Understanding the Mindset of Athletes

So, I just found this list ranking to top shooting sports athletes: CLICK HERE .  I see lots of familiar faces, so I cast my vote.  Listen to me: I just  voted on the top shooting sports athletes in the world!! Twenty years  ago, when I first started working for the President of the ISSF, I knew  less than zero about these sports!  So, am I proud of myself right now?  Heck yeah, I am!

I've been privileged to have a front-row seat to  the most exciting competitions in the world and I've learned a few  things from watching these amazing athletes.  Author Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers (buy book HERE), determined through his research of extremely successful people, that to become a master, you must dedicate at least 10,000 hours of practice to your activity of choice.  But I've watched very young shooters win multiple gold medals.  Let's say they're sleeping 8 hours, add to those: eating, showering, traveling, studying...are these athletes starting this sport when they're 3 years  old?!

A few days ago, I put out a call to all Olympic Shooting athletes and I was very excited to receive many offers to be guests on the blog, including from Pantelis Tsakiris, an ISSF Air Rifle athlete for the past 10 years.  So, I present to you, my guest blogger and his thoughts on what makes an Air Rifle Athlete. 

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Having only to rely on your mind and your body at the same time is probably the most difficult task one can undertake. By having this in mind, sport shooting and in this case, Air Rifle, is one of the most demanding sports and disciplines.

Achieving superiority in results both in qualification matches as well as in the final is like a game of chess. There is no contact between the athletes to compare results and performance. And one bad move early on may be costly in the end. Things that matter are depth of training, technical knowledge to overcome any probable obstacle and also good physical condition.

However the athlete must not be all by himself. There is wear and tear, and phychological obstacles that arise occasionally. Injuries and mistakes that can continue through months and even years, so must be dealt with as soon as possible, before there is any drop in performance. It's therefore very important to talk to the correct people and find the correct advice to fit any occasion. Ideas and techniques are plenty but not everything is for everyone and correct judgement is fundamental.

Having great focus and unstoppable drive is something that is achieved with time and experience. In any case, hard work beats talent. Power is to be found in waiting for one great result which may be just around the corner and seeing good results drives you to continue training both inside and outside the shooting range. Stopping once is forever going to make you lose anything you have already achieved. This must be the correct form of motivation and not just having better results than another athlete just to spoil his day. Shooting at their side and just having the smallest conversation with them is just like talking to them for three hours.

And when the performance is not good one must not falter; in a qualification match someone may see only about 10% of an idea he might realise that will help him. This is very important because in the next match he may see another 65% and have a good understanding what he must do in order to leave his plateau of bad performance. 

Pantelis Tsakiris, Air Rifle Athlete, Greece 2019