I’ll be the first to admit that when I first climbed the ranks among the top shooters in the nation, it wasn’t planned. When I got the phone call of the invitation to the national team, I didn’t even know what the national team was. Yes, I shot well at that match, but outside of shooting itself, I had no idea what was going on except that it was just another match.
Since then, I’ve come a long way in my approach to matches. I can no longer be oblivious to what my results mean, whether good or bad. It’s part of my job to know how points systems work and how to qualify for teams. Every Olympic finalist knows what’s at stake through the very last shot, and the successful ones at some point learned how to deal with that pressure.
When I coach juniors, one of their biggest struggles is facing the pressure of goals. What’s helped me the most is knowing the difference between performance goals and outcome goals. A performance goal is something as simple as squeezing the trigger each shot (something I have complete control over), while an outcome goal is more related to score (shooting a 200 in prone). During the match itself, I focus completely on my performance goal, because it’s in my control. Plus, it keeps the competition fun!
Besides that, here are a few things that keep goals in proper perspective for me:
- Realize why you have goals. Goals are there for you to have something positive to look to. If they are more of a stumbling block, then something in your perspective needs to change immediately. Just because you don’t accomplish your outcome goal doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Learn from it!
- Own your goals. Sometimes coaches will set score goals with me to keep me growing as a shooter. The important thing to remember is that the goals still belong to me, because I want to accomplish them more than my coach wants me to.
- Know why you’re here. You aren’t here to impress a prospective or current coach or because someone paid your way to the match. You are here to compete at something you love doing, and to get better at it!
- Keep goals in their place. Don’t let them get the best of you. No matter the outcome, I still value improvement over results, because it means I’m on my way to my long-term goal. Also, improvement doesn’t always show up in the immediate scores—if you know you solidified a skill during a match, be proud of it!
There’s tons more to say about staying positive about goals, but this is a huge part of what I’ve learned on my journey, from a naïve up-and-coming shooter to the competitor I am today. I certainly don’t know everything about dealing with goals, and I think it’s awesome that I have more to learn!
Right now, my life is nowhere close to what I thought it would be when I was a kid. I never could have imagined the most dramatic experiences of my life to this point, and how drastically I have changed since I emerged from my little nucleus in Indiana to go to college in Texas. A lot of those experiences I wouldn’t ask for again, but every one of them served as a hand that molded me into, well, me.
I remember one phone call with my dad a few years ago, when I was so excited that someone just offered to make me a special glove for my shooting. It wasn’t a big deal, but to me it was, because it was another person that was as excited as I was about my shooting career. My dad told me that I should start a list of the people that helped me along the way, so that when I got to the podium I could give a special thanks to each one.
A few years later, I’ve failed at that list. Not because I’m suddenly ungrateful, or because I thought it was useless. But I’ve slowly realized the sheer number of people that have helped me out. Sometimes it’s a glove, sometimes it’s a gun. Sometimes it’s a single motivating sentence that etched itself into my brain, one that I add to my mental playlist on the tough days of training.
The nature of giving that people possess never ceases to overwhelm me. If you’re one of them, all I have to say is thank you. I have the deepest respect for those that give, but not with the “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality. They give without expecting anything back; they give because it makes a difference.
All I can hope is that I become that person every day. It’s one thing to always try to get the bigger half of the wishbone in life; it’s another to simply be thankful that a wishbone means there’s food on the table. While I am continually amazed at the kindness of others, it’s a contagious spirit. I’m excited to pass it on and give back, and to see how the sport of shooting will continue to grow the next generation.
So here’s a big step: beginning a blog. Generally being a pretty critical person, I surprised myself by the idea of starting an online journal. I pushed the idea away, but it kept coming back to me and the reasons kept piling up.
I’m not starting a blog because I think my thoughts are the greatest thing since Nutty Bars (confession: the real reason I played club soccer as a kid), or because I want the world to know who I am. I’ll admit, most of the reasons are for myself. I’m a dreamer, and I have big goals. While I won’t accomplish all of them, I think this will help me on my journey.
Journey to where? To the Olympic podium for one, but mostly the journey to who I want to become. A big reason is that I want to keep myself accountable to my attitude and progress. While numbers on a scoreboard have their own meaning, a person is much, much more than that, and I have big expectations for future me. I constantly think of the people in my sport and other sports that serve as role models to me, and they mean more to me than medals or money, because they constantly make me realize there’s a bigger picture out there.
I recently read an article by Pico Iyer, who said, “Most destinations are less important than the spirit you bring to them.” While he was speaking of traveling, this also applies to life goals. Don’t get me wrong; great accomplishments and the desire to win are never to be overlooked. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.) But neither is the attitude chosen to get there.
A huge part of who I am is my home, which in my chosen lifestyle refers more to the people in my past and present than it does to any place. It’s easy for me to feel disconnected from my home while living at the Olympic Training Center and in hotels around the world, so this is one way I want to reconnect and be present in the lives of my “home people” just as they are continually present in my life.
All that to say, I’m excited! We’ll see where this goes, and I’m thrilled to see how my journey in shooting parallels my journey of whom I will become.