ELEY pistol shooter, Sam Gowin has been competing on the ISSF circuit for a few years now. During this time he has been able to train out of his comfort zone to learn what works for him. However, he observes that some athletes limit their potential because of a fear of failure. Athletes should be pushing themselves to enhance their performance, not play it safe.

Sam describes this with a term he coins ‘performance bandwidth’…

Sam Gowin: “Bandwidth is a word I use to describe your performance capability range.

Initially you may have a narrow performance bandwidth. This means that certain internal or external factors may easily be distracting for you. Or that your ability may be limited due to technical skill, tactical knowledge or experience.

With a narrow bandwidth it may be harder for the you to deal with problems such as an incorrect technique, nerves, spectators or the competition environment. This could ultimately hinder an your overall performance.

The majority of this comes down to knowledge and experience. It is therefore is gained over time by competing and training in many different scenarios and situations.

Broadening your bandwidth can help you to feel more confident in yourself. This allows you to manage different situations whilst still maintaining the desired performance outcome.

The sport of shooting requires a large amount of intense concentration in order to perform finely tuned bodily movements; similar to golf, archery or table tennis. Most of these motions are run by the subconscious mind. Therefore the mind requires clarity and focus when shooting. Experience and knowledge mixed with the self-confidence and belief that you can handle any arising issues will help you stay focussed, with a calm and controlled mind and body.

In order to expand your performance bandwidth you must challenge yourself. Getting outside of your comfort zone is a positive way to strengthen yourself as an athlete. Try training in different ranges with differing light and wind conditions for instance. Or perhaps training with other athletes and using challenging drills can help. Ultimately learn to do the right thing on a difficult day.

One of the biggest ways to improve your performance bandwidth is to use competition. There is not a better place to confirm what you have been training has worked. This is partly because competition provides realistic and additional feelings and thoughts that aren’t always present during training. Therefore it is wise to not only compete at these event but in order to become a more experienced and better shooter, it is very important that you learn from these events, in every way possible. That can be by talking with your support staff and coaches, self-coaching, note taking, videoing, talking to other athletes, learning the environment, watching tactics etc. Don’t just do your part and walk away, always review whether it has been good or bad.

Using competition for expanding your bandwidth does mean that you may need to challenge yourself in order to see the true result. If you don’t, then may not get an accurate result of if something has truly worked or not. It is very easy for an athlete to try to stay within their comfort zone at a competition because of the event ‘pressure’ that they may be thinking or feeling. An example of this is if your coach has told you to try something, do it. Listen to the instruction and genuinely try it. If it works then it works, if it doesn’t, then at least you learned something and have expanded your performance bandwidth.

Another example of this is if you raised the gun to the target incorrectly when you have a short timeframe, how do you fix it? Do you completely panic and mentally give up or do you learn to remain calm and fix it? These mistakes do happen and getting it wrong can help us to get it right next time.

Never be afraid to learn. One of the biggest fears not only athletes have, but most humans have is the fear of failure. This is one of the biggest inhibitors of improvements in sport. If you work smartly, utilising all available feedback then you can learn more if you get it wrong. You can solidify or modify skills this way and build resilience within yourself. Every time you get it wrong, there is a valuable lesson there which if you grab it, will shape you into a better, stronger shooter.

Most, if not all of the World’s best athlete and iconic figures have failed many times in the past. But this is ok if you learn from it. Learning from mistakes is what expands your bandwidth which in turn can heighten both your performance ceiling and your performance baseline.”

Sam is now in training for the final ISSF World Cup of the year in Rio de Janeiro after being selected for the team by British Shooting. The competition takes place 24th August and is another opportunity for him to secure a quota place for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Best of luck Sam!