Articles & Resources – JP O’Connor


Blue underlined text items are live links to PDF documents or web sites.


Thank you to Scott Pilkington and Pilkington Competition Equipment for graciously hosting these items on the web.


Author bio and contact info at bottom of this document.





Ambercise – Balance, Strength, and Stability Workout – Modified by Dan Durben and Sommer Wood November 2006 from the program originally developed by Amber Darland for the USA Shooting National Rifle Team

-          Training Workout

-          Competition Warm-Up


Rifle Front Aperture Selection – Selection chart for minimum allowable size. Don’t just randomly pick based on how it looks. Be sure it is at least this size, or larger.


Shooting Outlines – When Dr. Dan Durben rewrote the curriculum for the CMP Three Position Air Rifle Camp program in 2004, we worked together to incorporate new training and teaching methods, while also significantly changing the structure. The results were three outlines which formed the structure of the camps. Ten years later, much of this structure and content could still be found in the curriculum.

-          The Shot – A solid shot process outline applicable to all athletes. Note there are two possible successful outcomes of a shot process.

-          The Session – The session presents a strategy for mentally jumping the gap between sighting shots and record shots.

-          Training – This high level training outline is the first written use of my Physical, Technical, Mental, Emotional (PTME) concept.


Natural Point of Aim – A robust technique for accurately finding and setting NPA.


Book Suggestions – Found on the Resources page of my blog.




On The Firing Line

A series of target shooting sport articles by JP O’Connor

©2001-2014 JP O’Connor


As of August 2014 – 58 Articles



The “On The Firing Line” series is published by the national governing bodies for Olympic shooting in Japan and the USA, and has been adapted for archery as “On the Shooting Line” published by USA Archery. Olympic Coach Magazine, the National Association of Soccer Coaches, and others have referenced selected articles. The entire series is available online at

Permission is granted to distribute FREE copies for non-profit educational purposes provided the article is kept unedited in its entirety with all notices, copyright, and other information contained in the document. Any other use requires advance, specific, written permission from the author. The author may be contacted at



Annotated Contents


   The Competition

A beginning athlete shares her thoughts on competition in a school assignment. (Not part of the series. Published in 2005 in USA Shooting News.)


1 – Flowing In The Zone

An athlete discovers, after the fact, that his training was so thorough that the performance of his sport was effortless enjoyment – and at levels far beyond his expectations or dreams. This provides insight into how one should train.


2 – Choosing and Using a Coach

When an athlete and a coach collaborate, they can achieve incredible things together. A number of thoughts and ideas on this theme are presented.


3 – Back to Basics

An Olympian learns to trust herself and we learn about some of the fundamentals of the critical moments as a shot is delivered.


4 – Preparation Begins Now

Preparation is more than just settling into position. What it really means and why it is so important are addressed.


5 – Eights Are Your Friend

How to handle a “bad” shot is critically important. This classic article presents an approach that allows the athlete to actually improve their game using “bad” shots, rather than destroy their game in anger.


6 – Practice? …Or Training?

The difference between practice and training is critical. True training will drive your performance to new levels.


7 – Football Ballet

Continuing the theme of doing true training, we learn a lesson in unique training methods from the great football coach Gerry Faust of Cincinnati Moeller High School fame.


8 – Mental and Emotional Skills

A private chat with tennis legend Arthur Ashe opens the door to insights into sport performance.


9 – Critical Moments

A coach’s scolding leads to insights into the critical moments surrounding the delivery of the shot.


10 – Trying Not To Lose

Many athletes “play it safe”, or so they think, and compete to not lose. They invariably lose. Some “go for it” to win. They often do win.


11 – Working to Win

Continuing the theme of the previous article, techniques and examples are presented on effective ways to approach shooting.


12 – Subtle Details

Often, it is the subtle details in our shooting that make a huge difference.


13 – More Subtleties

Additional concepts are presented, including the critical difference between performance and outcome.


14 – Expect the Unexpected

Expecting competition conditions to be “perfect” is unreasonable. One must have a game plan that is solid, yet flexible.


15 – Breathe, Breathe in the Air

The value and incredible power and impact of breathing on performance is discussed. (Yes, the title was “borrowed” from Pink Floyd.)


16 – Getting Unstuck – Overcoming Common Mental Mistakes

“Place the emphasis on improving, and winning will happen.”

Based on a presentation by Dr. Sean McCann, Director of Sports Psychology, US Olympic Committee, this in depth article provides many insights into our training and how to break out of a slump.


17 – Choking

“Elite level shooting is best performed without conscious control.”

Summary results of a research project into the causes of choking are presented. This provides a clear path to understand how to “inoculate” athletes from choking in competition.


18 – Choking Cures

“Intensity training can help inoculate athletes from choking.”

Using insights gained form the previous article, specific training strategies are provided to aid in becoming choke-proof.


19 – On Why And How We Shoot

“The purpose of shooting… is entirely up to you!”

Our daily approach to shooting is often so very different than it should be based on why we shoot in the first place. In this article we talk a walk together and explore a number of thought provoking ideas about our shooting.


20 – Two Shots Away From Being Crazy

“Baggage, it’s what we do.”

Continuing our thought provoking journey, we get to the essence of why it sometimes seems so difficult to shoot well.


21 – Coach-Dad-Itis

“When helping hurts.”

When an athlete’s parent is also their coach, it can be a very rewarding experience for both. Sometimes, it is quite the opposite. This article explores the topic and provides specific ideas for ensuring a positive experience. (Though a father and daughter are discussed, the article applies equally to all parents and athletes, regardless of gender.)


22 – Predator & Prey

“Do you make things happen, or merely let things happen to you?”

Based on a presentation by Dr. Sean McCann, Director of Sports Psychology, US Olympic Committee, this article explores offensive and defensive mental skills.


23 – Sitting On Your… Laurels

“How good do you want to be?”

Comparing and contrasting different approaches to training, we find that many are called and few are chosen. Yet, it is the athlete who decides! Many have desires, few do the work.


24 – A Process For Breaking Out

“Are you committed to your shooting? Or merely involved with it?”

Dr. Bob Rotella, eminent teacher in the sport of golf, outlines a process for breaking out of the pack by partnering with a true teacher.


25 – Believe

“We do what we think. We become what we believe.”

Before athletes can reach their goals, they must believe it is possible to do so. Examples, including two dramatic true stories, are used to illustrate the power of believing.


26 – Culture of Shooters

“Nothing is broken. Stop trying to fix it.”

Changing our frame of reference from “fixing” things that are “broken” to instead being aware of what we are doing transforms our training, our performance, our results, and our enjoyment of the sport.


27 – Fear And Risk

“Dare not. Achieve not.”

Fear of failure prevents athletes from taking the risks needed to succeed. Learn how to break the cycle.


28 – Great Expectations

“Give it up, and it will come to you.”

Understand the power of expectations and their effect on performance.


29 – Deliver the Shot

“Hold is nothing without execution.”

Digging into the concepts of hold and shot delivery in order to create a robust technique.


30 – More on Delivery of the Shot

“Manage the decisive moment and all is well.”

Building on the previous article for further understanding and refinement of the shot process.


31 – Attitude is Everything

“You cannot control what has already happened; You can control how you react.”

Our own attitude has a powerful effect on what we can and cannot accomplish. World Championships athlete Kirsten Weiss shares her perspective on this topic.


32 – Goals as Motivation

“Virtually every athlete who consistently wins uses some form of goal setting”

(US Olympic Committee Sports Psychology Program)

A thorough examination of goals, not just as an exercise to appease the coaches, rather as a tool to energize the athlete’s own motivation.


33 – Learning to Compete

“I shoot well in practice! Why can’t I do it in competition?”

Learning the basic technical elements of shooting is easy. Learning to perform when the athlete cares about the outcome is quite another matter.


34 – Mental Flexibility

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

Rigid thought inhibits progress. A flexible mindset adapts to conditions.


35 – Intangibles

“There are no such things as intangibles. The so called intangibles are very real.”

An eye-opening and thought provoking conversation with a major sports executive from one fo the most successful professional sports teams.


36 – Confidence

“If you think you cannot, you will not. If you think you can, you most likely will.”

A discussion of the effect of an athlete’s confidence upon performance. Based on work by Dr. Nate Zinsser, Director of the Performance Enhancement Program, part of the Center for Enhanced Performance at the United States Military Academy, in West Point, NY.


37 – Self Talk

“Winners say what they want to happen, Losers say what they fear might happen.”

A discussion of the effect of an athlete’s self talk upon performance. Based on work by Dr. Nate Zinsser, Director of the Performance Enhancement Program, part of the Center for Enhanced Performance at the United States Military Academy, in West Point, NY.


38 – Asleep On The Trigger

“Sleep? Who needs sleep?”

Guilty in the past of shorting himself, and sometimes others, on sleep, the author explores the topic with surprising results. Athletes have a lot to learn about sleep


39 – Breaking Out Of The Matrix

“It takes guts to stand out from the crowd. You must trust your instincts over the voices of dissent, including your own.”

Borrowing concepts from pioneer W. Timothy Gallwey and other sports psychology experts, we learn about a number of interesting and powerful concepts: The Performance Equation, Your Two Selves, Improving the Results, and The Three Levels of Performance.


40 – On Stepping Up

“It’s the Olympics. If you aren’t nervous, you aren’t human!”

Olympic medalists Matt Emmons and Jason Turner share insights on topics including humility, positive thinking, dark moments, focus on the journey, and gaining the perspective needed to win at the top levels. The concept of “stepping up” to the Olympics triggers discussion of the powerful and eye opening idea of “no levels” and “challenge cycles” in competition.


41 – P-R-N-D

“How it works we do not know; Though we sure do love to make it go!”

An exploration of “automation” as we bring together a number of concepts from the previous two articles.


42 – Put the Cork in the Bottle

“At the end of training, When you are tired and ready to quit, You must do one more hard thing every time.”

Insights from a World and Olympics champion on one’s training mindset, and examples of drills to build mental toughness.


43 – Not Really Athletes

“Sorry, was that supposed to be funny?”

A bad joke provokes thought about the “athlete mindset” and how to think, act, train, and compete like a true athlete within our sport – and why it matters.


44 – Knee Deep In Brass

“Amateurs practice to get it right; Champions train until they cannot do it wrong.”

An exploration of the value of volume training – instead of mindless volume practice.


45 – Not Shooting Not Tens

“The fastest way to raise your score: Do not shoot bad shots.”

Are you involved, or committed?


46 – The Conflicted Athlete

“I am so frustrated I want to quit! Yet I love this so much that I cannot quit!”

Identifying and addressing various obstacles and conflicts.


47 – More Conflicts

“You are not being paranoid if they really are out to get you!”

Dealing with internal and external conflicts.


48 – Statics & Dynamics – Part 1

“That which is Still has Movement. That which Moves has Stillness.”

Exploring issues of static and dynamic stability.


49 – Statics & Dynamics – Part 2

“The Pieces are Static. The Whole is Dynamic.”

True NPA, committing to the shot, and a natural progression of the shot process.


50 – Statics & Dynamics – Part 3

“Dynamically Static”

Becoming “still” and delivering the shot with confidence and commitment.


51 – Faith

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the rest of the staircase.”

What would you attempt to accomplish if you knew you could not fail?


52 – Where Are You Looking? – Part 1

“But I must have a precise reference!”

Exploring visual topics, and discussion of the pistol sight picture.


53 – Where Are You Looking? – Part 2

“I have a team full of shooters with a world class hold; and almost none of them can deliver the shot!”

Additional visual topics, and rifle front aperture selection criteria.


54 – Christmas Tens

“I'd never had that floating peaceful shooting feeling carry over at ALL, let alone so strongly into the NEXT DAY!”

What is really going on in “those” amazing shots?


55 – Physical – Technical – Mental – Emotional – Part 1

“I thought it was an engineering problem: equipment, ammunition, positions, training, and done. That was only the beginning!”

Exploring the physical aspects of our sport.


56 – Physical – Technical – Mental – Emotional – Part 2

“Correct technology and technique are critical to success; clearly necessary, but not sufficient by themselves.”

Exploring the technical aspects of our sport.


57 – Physical – Technical – Mental – Emotional – Part 3

“The happiest travelers are the ones who roll with the punches.”

Exploring the mental aspects of our sport.


58 – Physical – Technical – Mental – Emotional – Part 4

“Heroes and cowards feel the same fear; heroes just act differently.”

Exploring the emotional aspects of our sport.






Based in the Atlanta, Ga., area, JP O’Connor (email: and blog: is involved in shooting as a competitor, official, and coach. He is a former Assistant National Coach – USA Paralympics Shooting Team and ISSF Judge, serves on the National Coach Development Staff in both rifle & pistol, and is Coach Emeritus of the NCAA rifle and intercollegiate pistol teams at the University of North Georgia. He enjoys working with a number of pistol and rifle athletes and junior club teams from around the country, ranging from beginners to the highly advanced, in training sessions, clinics, and one-on-one private coaching. Previous installments of this series, additional resources, and book suggestions may be found at and via his blog at Email questions and suggestions to


(Biographical information as of August 2014)