Interview – Dick Whiting –

Dick Whiting earned his Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge in 1976. He’s made the President’s Hundred four times and the Elihu Root Medal six times for being in the top 6 civilian competitors in the National Trophy Team Match. Below is Dick’s interview:

1: What was your experience like when starting out in highpower?

When I started in highpower it was with a local club in 1971. I was issued a crusty old M-1 and placed on the D-Team (the lowest of four teams… “A” being the top notch shooters). I had my work cut out for me. I shot league matches at the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore for two years, and was in the third year when I asked if there was a State Rifle Team. The person I spoke to told me, “See that big guy there, follow him.” So I did and became a firing member of the Maryland State Rifle Team in 1973. I shot for the team as a new shooter in 1973 and we placed either 2nd or 3rd in the National Trophy Team Match. Not spectacular, but we didn’t place out of the medals!

In 1974, all I wanted to do was win High Expert at the Nationals. But when reviewing the awards bulletin, my name wasn’t even in the top 10 Experts. Geez… I knew my score was better than all those who were shown… I was sitting on the throne at the time and dropped the awards bulletin on the floor. I was looking at the front page, where my name appeared as High Civilian shooting the Service Rifle. Wow!

I was elected Team Captain of the Maryland State Team in 1975. We won the NTT in 1976 and again in 1979. During the years I shot on the Maryland State Team, and later on the West Virginia team – I won 6 Elihu Root Medals for being in the top 6 scoring civilians in the NTT.

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2: Who were your mentors? What do you remember most from these experiences and what still rings true?

William A. Cooney was my primary mentor. He did an outstanding job working with me. I also listened to folks like Clinton Fowler (VA) and Bert Rollins (VA). But one of the most influential people in my beginning years, was Col. William Deneke (USAF, Retired, now deceased). Col. Bill was one of those individuals who was inspiring and very supportive of my position with the Maryland Rifle Team. Had it not been for Col. Bill, I doubt if I would have been more than a rifle team member.

William “Bill” Cooney was my mentor and he worked with me for several years while I was shooting for Distinguished Rifleman. He was a constant presence and mental discipline coach. He said once, “What we have done for you…you have to do for others.” Little did I know that his statement was prophetic, and I am still working with others over 40 years later…

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3: Can you describe some of your most memorable milestones or breakthroughs? Both starting out… and along the journey to competing nationally.

My first milestone came quite quickly, receiving my Expert Card after only one year in the league. I never had a Marksman or Sharpshooter card. The next milestone was going to Camp Perry in 1973 and shooting my first EIC match on Target 87, Viale Range. I’d been shooting all week on Target 89, so you can expect what I am about to say: My third shot offhand was on the wrong target and I only missed the cut off by 7 X’s! Not a real problem, I thought this DR thing wouldn’t be very hard at all… Third milestone was the Camp Perry Spring Regional in 1974, where I earned 8 points toward DR. Now I was convinced that this quest would be over in two more matches. Not to be… The wheels fell off the remainder of 1974 and 1975 (all the while Bill Cooney kept telling me to just shoot my average). The next milestone came in 1975 when I earned my Master card. In the Spring of 1976 I shot the Camp Perry Spring Regional, earning another 8 points. Next milestone was Camp Perry that Summer, earning my HM card – but lost it due to a poor performance with a match rifle at Bridgeville, DE. The only thing that I didn’t do that day was shoot myself in the foot. Next milestone was the Quantico Regional in 1976, where I placed second in the EIC match and earned 10 points. Just 4 points away! Returning to Camp Perry Nationals that year, I placed third civilian with a score of 485! I was beaten by both Bill Cooney and Bert Rollins who both shot 487’s! Bert “Creedmoored” Bill for the win and took home an M-1 rifle.

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4: What is your routine to help you stay on top of your best game? Off-Season, Mid-Season and ramping up to bigger matches?

Practice: I shot every weekend of each year from 73 through 76, not missing any of the matches until after I went Distinguished. I shot at Fort Meade, MD, Bridgeville, DE, Quantico, VA, Butner, NC, and Camp Perry, OH. I treated all of the matches I fired as training, with the exception of the EIC matches. At the time, I considered the President’s Hundred and the National Trophy Team Match at Camp Perry as being the matches that were most important. Over the years, I placed four times in the President’s Hundred and was a firing member on the Maryland State Team for the years that we won the NTT.

Dry-Fire: A LOT! I averaged 8-rounds of dry fire for each round of live fire. Plus, we used ball and dummy exercises to help with maintaining a steady hold.

Mental: I consumed all of the books I could find, with two being the most influential in my mental training:
Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz
Position Rifle Shooting by Pullum and Hannacrat
The former taught me how to develop my self-worth, and to see myself as a winner – not a loser.

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5: How important is technique, mental program, and equipment in influencing your performance? What is their proportional influence?

I was standing on Commercial Row one year in the presence of Gary Anderson, Clint Fowler, and Bill Cooney. I was just an Expert, shooting in the upper 80’s standing. Clint looked me straight in the eye and stated, “Remember , you never have to shoot a bad shot.” That one simple statement took me from the high 80s to high 90s standing! It was one of the most profound statements that I had ever heard. All of the mental training books that I had read, and input from my mentor – was summed up in that one statement: YOU NEVER HAVE TO SHOOT A BAD SHOT!

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06: What was the toughest match you’ve ever competed in where you held it together? What was that like?

My toughest match was the Navy Cup at Nationals, circa 2003. The wind was blowing a steady 23-mph across the range from 1 O’Clock on Viale Range as I recall. I was in the pits first with Joe Hendricks of PA (2014 National Champion). I stated that we didn’t have to shoot out of the 8-ring. I didn’t shoot outside the 9 ring, and cleaned my last 7 shots to post a score of 183! I lost that match to Mitch Maxberry by just one point, but I had him on X’s! What did I do to keep myself together mentally? I remembered that you don’t have to shoot a bad shot, and to shoot in the holes. No one believed me when I told them that I did not put any wind on the rifle as I shot in the holes!

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7: If you had to choose only ONE answer, what has helped you improve the most towards your goals in highpower?

MENTAL DISCIPLINE is the key to top notch shooting.

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8: Why do you continue to stay involved with highpower?

I continue to participate in highpower as a way of paying back for all those years when others believed in me. I want the same thing for others who are beginning their journey toward Distinguished Rifleman and High-Master.

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9: Why are Junior Programs so important to the future of this sport? How are these programs beneficial to those that get involved, both as junior shooters and as adult supporters?

I believe that if we don’t promote the shooting sports to juniors before their 21st birthday, they may never get involved. It is difficult to keep juniors involved and many leave the program once they age out, go into the military, attend college, or choose to start a family. It takes even more self-determination to coach a junior rifle team than it does to be a trigger puller. Nothing is easy in this life, and training juniors isn’t either – but the rewards cannot be beat. This year, West Virginia did an outstanding job at Camp Perry. This is due to the commitment that myself, fellow team families, and my fellow Coach Mike Moore have put into the program. It can be a thankless job at times, but oh what rewards await the Coaches who promote junior shooting! It is the families of the junior shooters that make this effort worth all the effort. Plus, seeing these youngsters excel and earn their Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge, place in the President’s Hundred and win in team matches, is priceless.

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10: What would you like to talk about that we didn’t cover in the previous questions?

There comes a time in every shooter’s career when they should hang up their rifles and get involved in promoting the sport of highpower shooting. Too many shooters simply refuse to retire. They continue to shoot into their senior years, often shooting scores that are sub-par to what they are used to – and suffer mentally because of it. My advice is to retire and get involved with running matches, teaching others and recruiting new members into this sport.

Yes, it is good that we are still able to get out and bust a few caps. But being realistic, it is better that they leave the sport when they are on top and share their knowledge, skills and abilities with others.

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