Failure is the Best Experience
Tiara Macasaet, Division 2, 12th grade

The best experience of my life was when I went to my first nationals competition in the sport of practical shooting. Practical shooting involves shooting targets through an obstacle course with both the time and target points combined to calculate a final score.  I made the decision to compete in the 2015 US Practical Shooting Association Handgun Nationals in Frostproof, Florida.  Last summer, I began training seriously so I could one day reach my dreams of becoming a world champion. 

My motivation to train hard for Nationals was wanting to be the best in the country. The summer of 2014 was when I decided to seriously compete and train to be one of the country’s best competitive shooters and one day world champion. I was still considered to be a “beginner shooter” since I had only begun competitive shooting in December of 2013. However, I proved to have natural talent and drive for the sport. I went to local matches every weekend, watched expert training videos of world champions and practiced drills everyday with an unloaded gun. My drills involved drawing, magazine changes and footwork to train muscle memory.  I sacrificed spending time with friends and family on countless weekends in order to mentally and physically prepare myself for competing in weekly matches to focus on my training. After only about 8 months since starting the sport of practical shooting, I was ranking in the upper half percentile of local matches consisting of more than 100 seasoned, veteran shooters, holding national and world championship titles. The skill level I was at with less than a year of shooting was equivalent to other competitors who have been competing longer than I have been alive.

Once it was time to compete in the 2015 USPSA Nationals in Florida, I arrived to the match confident that I will do well in my division and class with all the preparation I had put into prior to arriving to nationals. I had a lot to showcase during this nationals competition. I wanted to prove those who didn’t think I was ready for nationals wrong, make my friends, family, and those who cheered me on back home proud, and of course reach the goals I had set for myself. 

However, my dreams were soon crushed on the first day of competition after I missed important scoring points on targets and I got large deductions from hitting penalty targets, called no shoots. The very first stage of the first day of nationals I shot, I zeroed. No points were received for I had 5 misses and hit 1 no shoot. This completely changed my mental game but I had to persevere and keep pushing forward in order to achieve the goals I had set for myself.

By the end of the first day I had 12 misses, hit 2 no shoots and was down 140 points from penalties, a new personal record for most penalties in a single day's worth of shooting. By the end of day 2, I had a new total of 22 misses and 4 no shoots. Finally day 3, the last day of nationals, concluded my all-time career worst performance of 26 misses, 5 no shoots; totaling 310 points down in penalties. 

I was extremely disappointed. I wanted to reshoot the entire match because I know I could have done so much better. A long time was spent thinking of what could have happened if I slowed down my shooting speed and got all the necessary target points I needed.  Besides not being able to reach the goals I had set for myself at this nationals, I was afraid I let everyone who was rooting for me down. 

Much to my surprise, my friends and family were extremely proud of me regardless of not placing in my class.  It was not until the evening of the Nationals awards banquet when I started to realize why no one was disappointed, maybe it was the excitement of being at nationals or the fact that I was at a nationals competition with only a year of seriously competing. But they were so proud I completed my first Nationals competition.  Reflecting back, I realized I had lost sight what I was actually there for.  Winning was not the only goal, although that would have been ideal, but it was because the shooting sports is what I love to do. I was there to have a fun experience and to perform to the best of my ability because I love the shooting sport. I didn’t need a plaque or a trophy to tell me what I love to do, but this experience reminded me of why I shoot and that even all the world champions have to start somewhere and this is just the beginning for my journey to becoming world champion. 

My first nationals competition was the best experience of my life not because I won the competition or reached my goal of taking home the national title, but because I failed. Failure taught me to mentally process my weaknesses, admit my shortcomings in the sport, and to create strategies on how to overcome my limitations. I learned how to process emotional pain, to forgive myself, and to love myself regardless. Looking back I was successful at experiencing a learning process.  I learned the value of discipline and hard work after all those weekends of training.  I have seen the rewards not necessarily at the nationals match, but in other matches that I am proud of.  I learned teamwork from shooting matches with other squad members and helping with scoring and re-setting targets.  I learned a life skill of goal setting and constantly raising the bar for new goals from working on specific shooting drills. I discovered from this nationals experience, life skills of perseverance, self-evaluation, control of my emotions, and to value the overall learning process which I believe will help me to become a world champion one day.
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