Saturday, September 18, 2010

Unsolicited Advice

LAST weekend (September 11, 2010) I managed to make it to a USPSA match and shot the whole thing! This is my goal at all matches, of course, but you may recall that at the Monster Match the weekend before, I only competed in the first day of the two-day match.

In itself, this match is not particularly exceptional. It was a great club match, I had many (too many!) stages where I almost did it right, I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed shooting with some good people.

But this is what I have learned to expect from a match. Just enough mistakes to keep me from looking like I know what I am doing, and the company of good people making it worth the effort and expense of, basically, "showing up".

I did take a lot of time taking pictures, which is another thing I enjoy.

Well, no. I don't like taking pictures all of the time, because I would rather just watch folks shoot as other people do .. with the naked eye. Trying to film as much as I can is a great distraction, and I only do it for a couple of different reasons.

First, because it I can later give the edited films to the people who are shooting with me on that day, and second because it gives me video to include in the articles I write here.

The first reason is the real purpose.

I learned a long time ago that people don't object to me filming them, even when they screw up because it gives them the opportunity to critically review their own performance.

My own experience, when someone has video-taped my stage runs, is that I can not only see what I did wrong, but I can also see what I do right. That helps me understand both my weaknesses and my strengths, so when I am walking through a stage in the future, I can choose the best way to shoot it by determining whether I can capitalize on my strengths.

And of course, it also shows me the things I need to practice.

As if I ever practice.

One of the better events in this match is that I was squadded with some people who were students at the "Introduction to USPSA" class which I teach.

This is a 3-hour course (often extended for the convenience of the students) which attempts to teach folks who have not competed in USPSA matches what they need to do. We not only teach safety rules, we also teach etiquette, the rules of competition, and what can help your performance. And we strive to make every new shooter the rules of safety, and all of the ways in which they can avoid to violating those rules.

At this match, I was pleased to learn that I had been squadded with several people who had taken that course. They are all good folks, and I like them. So I was especially gratified to see what they had learned after having taken the course, and then getting a couple of matches under their belts.

It's not easy to get started in Practical Shooting, and I've learned that they will often make mistakes .. but they rarely violate the safety rules. At least, those who are obviously paying attention learn that.

Yes, I got to matches with, and I squad with, the people that I teach. I've learned that they have enough problems with just becoming comfortable to the competitive environment. They don't need someone offering unsolicited advice. They will learn to dope out the best way to shoot a stage sooner or later. The important thing is that they shoot safely. All of the other stuff won't be learned until they mess up a stage or two. Or more.

So I don't offer advice. When they want it, they know they can ask. Usually, they don't ask. They want to make this sport their own, or they don't want to continue competing.

All they want, is to shoot. Eventually they will learn ways to shoot which make them more competitive, but the best thing to do is to just ... let them shoot.

Sometime during every class, I make this point to the students:
"When you go to your first class, you need to make it clear to your squad that you are a New Shooter. If asked, they will put your scorecard down at the bottom. That's good, you are new at this and you need to 'go to school' on more experienced shooters.

And sooner or later, one of the more experienced shooters will offer you advice. You should listen to them carefully, smile, and thank them for the advice. Then just go shoot the stage they way that seems best to you."

Usually, unsolicited advice is an annoyance at best, and insulting at worst.

The moral of the story is, if you are one of those "more experienced shooters", you should be reluctant to offer unsolicited advise. Whatever you say will probably be right, but as long as it is not a safety issue, or a clarification of the rules (which they have violated, or might have come very close to violating), the kindest thing you could say to them is "Good job! You shot the stage safely."

I'm sure glad I got that of my chest, and thank you for listening to my unsolicited advice.

Now, I'm including a video from the last ARPC club match, featuring two shooters who have only a few matches experience. I've already sent this video to them, but I want to include it here to show that even relatively 'raw' shooters can do just fine in competition. They may do some things that you think you could help them to do better, but I think it's a really good idea to treat them with the same courtesy and thoughtfulness that you expect others to extend to you.

In other words, consider not bothering them while they're finding their own best way though the competitive jungle.

If I need to be more clear: just shut up and let them rock!

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