This is something I've been thinking about for a while now: would athletes who engage in fast-paced team sports make better defensive shooters? (My definitions of fast-paced does not include baseball or cricket; I'm talking hockey, soccer, rugby. You know, fast-hard hitting sports.)
My belief is yes, they would be better defensive shooters.
As a general rule, we shooters are a lonely lot. We might go to the range as a group, and competitions are chock-full of people all carrying guns, but it's really an individual thing we do. (LEOs and military, are the exceptions, as they are taught to shoot as part of a team, but each still has his/her own individual job to do within that team.)
Defensive shooters talk about situational awareness and quick, decisive decision-making ad nauseam. We talk about disrupting the OODA loop in attackers; we talk about body language and tactics. All of these things are things that athletes in fast-paced sports do.
Let's look at some of the things athletes and defensive shooters have in common:
Situational awareness: At all times, the athlete must know where his/her teammates are and what they are doing. They must also know, at all times, where their opponents are and what they are doing. They must be able to anticipate not only what their teammates are planning, but what the opponents are planning. Is this not exactly what we preach? Additionally, doesn't it also stand to reason that athletes are able to break free (or should be able to) of tunnel vision?
Quick, decisive decision-making: The athlete, in order to "win", must make split-second decisions based on the opponents' body language. Is the opponent going to attack or is it a bluff? These are skills defensive shooters need to hone as well.
Honest assessment of skills: In addition to the decision-making required, the athlete must make an honest assessment of his skills. Are his skills equal or better than his opponent's? Has his training been enough?
Being hurt does not mean you're out of the fight: Athletes
play hurt. In my past life as an athletic trainer, I saw athletes play
on injuries that would have the average person laid up in bed. Just
because you took a soccer ball to the face at thirty miles an hour
doesn't mean you're not going to complete your play. I've seen athletes
blow out their knees or ankles and still struggle to get back up and
re-engage. As an instructor, I tell my students that just because
they're hurt doesn't mean they're beat, which leads us to ...
Fight to the death attitude: It's easy to pick out which sports team is going to lose on TV. It boils down to one thing: the will to win. Even if a team is losing, I have a whole lot of respect for them if they continue to fight to the end. The fact of the matter is, sometimes you're going to lose. It's how you lose that matters.
From a personal standpoint, even if my situational awareness sucks one day and I'm unable to make quick, decisive decisions, and I'm woefully unprepared, by God, I'm not going down without a fight. Even if I "lose" and die, I'm not going without a fight to the death. The bastard who I'm up against won't have an easy time of it, and I'll be sure to gather plenty of DNA evidence against him.
Anecdotally, I can say that when I was playing on five different soccer teams a week, I was at my peak as a shooter. A great deal of that came from being fit, but the mental aspects played a big part as well.
I know many defensive shooters are deeply involved in all aspects of self-defense, and do a lot of additional training in various areas, most of which are focused on the individual. Do you think playing team sports has merit with regard training for personal defense?