Raised in Kewanee, Illinois, MSG Norman Anderson began shooting at a local club in with his father in 1988. He joined the Illinois State Junior team and competed at the National Championships for the first time in 1990. While representing the Illinois Team, he was a member of several winning teams and became a Distinguished Rifleman in 1991. He joined the Army in September 1992 and was assigned to the USAMU Service rifle team immediately following Infantry Basic Training and AIT.
He was also a member of the 1996 record setting National Infantry Trophy Team, 1997 record setting National Trophy Team, 1999 record setting Interservice 10 man team, the 2004 record setting Interservice Infantry Trophy Team, and the 2005 record setting Interservice MCCDC team as well as countless other winning teams. He currently coaches the United States Army Reserve Marksmanship Team.
A (surely incomplete) list of some of his shooting and coaching accomplishments are listed below – followed by his interview.
President’s Trophy: 2005, 2008
Daniel Boone Trophy (National Trophy Individual Rifle Match): 2004, 2005
National Trophy: 1997, 2004, 2005, 2016
Hilton Trophy (High Reserve – National Trophy Team Match): 2008, 2012, 2016
Pershing Trophy (High Individual – National Trophy Team Match): 2010
Rattlesnake Trophy (High Army Individual – National Trophy Team Match): 2010
25th Infantry Division Trophy (High Infantry – National Trophy Individual Rifle Match): 2001, 2004, 2005
Association of the US Army Trophy (High Army – National Trophy Individual Rifle Match):
Citizens Soldier Trophy (Highest Reserve – National Trophy Individual Rifle Match): 2010
Hearst Rifle Trophy (Hearst Doubles Team Match): 2009
Mountain Man Trophy (combined aggregate President’s 100, NTI, NTT): 2001, 2004, 2005, 2010
US Forces Command Trophy (combined aggregate NTI, NTT): 2001, 2004, 2005,
Infantry Trophy: 1996, 2004, 2006,
Celtic Chieftain Trophy (Reserve – National Infantry Trophy): 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016
Hankins Memorial Trophy (Reserve Competitor – National Service Rifle Championships): 2008
Major General W.J. Sutton Trophy (High Army Reserve – National Service Rifle Championships): 2008, 2009
Interservice Rifle Champion: 1997
1: What was your experience like when starting out in highpower?
I started with a Clinic at the local club when I was 10, with an M-1 Garand… but it was time that my father and I got to spend together. We would travel to my Uncle’s club and shoot there too, so it was a family (guys) kind of thing. It started as something to do when we didn’t go fishing, but evolved into something much more than that. As I improved, I was more involved in the Junior program; scheduling trips, organizing teams and delivering monthly newsletters. I always enjoyed the people in this game, even from the beginning.
2: Who were your mentors? What do you remember most from these experiences and what still rings true?
Grant Singley came from the same club I did, but he was a couple years ahead of me. John Holliger was one of my first coaches. We used to travel and practice together a lot. He could always make sense of what was going on. I used to take trips with Randy Nichols and Jeff Miller too, also from the club. Several times, we would all be together at matches. There were so many adults in the club that showed endless support to the junior program to include John Torbert, Ed Arneson and Bob Miller, and don’t forget the parents. These people would put up with so much of the “junior issues” to make sure that we always had what we needed to compete. Our program certainly couldn’t have done what it did without all those individuals. I think I have learned to never be the smartest guy in the room and to always learn from those around you. If you find yourself knowing more than those around you… teach. There truly are no secrets in this game, just a matter of who does it better.
3: Can you describe some of your most memorable milestones or breakthroughs? Both starting out… and along the journey to competing nationally.
I remember when we won the Minuteman Trophy for the first time (High Junior Team in the National Trophy Team Match) and we set a new National Record in doing so. Our junior team was competing with adult teams around in the region. We got a little big for our britches as they say, but our confidence carried us to an incredible bond between us. Joining the Army to be a part of the Marksmanship Unit… wow, what an honor! I was given the opportunity to shoot alongside some of the legends that I saw as a junior. I had a fabulous career, but some of the highlights include holding national and Interservice team records (some still stand) and being able to win some stuff individually… I have many, many memories, but winning both the President’s Match and the National Trophy Individual in the same year, winning the Mountain Man trophy a few times, and all of the team matches over the years rank atop some of my favorites.
4: Describe your routine to help you stay on top of your best game? Off-Season, Mid-Season and ramping up to bigger matches?
– Practice? Obviously, as a member of the USAMU, there is a lot of live fire practice to be had – but only a limited time of it was tailored to you individually. Most times when training, everyone would work on the same positions or stages at the same time. I always enjoyed shooting practice team matches… every opportunity to work the team was fun.
– Dry-Fire? As a junior, I did about an hour of dry fire training a night – even on school nights during highpower season. We shot 4 position smallbore in the winter and I would dry fire some with my smallbore gun, and some with my M-1A. Once I got to the USAMU, most of the dry fire training came on inclement weather days or in the off-season – but some of the live fire training we did integrated dry fire into it, especially standing.
– Mental? I found that teaching during the off season helped as much as anything when I was on top of my game. Just seeing the “light come on” with students seemed to fuel my drive. I really didn’t develop a sound mental program until later in my career. Once I did however, I found some consistency at a higher level than I had ever experienced previously. As part of that program, I would visualize at home each night as well as for practice or match preparation.
5: How important is technique, mental program, and equipment in influencing your performance? What is their proportional influence?
Each of these plays a crucial role independently, but the understanding of the collective is what really makes it all come together. Here is what I mean: of course your technique is important. But how much better “technique” does someone really have? I would argue that most people (Master and High Master) probably share a relatively similar hold. Understanding that hold and making the most of it is what makes good great. A mental program is important as well, but early on, most of us were doing good if we had all of our stuff and were on time. As a beginner, simply not getting defeated by yourself is going to take you a very long way. Managing your expectations can benefit you as much as a well designed mental program. As tempting as it may be, one must refrain from measuring self simply against the match bulletin. Great equipment will be a requirement in order to attain your maximum potential, and many (rifle) manufacturers produce incredible out of the box samples which should move you along nicely. However, one must understand that working too hard on perfect technique, or too much emphasis on a strong mental program or even the best rifle aren’t going to make a huge difference to start. Understanding the role of each and how they collectively contribute to the end product (kind of like fingers on a hand) will ultimately create a situation where each facet improves with relativity and make for a smooth and sharp learning curve.
6: What was the toughest match you’ve ever competed in where you held it together? What was that like?
I actually tell this story a lot… the President’s Rifle Match in 2005. I was squadded on relay 3, target 10 on Viale range… dream scenario, right? After surviving some early drama in the pits (one of the pullers didn’t show) it was my turn to shoot. After a good prep period, it was time… I shot my first shot and in perfect timing, target 11 went down… AND THEN mine went down. I had done nothing wrong, executed according to plan and was happy with the delivery. But, when that neighboring target went down (the timing was so perfect) the thought process was interrupted by the nervous worry of a cross-fire. I mean, we wait all year for this match, and I’m on target 10… and this is how it starts??? I can’t emphasize how crushing those distracting thoughts were even if only for a few seconds. I have said for a very long time that it is critical to eliminate those kinds of distractions, but sometimes it is easier said than done.
7: If you had to choose only ONE answer, what has helped you improve the most towards your goals in highpower?
I would have to say that being a part of the USAMU / Army Reserve teams has helped the most. Simply being surrounded by some of the best riflemen in the country makes you better. Having quality equipment and ammunition as a result of being assigned to those organizations is a huge bonus too. Ultimately, I was afforded opportunities to teach, mentor and coach as well – and I will tell you that teaching and coaching (paying it forward by giving back) really is rewarding.
8: Why do you continue to stay involved with highpower?
As I mentioned earlier, giving it back is very rewarding – so that is a huge reason. I have always loved this game and the people that play it – so when people come up and say “I read that article” or “you helped me that one time” or whatever, how could you ever get away from that?
9: What are the causes of an exceptional team? Is it a known quantity, do you see it coming, or dose it simply form in front of you and give you the chance to capitalize on it? How do we as competitors prepare the ground for such teams?
Exceptional teams are results of several components. It truly is more than an assembly of exceptional shooters, but they are obviously a critical element. Logistical support (to include quality equipment and ammunition) is very important as if you don’t have support, your efforts could be in vain. I am a big believer in team chemistry though some would argue. From my vantage, team members must have trust and confidence in themselves, other team members, coach and captain. That is gained from chemistry and chemistry is created from experience with each other. I have been a part of successful teams that had chemistry and some that just had talent. When the chemistry comes in, that’s when it becomes magical. So, from experience, you can kind of see it coming when you know the players that are available, and you see the performances and confidence peaking at the right time and the guns and ammo are working… that certainly makes it a joy to be a part of. When it does come together, you certainly do have to capitalize on it and do your best to bring the best out of everyone. To prepare yourself to be a part of that kind of scenario, I would say that you have to start by building a “core” of top tier shooters with a good coach and captain, then shoot together as much as possible. Practice together and shoot matches together. As you build the core of the team, new members will be drawn to your effort and then the machine will begin to feed itself. You will know when you get it to that point…
10: What would you like to talk about that wasn’t covered in the previous questions?
I think it is important to mention to be a good competitor. Doing so means more that shooting well… one must understand and be knowledgeable of the rules, especially scoring and match conduct. Do your best to help those around you and exemplify good sportsmanship. I did mention earlier that there are really no secrets in this game, so if you have a question – ask it. Ask many people, get many opinions and then formulate your own. Make the most of every experience, good or bad – as you can learn equally from both. Learn to enjoy the feeling of success without losing humility and always congratulate those that are successful, even if it be your biggest adversary.
For tips from MSG Anderson, be sure to visit the articles and Q&A found at https://thecmp.org/training-tech/shooting-tips-from-the-usamu-service-rifle-team/