Having just returned home from India after some unusual preparations I thought it might be an appropriate time to write some thoughts about preparing for the return to competition. I know many of you will have started to get back out on the grounds and I hope you’ve been enjoying yourselves and started to make up for lost time.

The ISSF Delhi World Cup was certainly very different to our normal competition experience. Firstly, to go so long without international travel and competition is very strange especially as we are in an Olympic year. Secondly, the experience was very different with various travel requirements and restrictions along with the regular COVID-19 testing. Due to the UK COVID-19 variant we were required to quarantine in self-isolation for 7 days on arrival to India and this in itself required much planning to ensure everyone could be ready for day 1 of official training. 

I’m sure many of you paid close attention to Amber Hill’s performance. All of her commitment, training and preparation, which makes her one the world’s top Olympic Skeet shooters, helped to increase the probability of a successful competition. Congratulations Amber, equalling the world record for qualification, a gold medal, securing a quota place for Team GB and becoming world number 1 was not a bad couple of days! Tokyo now awaits her.

I wanted to mention the Delhi World Cup because it is current and there are valuable takeaways for anyone that is returning to competition. It has been an unusual time for all of us and getting back to competition may be mix of both excitement and trepidation. I think that’s pretty normal considering the circumstances.

So I’ll ask you some of the questions that I discuss with our programme shooters and coaches to ensure we have a plan in place that reduces uncertainty and increases confidence. Do you ever turn up at the first shot and just think, “I’m just not ready”? You carry on through the motions and your shot confirms your suspicions. You really weren’t ready.

Your routine doesn’t begin when you get on the stand. It begins in the days out from a competition, your rest during the nights before and your preparation on the morning. How do you recover between rounds or between stations? Competition throws many curveballs and you can’t prepare for all of them. 

You just have to focus upon what you can control. 

This alone can give you great confidence going into that first shot simply knowing that you have prepared as well as you can and you’re ready for whatever the competition is going to throw at you.

What is your current competition plan? What is important for you on the day? What do you need to have done to feel ready? How soon out from that first shot does your attention need to begin to increasingly focus upon that first moment of action? It’s so important to regularly reflect and understand what you need to perform.

Those are some things to reflect upon but here are three very specific questions for you:

  1. How soon out from your first shot does your competition preparation currently begin?
  2. How consistent is your delivery of this process?
  3. What do you need to adapt to increase your probability of readiness on that first shot?

By having a plan you can at least start with confidence and you then have a starting point to adapt if things change. By having an idea of what to expect you can more easily accept difficult moments and focus upon the task. Start strongly and build the foundations for an excellent outcome. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the questions above so drop me an email at [email protected] if you’d like to share them. In the meantime, have a great time getting back out shooting!