Senior shooter Sunny Russell is a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.
By Randy York
When Paul Meyers added rifle to his list of administrative responsibilities this year, Nebraska’s All-America center fielder, baseball administrator and Associate Athletic Director in charge of the Huskers Athletic Fund said the sport “requires more mental toughness than just about any sport I can think, so it’s good to have one of our former student-athletes as our head coach. I have great respect for both the sport and for Stacy Underwood. She’s a tremendous leader.”
The No. 9-ranked Huskers will finish their fall season against No. 6 Ohio State Saturday at the Nebraska Rifle Range in the lower level of the Military and Naval Sciences Building. Competition begins at 9 a.m. and since rifle doesn’t exactly lend itself to indoor seating, Meyers will watch the action from the same place most spectators choose to watch it – on the video screens in the lobby and hallways.
“It’s fascinating how much goes into a sport like rifle,” Meyers said. “The shooters are equipped from head to toe to maximize accuracy. The sport is so precise, wearing the wrong sock or a shoe that’s too tight can make a big difference. To warm up, they do yoga-like exercises. It’s pretty grueling with a lot of pressure. I don’t know if I’ve ever watched a sport that required more constant mental toughness.”
Only NCAA Sport Where You Compete against Yourself
Underwood is in her second year as Nebraska’s head coach. She says rifle is the only NCAA sport where you compete against yourself without awareness of how your fellow competitors are doing, until you’re finished. “Only then are scores compared. So my athletes have to be totally self-contained – in motivation, discipline and focus,” says Underwood, a two-time NRA All-America shooter for the Huskers and the sport’s 2007 Senior of the Year. Underwood served as an assistant rifle coach at Kentucky from 2007 until 18 months ago when she accepted Nebraska’s head coaching job.
Underwood’s philosophy of improving performance one percent at a time has helped the Huskers qualify for the NCAA National Championships after two years of missing the postseason competition. With performance measured in minute wavers, “It’s fascinating to me how much breathing can affect your score,” Meyers said. “The mental toughness comes from the level of concentration you have to maintain. A muscle twitch and your heart rate can both affect your score.”
I know some devout Husker football/basketball/volleyball fans who make it a point to watch Nebraska compete in rifle. After a recent win over Memphis, the Huskers will face a Buckeye team which defeated Army last Saturday. To beat Ohio State, the largest department in collegiate athletics, “We will have to have solid performances from top to bottom to earn a win,” Underwood said. “We’ve been working on being fearless this week and competing outside our comfort zone. Hopefully, that’ll translate into some top performances Saturday.”
Send a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org (Include city, state)