by B.B. Pelletier

My wife, Edith, and I try to get in some tennis several mornings a week. She sees some similarities between tennis and shooting…and golf, football and baseball. She’s been asking for several months for a guest blog to share her thoughts with you, so here’s her chance.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

Bloggers must be proficient in the simple html that Blogger software uses, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Hit it, girl!

Tennis, golf, baseball, football

by Edith (Mrs. B.B.) Gaylord

I learned to play tennis in college. I became so good, that many people came to watch me play, which I did 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. That might also explain my grades! But it’s been about 40 years since I picked up a tennis racket. About a year ago, Tom agreed to go to the courts and hit the ball back and forth with me. We don’t play a game, but we do get a lot of exercise and get a chance to escape from our computers.

When it comes to shooting, Tom’s the expert in our family. When it comes to tennis…he’s not. He’s also quite recalcitrant and obstreperous when it comes to taking any tips, hints or advice on the game. Yet, the rules of engagement are so similar to shooting and other sports that it’s funny he’s not even remotely interested in them.

In tennis, you must have follow-through when you hit the ball. If you just whack the ball with the racquet and don’t continue the swinging action, you’re not going to deliver enough power to make the ball go where you want it to go.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve read more than once about follow-through, especially when it comes to shooting spring guns. Pulling the trigger and immediately moving the gun will result in the pellet landing some place other than where you aimed. I’ve seen that happen a number of times during field target events. It’s usually someone new to springers. This is really hard to convey to someone who’s come over from the world of firearms, where the projectile leaves the barrel much faster.

Where are your feet?
When I learned to play tennis, I was taught to stand in a certain way to hit forehand and another way to hit backhand. These days, it’s changed a bit, but you still have to be in position to hit the ball and control where it’s going to land.

Tom has written several blogs about shooting 10-meter pistol and how to stand to be properly positioned. Whether it be baseball, tennis, golf or shooting, there’s been a lot of research that shows being in the right position will help your performance. While I recall getting lots of advice about how to stand when shooting a 10-meter pistol, it never hit home until I related it to playing tennis.

Check your projectile
We’re not very good tennis players, but we’ve gotten good enough over the past year that we can tell when a ball needs to be retired or is inferior.

The same can be said for shooting. Sometimes, it really isn’t the shooter who’s messed up…it’s the pellet. If you have occasional fliers, they may be caused by deformed pellets, pellet weights that vary far from the manufacturer’s specs or other pellet issues. It isn’t always the fault of the shooter or the gun. Of course, I’m assuming that you’re a reasonably good shot and that you CAN hit the target most of the time!

Choose your weapon
Tennis has all sorts of options for different racquets, especially grip sizes. While my hand is smaller than Tom’s, I need a very large grip. I buy the largest grip available, wrap foam rubber padding around it and then add a layer of another tape. I’ve never met another person who takes as big a grip as I do.

So, what guns are you shooting? Are your guns suited to your build? Do they have the right pull for you? How much of a drop is there in the buttstock? The latter is a curious one for me. I have had so much trouble getting my eye to line up with a scope or open sights that I don’t shoot at all unless I’m going to the indoor range to stay proficient with my concealed carry weapon. Why would that be? I just found out earlier this year.

This summer, we were in a local gun store and saw a used Winchester 1894 rifle with scope on the sale rack. I told Tom we should buy it because he could write an article comparing the firearm to the airgun. When we got the rifle home, I pulled it up to my shoulder and was truly amazed at how natural it felt. I then told Tom that this was MY rifle, and he was not allowed to sell it without asking me first!

Which rifles are you selecting? Look at your favorite guns and see if there’s a common component to them. Is it the stock? The length? Something else? I wonder if some people gravitate to certain guns because the stock length, height, width and/or weight fits them perfectly. Not everyone likes a Monte Carlo stock, a big drop on the buttstock, a raised cheekpiece or a checkered grip. That’s the beauty of having so much variety. If one gun doesn’t fit you, there are plenty of other styles to choose from.

Clear the mechanism
Have you seen Kevin Costner in the movie For Love of the Game? He plays a baseball pitcher. To block out the fans, the screaming and the other players…he concentrates only on the task at hand: pitching the ball. He says to himself, “Clear the mechanism.” The “mechanism” is everything in his head. Nothing else matters, only pitching the next ball. This is similar to what golfing great Harry Vardon does in the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played. Before he took a shot, he looked down the fairway and removed obstacles, people, trees…everything but the hole. I practice the same thing when I play tennis. I watch only that little yellow ball. Once the ball is in motion, I never take my eyes off it because that’s the only thing that matters in the game.

Are you concentrating on your target? How you stand? The task at hand? In the above golf movie, actor Shai LeBeouf plays amateur golfer Francis Ouimet. He has a similar mechanism to Harry Vardon and Kevin Costner’s character. He looks down the fairway and visualizes the ball’s trajectory and “sees” it going down the hole. Olympic and other athletes also visualize successful outcomes to their endeavors. People who see themselves as successful at physical or other endeavors…or life, for that matter…frequently ARE successful. This is one of the things I’ve been doing when I go out to shoot my CCW. I stand there with my gun pointed downrange, eyes intent on the target and visualizing where the bullet will hit. It’s made a difference, but progress is slow because I don’t practice enough. Yet, if it can make a difference for me, imagine what this could do for those who shoot more often.