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“The sport of practical shooting is speed-biased and negatively charged.”

Steve Anderson

Thinking even more about marketing and the shooting sports, how DOES one talk about what they’ve done on a stage, anyways? Grab any GM (or anyone else, really) right after they shot a stage and ask them how they did, and you’ll get something along the lines of “I think I did ok. I had a few extra shots on the spinner and I bobbled a reload, but other than that…”

I don’t know about you, but that ain’t exactly ESPY material to me.

Part of the problem is, I think, how we talk about what we do at a match. We remember the low points because that’s when our focus (not concentration) is broken, and that grates on us like a raw nerve. We expect to shoot a stage well, and when we make a mistake, that’s what sticks out in our minds. But we don’t celebrate when we excel because we expect that every time we step into the box.

An example.

A few years ago at Area 2, I watched Taran Butler trip and fall butt-first during a course of fire. Not only did he not drop his gun and not DQ himself, but he took two shots thru a port on his way to his feet, both Alphas.

I can pretty much guarantee you that move wasn’t a part of his pre-shoot walkthrough, and DANG, it was amazing to watch.

If things go correctly on a stage, it’s because our pre-visualization and focus, which are both highly intuitive and therefore hard to talk about. “Yeah, so I was like, in the zone, and I saw my shots and ran the stage well and got my hits” isn’t the sort of interview that pops up on the sports portion of the evening news.

Other sports don’t have this problem, or don’t have it has badly: Downhill skiing is a sport that definitely requires focus and intuition to perform correctly, but a skier can talk about what they need to do in order to succeed in concrete terms before and after a run; “Yeah, the snow here is kinda rough and wet, so staying on my edges in the turns will really pay off further down the slope”. Knowing this, we as the audience can begin to make expectations about what we’re going to see and cheer on a good performance because we now what a good performance will look like. This rarely happens in the shooting sports, because of the intuitive nature of what makes a good performance on a given stage.

Consider this video of Travis Gibson doing a monster run at Superstition Mountain a few years ago.

Would 15 seconds of “This stage has many targets that pop up and then disappear, so the key to victory here is shooting them as they appear and not wait around for something to shoot” allowed us to judge Travis’ performance and the performance of other shooters on this stage? Probably. Is it something that the shooters themselves could talk about prior to the match? Maybe. Is it something they’ll talk about after the stage is shot? Probably not.

So much in life is about setting expectations and then using them to judge performance, but we’re still struggling to show the non-shooting public what to expect at a shooting match because we as shooters don’t know how to talk about our expectations. If we can walk off a stage and brag about the good things that happened, we can make our sport more attractive to the casual shooter and non-shooter alike.