3-Gun University: A Coach’s Eye

In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah performed some of the cooler miracles of his day. One particular miracle, in which he called down fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice in front of the prophets of a false god was particularly flashy. Elijah (and God!) rocked that day on the mountain, but the evil king and queen didn’t like that so much, so Elijah fled for his life to the wilderness. When he finally collapsed under a juniper tree, he asked God to kill him because, well, reasons.

Elijah was smoked. He came down from the high of the mountain (pun intended) and was in a seriously low place in his life. Stressed and tired, he had nothing left to give.

That’s how I felt going into A Girl & A Gun 3-Gun University last week — completely spent physically and emotionally, with nothing left to give.  I was ready to quit my job, burned out on shooting, physically exhausted, and just emotionally blah.

But I showed up anyways and gave it everything I had, and I’m so glad I did.

Skies for daaaaays!
Skies for daaaaays!

A Transformation

There was a transformation in my spirit from the beginning of the week to the end. Maybe it was the enormous skies broken up only by the mountains. Maybe it was the sunshine. Maybe it was the fresh air. Maybe it was the ice cream.


But I think what really did it was watching the transformation in the students. The night before the match began, the ladies in our cabin kept me up till almost midnight with a barrage of questions, gear adjustments, and lessons in how to sling a rifle. I was tired, but I didn’t mind because I remember the newbie-pre-match jitters very well; I figured arming them with a little more information could help calm some of their fears.

The morning of the first day, there were many more questions about stage breakdown, where to aim on the rifle targets, and how to load the rifle. Many of the ladies were nervous, the fear etched on their faces. By the end of the first stage, the fear changed to smiles and the nerves calmed down just a bit.

"Yes, pointy end goes toward the bad guy." A Girl & A Gun photo.
“Yes, pointy end goes toward the bad guy.”
A Girl & A Gun photo.

In the afternoon, the ladies faced a new challenge: shotgun loading. Several had never done it before, so there were many lessons given on the spot. Thank goodness for the Carbon Arms chest rig one of the ROs brought, because many of the ladies didn’t have any shell caddies. This stage was particularly challenging for some, and there were more than a few tears that afternoon. (Oh, and challenging for me because, well, I don’t deal well with crying.)

But the next morning, it was like there was a whole new group of ladies out there. They were confident. They had gone back and gotten good zeroes on their scopes. They knew how to load. They had a better idea of how to safely handle their firearms. They approached the stages with a smile instead of worry, and the tears were those of joy, not fear.

As their confidence grew, the weight of my own burnout grew a little lighter.

Let It Go

In the midst of all the coaching, I made it a deliberate point to be silly and have some fun. I needed to actively let go of all the stress in my life and just be carefree. So I ate whatever I wanted, even if I had ice cream yesterday. I climbed on every bronze statue I could find. I made jokes and laughed with my fellow coaches and the ROs. I enjoyed the scenery and the wildlife.

"Hey buddy, you headed my way?"
“Hey buddy, you headed my way?”

I truly let it all go. (And if I’m being honest, I almost didn’t come home!)

I left at the end of the week with a smile on my face and in my heart, and with a renewed appreciation for the sport I love and the people that play it. Admittedly, I’m still physically exhausted, but that’s nothing a good nap and some caffeine can’t fix!

So, who’s in for next year?

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