Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Interview with a Champion- Mr. Kent Reeve

Rick: Hello Kent thanks for taking part in this first edition of Interview with a Champion.
Kent: Thanks for inviting me Rick.

Rick: Kent I would like to start out by getting a little background on your shooting career, could you tell us when and how you got started?

Kent:  I got started with competition shooting (over the course) in 1988 with a DCM Garand and used it for two years. Mostly that was a waste of time because it simply was not very accurate. Following the advice of Jim Mullis from Charlotte, NC, I transitioned to a bolt gun and immediately started seeing progress and became much more interested in the sport and things took off from there.

Rick: So a little quick math tells me you have been involved in competitive shooting for nearly twenty-five years. I know you are not one to brag but could you walk us through some of your career highlights?

Kent: Several watermark moments in my shooting career include:
1) Making my first USA Palma Team in 1999 and shooting under Middleton Tompkins, such an honor that was! 2) Winning the 2006 Long Range Nationals when I attended mostly on a whim simply because I had a freshly built 300 Winchester Magnum that showed a lot of promise in a 20 shot test string. Yes, that’s right, that rifle went to Perry with only 20 shots through the barrel! That’s not an operational plan I suggest, but it worked out. 3) Winning the rarely achieved famous “double” at Canada in 2010 by winning both the Canadian Fullbore Championships as well as the Governor Generals that year, 4) Coming back to Canada a year later in 2011 and winning the Canadian Fullbore Championships for the second year in a row, 5) preparing for the 2012 Canadian Fullbore Championships with eager anticipation of having a chance at doing a three-peat because no one has ever won it three years in a row, and going right down to the final 15 shots in the 2012 Canadian Fullbore Championships one point behind David Luckman doing some of the best shooting I’ve ever done (seemed like I was on autopilot), yet coming up one point short, because he was just a tad better than me that week and deserved to win. Shaking his hand and the kind words we exchanged will be a lasting memory. 7) Recently learning that the 2012 US Dewar Team I was a member of, won the International Dewar Postal Match for the first time in a long time. It was an honor for me to shoot alongside some of the greatest smallbore shooters in the world. 8) Always looking forward to the next match and socializing with friends once off the line.

Rick: Many of the upper level matches like the Long Range and Fullbore Nationals as well as the International events can run one to two weeks or more. What do you do to stay in shape to offset the physical stresses that these marathon affairs have on the body?
Kent: Rick that is a wonderful question and one that is extremely important to address if one is to be successful at multi week events.  As you know, most of the USA events are 4 days or less. International events can be multiple weeks.  For example, at a World Championships, you will shoot during the host country’s nationals, then the World Individuals, followed by the World Long Range Team (The Palma Championship).  That can be nearly a month away from home, when you wrap the international travel around it.  It can be grueling physically and mentally.  I do work out 5 days a week, swimming 5 days a week for cardio and do weight workout 3 times a week.  On weekends I’m not shooting, I might go bike riding or hiking.  So, I’m staying active and that activity helps me end each match nearly as fresh as I began.  Nutrition and rest play a huge part as well.  You must eat right and get enough sleep if you want to end a month long tour with the energy you had at the beginning.
Your question asked about the physical stress, but there is mental stress as well.  The employment can’t usually be on hold for nearly a month, so for me, I’m working some remotely when I’m overseas. Staying in the present is very important. Identifying what is important right now and channeling your energy into that is something I’ve always believed in.  Some people hear me joking at dinner time when I take a second helping and my typical line is “I could get hit and killed by a train on my way home tonight and sure don’t want to die hungry”.  Live for the moment!  In my opinion, living for the moment helps reduce the stresses of overseas travel for a shooting tournament. The journey is often as fun, if not more fun than the destination, so why not enjoy it!

Rick: Kent many newer shooters as well as some older guys that are aware of your great accomplishments in shooting always want to know how you do it. Can you take us through your physical shot process or routine?
Kent: My shot process is pretty simple.  In my mind, I assign a MOA (minute of angle) number to the wind condition I’m observing.  If that number is inside of the parameter I’ve assigned (for example, three to five minutes), I’ll shoot.  If not, I’ll wait, decide how long I can wait, and keep evaluating the conditions. Let’s assume I’m in “go mode” and believe 3.5moa of right wind is proper.  I take a breath, look through the sights while exhaling to ensure I’m pointing at my target, once exhaled, release the shot, call it in my mind, and watch recoil/follow through. It happens faster than you read that sentence. 

After follow through, my attention is back on the conditions, are they the same, did they pick up or did they drop off?  While the target is being marked, I’ll adjust my sights according to the condition I just observed. Most people adjust their sights off what they see I adjust my sights off what I expect to see before I see it.  I have a very good idea of where the shot should appear before the target reappears from the pits, therefore that is when I do my sight adjustments. If the actual shot placement agrees with my prediction of where it should be placed, I start the sequence all over again. That’s my shot process.
Rick: One of the simple truths about being successful in competitive shooting is mastering the six inches of grey matter between our ears. Let us inside your head Kent, how do you deal with the various mental stresses associated with top level competition?
Kent: My mental process is simple and involves staying in the present. Staying in the present has been easy for me over the years.  One of the first sentences I recall my Mother saying when I was a baby was “cross your bridges when you come to them”. It took me awhile as a baby to differentiate between literal versus figure of speech!! Mom repeated that sentence to me and my sister thousands of times for many different life situations.  Mom was not a shooter but her advice about crossing bridges only when you come to them applies to shooting! That is my mental process.

Behind the scenes, I expect to do well.  The hardware I bring to a big event is proven, so there is no mental clutter there.  I load good ammo and know how it performs.  Again, no mental clutter, I get good rest before a match and there is not much partying going on either. I started playing golf when I was 11 years old and much later in life discovered competition shooting.  For me, the mental process of those two sports is virtually identical.  Therefore, when I started shooting, I was already sold on the idea of how important the mental aspects are in our sport.

Rick: You wind reading skills are obviously second to none. I remember watching you solve some very demanding wind problems in Raton at the US Fullbore Nationals back in 2010. What works best for you, flags, mirage or a combination of both?
Kent: Regarding evaluating flags and mirage, I believe I’m a much better mirage reader than a flag reader. But they both involve the same thing: identifying an image and recalling if that image has changed. Honestly, I don’t know many shortcuts in this area. How do you teach someone to see mirage flow, flag lift/drop like you see it? This is one area where I struggled when I was learning the sport.  My mentor Jim Mullis would say “see how that mirage is flowing left to right Kent?” More often than not, my answer was “I don’t see any flow, all I see is confusion”. Then one day the light bulb lit up and it started making sense. Once I reached a level where I could somewhat understand it, I thirsted for more understanding and things took off from there. For me, the “how” becomes much easier when I understand the “why”. 
Rick: In closing you often hear about people giving back to the sport we both love. What does Kent Reeve do to make this sport better for the future?
Kent: I teach younger shooters (I do selective one-on-one mentoring as a way to give back to the sport), my mantra is “this is what we are going to do now, here’s how to do that, and here’s why we are doing it that way”. The what/how/why, are the three legs of the stool of understanding. One of my best students is Megan Lee. Megan attends Texas Christian University on a shooting scholarship and is much more fun to watch than me. Watch her shoot and you will see her using many of the techniques I taught her. 

She is 18 years old now and I started coaching her when she was 13 and am very proud of what she has accomplished.  Kids are the continuation of the sport we love, so I hope I have inspired those reading this article to make a positive impact with a young shooter. It doesn’t matter how little you have to give, just give it.  Some of the biggest things in life were started by someone who had nothing more than a dream coupled with the willingness to work towards it.

Rick: Thank you Kent for your time and your thoughts. Congratulations on your fine shooting and I wish you the very best in all your upcoming endeavors.

© Richard S. Curtis 2013

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