The Goal

The Goal

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Lies, Damned Lies and Self-Coached Plot Sheets

After a moderately successful Imperial Meeting - if not quite a top-flight one - I got to enjoy a few days staying in the van on camp before heading back to NZ. It's nice to have a little time for reflection, which I find enhanced by the opportunity to run a few miles along the Basingstoke Canal. One afternoon during this period of post-Imperial bliss and after just such a run, a good friend (who we'll refer to as TT) stopped by and asked if he could take a look at some of my plots. I was packing up and had all of them to hand. "Pick a card, any card," I said. TT had a quick look through a couple of cards before handing them back to me. "Interesting," he commented.

Now, while I find plot sheets interesting to a certain extent I'm not sure that many other people do; After all, there's only so much information you can glean from a single scorecard; so I asked him why he wanted to look at them and heard a tale which saddened me slightly. TT had been shown a series of plots by another shooter, who appeared to consistently hold about half a minute at all distances and who appeared only ever to lose shots to wind. Now as it happens, I have shot with the shooter in question a number of times over the years. This person is a reasonably competent shooter, but I know from observation of their shoots and their results that they aren't quite of that high standard and I'm reasonably sure that they are engaging in the practice of "flattering" their plots; that is to say, plotting shots closer to the waterline (possibly at the expense of their apparent wind reading ability) than they actually were.

How so, you may ask?

Quite apart from having seen this person shoot, as you'll see from my plots I dropped at least two points to bad shots during the Grand Agg (as I have previously pointed out, you can lose shots sideways to apparent wind errors when actually a poor shot is to blame) but still managed a reasonable 14th place. For me a 1 minute group is reasonably good, a 3/4 minute group very good and 1/2 minute exceptional. I have shot smaller groups, but only during 2+7s and not very often. Shooting of this standard (with the occasional bad shot, as you can observe) has done me reasonably proud*.

My highest score (but not best group) of the 2016 meeting. 1 MOA extreme spread for a 75.14 in St. George's II.

Probably more relevant than this, I entered down the coordinates of every single shot of the winning and record-scoring GB Team's plots from the 2007 Palma Match into a spreadsheet as part of my Master's thesis into the culture of high performing teams and of the 16 shooters in the match, only about 5 consistently held under a minute. The tightest shooter had a 2SD statistical group** of 0.85moa.

OK, you may be saying at this point, some people make their groups look a bit smaller than they are. So what? Well, here's the rub: firstly, these people are lying to themselves about their own ability. They are handicapping themselves, to a certain extent, because unless they are possessed of exceptional memory they will be making judgements about sight changes based on incorrect data. More than this, many match captains look at plots in addition to raw scores as they help to balance the fact that not all details are made equal from a wind standpoint. This means that under some circumstances, people who do this may be cheating other people who have shot better out of places on the National Match and other teams.

On a final note, let us consider what my friend and notable international coach MJE did at the start of a plotting classroom training session a few years ago. He displayed to the assembled shooters and coaches an oath, which roughly stated that they would plot all shots accurately. He then invited everyone to repeat it out loud. They duly did so. Think about that for a bit.

* That's not to say that I wouldn't want smaller groups. I do, and I try quite hard to achieve them.
** This means that 95% of the shots fired during the Palma Match would be within a circle of 0.85MOA and 99% within a circle of 1.28MOA.***
*** You may be wondering why I used a statistical approach rather than just, say, extreme spread. Like extreme spread statistical groups are roughly comparable between ranges, but also they allow a better comparison between different types of group. Some people just shoot big groups. Some people shoot small groups but wing one occasionally. Using a statistical group discriminates better between these two types of shooter.

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