[CQ-Contest] Improving Concentration

George Fremin III geoiii at kkn.net
Fri Jan 5 09:29:55 EST 2007

On Thu, Jan 04, 2007 at 09:24:27PM -0500, Pete Smith wrote:

> operators, and I'm struck by the fact that I do not seem able to
> consistently get the sort of results they do, even from the same
> station.  This is particularly the case in hell-bent contests like
> the CW Sprints, but I have the same feeling about the first evening
> in Sweepstakes, and to a lesser extent in the big DX contests.

There are more things that just focus and concentration - I think much
of it is learned by operating many many contests until most of the
operating actions and techniques become second nature.

It has been very interesting to me over the last few years hosting 
different operators here at my station.  One of the ops has been 
WM5R - and since he has been coming back for a number of contests
year after year I have gotten to see his operating skill evolve.

When Ken did his first ARRL 10 meter contest from here there were
a number little things that he was doing or not doing that were 
making an impact on his score and rate.  

But the one thing that really struck me was not any one operating 
style or error - it was that when he was running stations that was about
all he could do.  He just did not have the mental bandwidth to 
do anything more than run stations on one radio and get them in the log.
He could not think about where he should turn the antenna or answer 
a short question from me or for that matter use a second radio.

Over the years I have seen this change, Ken can now process much 
more information, he can use the second radio, he can answer my
questions etc. He is no longer just doing all he can to work
guys and get them logged.  

I have seen this evolve slowly over time and each year of the 
10 meter contest he was doing a better job of operating.  It was 
not only the 'mental bandwidth' issue but many things that were 
learned by doing contests over and over - improving his skills
with each one.  

I still almost always learn something every time I operate a contest.

> To the extent that I can isolate the problem, I think it lies in the
> inability to keep myself totally focused in the moment.  Even in the
> midst of a 120-150 hour on CW I find myself not always totally
> "zoomed in" on the pileup.  Watching good ops, they seem to have a
> really special focus that I find hard to maintain, even for a 4-hour
> sprint.

> If there's anything to be done about this, I'd like to try, even
> though at age 65 I am inevitably losing some of my edge.  So I'm
> wondering what others have done about this, whether there are
> particular techniques that you use to help stay focused.  I don't
> know what I'm looking for here, so any suggestions would be welcome.
> If you want to send them to me off the reflector, I'll summarize
> anonymously.

I don't know what will work for you but here are a few the things
that have really helped me over the years.

- Contests have a duration that is fixed.  The contest ends in 4, 12, 
  24, 36 or 48 hours.  You can not get any of the time back that 
  passes by during the contest.  I found that once I really understood 
  that it helped me stay in the moment and not think about my place 
  in the results or what I will be doing next week or whatever. 
  The time is NOW.  The time is now to make contacts.

- I have learned to push myself through the rough spots and low points.
  Instead of letting them get you down you need to learn how to push
  and work through these points.  You must keep pushing if you want to
  have a good score.  There will be some pain along the way, there will
  be times when you are having problems finding rate or a frequency or
  whatever but you need to keep going - this is no time to give up.
  The contest will be over at a fixed time - you can rest then.
- I find I do best if I do not have rate sheets or projections of 
  how I should be doing - as often as not these can just be very
  depressing if you are not doing as well as you were hopping or 
  as well as last year.  So over the years I have avoided having 
  these around or setting goals like that - it just did not work for me.
  As I have done more and more contests I have gotten to the point that
  even if I am not doing as well as last years rates or score I do not
  let that bother me - because I have learned that even if you are not
  doing as well as your 10th place score from last year you could be 
  winning the contest.  You just need to keep pushing forward.

- I keep pushing myself to tune the second radio, to keep calling 
  CQ etc.  Sometimes it is hard to keep it going when the rate 
  sags in a DX contest to 20/hour but it is the slow hours that 
  that are the hard ones - they are also the ones that you have 
  the most chance of improving on percentage wise.  Changing a 
  20 hour to a 30 hour is a much bigger deal than changing a 
  100 hour to a 110 hour.  The slow times are very important.
Anyway - maybe there will be something useful in all of that 
rambling.  Those are some of the things I have worked on over
the years to help me do better in contests.  I also hope that
it is not to scattered as I just typed that off the top of my head.

George Fremin III - K5TR
geoiii at kkn.net

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