When I started the podcast, I didn’t ever expect that I would have interviews with renowned snipers, SERE instructors, or Olympic Shooters. Yet, here we are. I had the pleasure of spending an hour talking to Amanda recently, and I’m sincerely glad I did.
What sparked the interview was some posts she made on her social media about her blog, Winning Insights. Of course, my own curiosity spurred me to go check out what an Olympic shooter would write about. As it turns out Amanda is not only a world-class shooter, but an aspiring performance coach for business and personal growth.
So, to me, that’s a double win for an interview. Not only could she speak about good marksmanship fundamentals, but also a winning mindset and what it takes to be the best. And that’s exactly what we talked about.
Amanda started competing 11 years old. She got involved as a way to “out-do” her older sister in the eyes of her shooting coach father. Since she was too young to compete on the local shooting team, her father began coaching her with an air rifle in their garage (which still has the holes to prove it).
By age 13, she was competing in state matches and worked her way into competing at the National Junior Olympics where she medaled. On the way back from that, she made up her mind that she was going to compete in the Olympics.
The road to the Olympic team was long and involved a lot of grinding through world cups, national matches, and making it to the national team. She had her first shot when she was 17 and made it as an alternate, but not to the Olympics itself.
Several years later, as a junior in college, she competed in the 2012 London games. While she enjoys many forms of shooting, her specialty is three-position smallbore.
Since the Olympics, Amanda finished her degree, started a family, and now focuses on coaching.
A recurring theme throughout the interview is the tenacity to stick to goals. During the years leading up to making the Olympic team, Amanda shared that she had so many third-place finishes that she was ready to quit. It was a struggle to climb back out of it and stay focused.
Her superpower, if you will, is making a plan and sticking to it. Every major goal gets broken down into sub-goals, and each of those sub-goals decomposes into daily actionable tasks.
Amanda shared that the key to success was a calendar of those daily tasks created for months at a time, and the discipline to stick to it each and every day. And then, once a goal is achieved, there’s always another one along the way.
This method is very similar to the style of Lanny Bassham, another Olympic shooter who wrote With Winning in Mind, one of my favorite books. Lanny also says that any goal we set needs to be important enough that we’re willing to sacrifice our life for it.
Now, that doesn’t mean literally die for our goals, but it means being willing to give up a lot of “nice to haves” in life in order to reach for something greater. I always wondered what that would look like in the real world, and Amanda gave a glimpse. She missed a lot of dances, parties, and other fun things that most teenagers place at the center of their lives.
In hindsight, though, she reveals that the things she gained in return were worth so much more to her. Through shooting, she made new friends, had different experiences, traveled all over the world, and learned lessons that simply would not have been possible otherwise.
What it Takes to Be the Best
With her experience, Amanda told me that she can actually spot someone who would be a great shooter without ever seeing them on the range. While marksmanship skills is important, it’s the mindset and other qualities that help that person develop into the best.
Among those traits are an incredible amount of patience, extreme ownership, and discipline. Combined, these elements help anyone to be successful in any area of life, not just shooting.
Several times in the conversation, Amanda referenced the importance of physical training as well as mental training.
Physical training took the form of both actual shooting practice, such as range time and dry practice, or physical fitness. The priorities for her events were core strength, balance, and lowering the heart rate via cardio training.
The mental game is just as important as the physical, and Amanda is a huge advocate of visualization. She gave a wonderful example of “seeing” the shot in her mind before each and every time she actually took a physical shot.
Another vital element she mentioned was mental resilience. By that, she means the ability to bounce back from both wins and losses. I’ve never considered that winning can be just as difficult as losing at the highest levels because of the increased expectations going forward.
This goes back to digging yourself out of the trough as times get tough.
Winning is Winning
One of my biggest takeaways from this interview was the idea that winning is a process, regardless of the venue. Whether it’s Olympic shooting or running a small business, the resilience, discipline, ownership, and control that contributes to success does not change.
Of course, I wasn’t going to let an interview with an Olympic rifle shooter not include some discussion of shooting tips.
The first question here focused on advice for getting a solid training session even when you don’t have regular access to a range. Her advice focused on developing solid breath control. Every discipline has a breathing style, but all of them benefit from work spent developing.
Second, she emphasized trigger control.
Third, Amanda talked about visualization of each shot in a variety of weather conditions. When you train your mind to work through situations via intense visualization, then you increase the likelihood that you’re going to perform that way when the time comes.
To close this out, I want to leave you with two things that Amanda told me.
First, be intentional. At several points throughout the conversation, she talked about avoiding “checking the boxes.” Don’t just have a practice session because you put it on your calendar. Be present for each and every action you take during that session and pay attention to it.
If you find yourself losing that intense focus, then stop the session. It’s OK to have shorter practice sessions if that means you are more focused throughout each and every one.
Second, she wished shooters would stop being negative. That means stop comparing yourself to others to see who had it worse. It means to stop focusing on the things that went wrong and instead think positively about the things that went well.
Thanks again to Amanda for taking the time to talk to me, and I hope you enjoyed this interview as well.