue I will discuss this in more detail, and provide practical suggestions for developing a more positive mental attitude.

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed “Sportsmind – An Athlete’s Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training” and “Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings”; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph’s College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email :
website :



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