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The baselines

If you are serious about performance, then baselines will be a central part of your training program. Baselines are used to compare performance, to establish knowns.

The Purpose

Baselines are not for training. You do not use a baseline drill to improve your shooting. You use baseline drills to evaluate your performance and make critical observations. These observations are then used to judge several areas. Has your training been effective at sustaining your skills over time. Has your training helped improve performance of your speed and or accuracy domains. Training has specific goals of improving capability, capacity, productivity and performance. Baselines address the effectiveness of your training.

The Material

Folks misunderstand baselines all the time and it has lead to some confusion. I had this discussion the other day during our Professional Development, but it bears sharing with the larger audience. No, a baseline is not what you can do after you have practiced the drill over and over. That is nothing more than practicing for a drill. Or another way to think of it is learning the test and not the material. If you shoot the same drill over and over in an effort to improve your “score” that is not a baseline. A baseline performance evaluation is your ability to “on command” demonstrate a skill under specific conditions to a minimum standard. That is it…

The Standards

Baselines are also not standards. A standard is defined as having attained a level of achievement. The standards must be observable, measurable and repeatable. If you cannot see what it is you are trying to improve there is no way to know if you are making improvements. If you cannot observe the task then you will not be able to measure the task. Measuring the task provides the opportunity for growth, to compare past performance with present and set a mark for future. The most important part to any standards is it being repeatable. If you cannot repeat the standard, then how do you know whether it is luck or skill. How do you know whether the material has been retained or behavior has been changed. A standard is something achievable on a regular basis.

The Truth

The most important part to baselines is understanding they are an assessment of what you can do on command. This means, no advanced notice, no warmup and no training. Advanced notice is something harder to control. If you train in a group, then you can have one member come up with the baseline everyone will be required to perform. Or, you can use the Baseline suit in our TACOST training cards. Just shuffle them up and randomly pick a card. You do not want to warm up or practice the baseline, this is supposed to be a cold performance. This ties into the training aspect and what gets people wrapped around the axle.

The Command Performance

When you are setting up a baseline, the ideal number of repetitions is seven (7). The maximum number of attempts is ten (10). This means, whatever the baseline you will perform you are only allowed ten attempts. Anything more than ten and you are not evaluating performance, you are training. The standard is very important here, but so is the task and conditions. You want to clearly define the task. For instance, draw from the holster and fire three rounds. The conditions would be from the seven yard line versus an eight inch target. The standard is 100%; which means you do not count any of your missed attempts. Remember, you are trying to discover your capabilities. Not what you might be able to do, but what you can do. Once you have meet the standard for seven repetitions you discard your fastest and slowest times. Average the remaining five (5) repetitions to discover your baseline time for this drill. This is the time it takes you to perform the drill to the minimum standard. In other words, this is your on command performance.

From here, you then work to improve your skills through varying the conditions. This is where the real fun begins, where you see the shooter grow.

Shooter Diagnostics

A major factor in students continuing their education is having a positive experience. Loosely translated, this means hitting the target on demand.

Stick to the Program

I love seeing students come through classes and achieve excellence in their performance. Many times this was associated with passing the class. Passing was associated with a positive outcome and I get that, but what is more important is a positive experience. If the student has a positive experience, they are far more likely to continue their education. If they stay on the path, it is more likely they will see improvements over time. The key is consistency, something I have spoken on many times in the past. Shooting seems easy; align the sight and pull the trigger. We all know it is more complicated than that so to ensure students stick to the program having the positive experience is a major objective in our training.

The Killer Commando Complex

Through the years I have developed a system of corrective strategies for helping students improve their shooting. I have discussed this system at length in various classes and anyone how has attended our intermediate or advanced classes has gained exposure to the process. The most important piece to this puzzle is understanding the subtle forces at play. Each of these forces can have a positive or negative impact on the outcome. There is nothing quite like shooting at distance to help isolate these forces to properly evaluate and if necessary correct. I joke in classes how everyone is a killer commando at the close ranges. For the most part they cannot hit because of poor technique and reinforced with no accountability. Either through misguided direction about deadly force encounters or training with sub-optimal instructors. They lack the skill as a result, but more importantly the guidance on how to improve.

Corrective Strategies

Lacking the skill as a student is not that big a deal. A major reason we are so good at diagnostics is there is no short supply of students who need help. When students don’t have the guidance on how to improve it becomes an impediment to getting better. The corrective strategies I’ve created over the years is nothing more than an in-depth trouble shooting guide. Contrary to popular belief, shooting bully-eye targets is not the solution. It is a measurement and nothing more. Being able to identify what you are doing correctly and what you are doing incorrectly requires a bit more skill.

The Secret Sauce

The process is broken down into major and minor categories of errors. Then, each category is subdivided into simple or complex. Each subdivision is further broken down into levels 1, 2 or 3. I am not going to lie, it is challenging to work with students in this corrective strategy process. Not because of the errors themselves, but because of their inconsistency or in ability to repeat the same action or problem. I don’t care if it is a “wrong” action if they repeat it over and over it is correctable. Often they are the easiest. During the diagnostic drills we tackle the minor errors right away. These are typically all in the simple range. Examples can be better understanding of their sights and or grip.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Once we get past this stage, what I sometimes call the low lying fruit we typically focus on the major issues. A big difference between these two is the degree of error. Another problem is when a student has a complex error; which usually is the collection of more than one simple error. These are tough to solve, but the process works.  Many times we see immediate results leading to the positive outcome. This system has been developed over decades of making mistakes. People ask me why I am so good at not just identifying the errors, but correcting them. The best answer I can give is I have at one point or another made the same mistakes we see in classes. I haven’t always been a good shooter. I made up for my shortfalls in other areas while I continued to work on becoming the shooter I am today.

As I look back, I’m grateful for the experience because I can relate to the student in a way many cannot. I was in their shoes and felt their pain.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Muscle Recruitment

When I’m working with new students there is so much to cover it can be overwhelming. A subject most folks don’t spend time exploring is muscle recruitment and its importance on shooting.

One With The Gun

Once the bullet leaves the barrel there is nothing you can do to help. If you didn’t have your technique installed before hand it won’t help that round as it hurls downrange. Most everything we do is going to be applied prior to the round being fired. There are the traditional subjects such as sight and trigger management along with grip integrity, but how do you put it all together. How do you become one with the gun. I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing athletes. Professional to Olympic, in all shapes and sizes. The advantage they have is a higher understanding of their body. How to make it do the work in the most efficient manner possible.

Use What You Have

This was so clearly illustrated when working with some female professional athletes. Their ability to will their body, to take advantage of what God bestowed to them was down right impressive. The key was in understanding what muscle groups to activate and how to maintain tension during the requirement activity. As I explained the subject, such as shoulder recruitment it was truly impressive to watch each of them work at flexing and engaging the various muscles of the shoulder region. They understood so plainly how we were stacking joints, ligaments, tendon and muscles so they performed at peak levels together.

Midline, You Are Not an Apple

Regardless of the sport, it is hard to perform at high levels without having a strong midline. I will see some folks who have super rigid upper torsos, but their midline is jelly and you literal watch the recoil wave rippling through them. Keep the midline engaged is not that difficult, but it is also something you want to make sure does not produce negative results. The best way to express this process is by trying to move your belly button towards your spine. Don’t just tighten your abdominal region, that is a half measure. When you follow this tip, you not only tense the midline, but you help stabilize your whole body. More importantly, you are preparing it to support the other muscles optimized for shooting.

Neutral Position

Your shoulders are the next region and they play a huge role. Keeping your shoulders in a neutral position is the key. You do not want them rounded forward or overly retracted rearward. You want them in their strongest position; which is neutral. Those who suffer from bad posture will obviously benefit from paying more attention to their shoulder position. This also ties into the tight midline mentioned above. Keeping the shoulders in this position further connects the kinetic chain. Once you have your shoulders in the right position with the proper tension they will connect with your lats. While your shoulders can be developed, they will not have the same strength capacity as your larger muscle groups such as your upper back region. Once this is connected it produces an amazing platform.

Crush Grip…Again

The last step in this chain is your grip. I have discussed this in several previous blog articles so I will summarize. Applying force to the bottom of the grip is the ideal location to optimize leverage. Gripping high on the gun does not produce the results most think. To optimize leverage you will want to be further away from the fulcrum, not closer. The real challenge is engaging your pinky fingers, literally applying pressure inward on the frame. Then pressing your heels together to close it all off. The last step is to lock your wrists. Combine all of these steps together and you will have a bomb proof technique.

You don’t need overdeveloped muscular structure to manage recoil, it helps, but is not a requirement. You need to learn how to use what you got to obtain the results you want.

Author: Jeff Gonzales