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!