Stick to a Mental Checklist

For the past two months I have seen a reoccurring issue that keeps coming up with a lot of my students.  The common issue is not sticking with a mental checklist in the preload.  This is something that becomes lost when the individual gets ahead of themselves in the task at hand.  When looking at the anticipation phase of a task, it is important to remember that there are always two parts to this phase.  First is the preload, this is when you breakdown your strategy and commit to the decision that is being made.  Second is the mental program, the last thoughts to occupy the conscious mind before the action.  It is in the strategy part of the preload that the mental checklist must be adhered to.
When I was competing in rifle shooting, it was important to remember my checklist.  The order of this mental checklist was important to follow because if I got ahead of myself I would put myself in a position to make a critical error, resulting in a poor shot.

My checklist had three parts to it.

  1. First: Check the wind.  I would always focus on where the direction of the wind was coming from.  I didn’t care where it went.  I was always looking where is was coming from.  So if the wind was coming from right to left I would look at the wind flags 10 to 15 points to the right of me.  This gave me a good indication of how the wind was going to effect my shot.
  2. Second:  Make a decision on how to execute the shot.  I had to decide if I needed to hold off, shoot a normal center shot, or to let the sights settle in the middle of the target and then break the shot toward the wind
  3. Third:  I had to mentally rehearse the shot I choose to shoot.  The preload sets up the mental program and if I didn’t give myself a solid mental rehearsal of what I wanted to execute I would often have bad shots.  The better the mental rehearsal, the better the shots.

The following is an example.

I load the rifle and look up wind to see what the wind flags were doing (sometimes I would have to use other wind indicators, like trees, high grass and mirage).  I decided that the wind was a full value wind at 3:00.  This means that the wind was blowing hard from right to left.  I always like to settle the rifle in the center and then move toward 4:00 and break the shot into the wind.  This was how I was going to shoot this shot.  I then mentally rehearsed how the shot would feel and look before going into the mental program. This mental checklist allows the athlete to make the best decision.  If you don’t follow a checklist you risk getting ahead of yourself and this often leads to a poor result.

Written by Troy Bassham – info@mentalmanagement.com

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