Effective Sports Training: An Interview with Top Shot's Gabby Franco

Learn from an Olympic shooter what it takes to be the best.

Posted Jun 18, 2012

Gabriela Franco grew up in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. As a child she was very active, and participated in different sports such as swimming, gymnastics, and running. One day her father took her to the shooting range when she was 11 years old. Since that day, she knew she wanted to know more about the sport.

At the age of 16, Gabby became part of the Venezuelan Olympic Team, and won her first International Silver Medal at the Bolivarian Games in Peru (1997). Since then Gabby became one of favorite pistol shooter of the Team, competing in 14 different countries in five years and earning at least a dozen of International titles. She became Venezuelan National Champion for several years, and placed 37th in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. 

Gabby moved to the United States in 2002 shortly after her last match in Brazil (the South American Games) where she won three gold medals. On the fourth season of History channel's Top Shot, Gabby was the first woman to advance to the individual competition.

Currently Gabby is a firearms instructor in the Miami area.  She is an active competitor in the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). Her website is www.gabbyfranco.com.

How did sports, including shooting, help your high energy level when you were a child?

I was always a very active, and a not-so-quiet child (I would say I was a little bit of a rebel), so my parents always made me try different activities and sports from swimming up to modeling, until one day shooting came to my life and I think it was the perfect balance for a hyperactive girl with a lack of attention. Sports have been the best thing that has happened in my life — not only because is good for your health, but most importantly as a teen it kept me away of bad habits and gave me a sense of responsibility.

How do you mentally prepare for a competition?

The first thing I do is think positively. I always review what I need to do in my mind, perfectly — over and over again.

How did you prepare for Top Shot competitions, not knowing what weapons you would be using?

I always had an open mind and repeated to myself that no matter what I would have in front of me that day, I will try to do my best. Positive and effective thinking made me overcome any possibility to have a negative thought.

How do you cope with distractions while you are shooting?

As a child I always had problems with concentration, but I have learned to forget about the rest of the world while I am shooting. It is difficult to explain today, ‘cause I have been doing it for over 19 years, but when I am shooting I don’t care about what happens around me. I just think about what I am about to do and how I am going to do it.

How do you refocus when a shot doesn’t go as well as you planned?

It is simple - I accept that I am human and I can make mistakes, but also as a human being I can correct them and do my best to make it happen a second time.

You competed on the Venezuelan team at the 2000 Olympics when you were 19 years old. What advice would you give young athletes who are competing at an elite level?

First thing…. ENJOY! This is an experience of a lifetime and you always want to have great memories. Whatever you did prior is what counts as far as your training and preparation, so enjoy the experience and live it as if it would be the last time.

Second…. Always see yourself as a winner - it doesn’t matter if you currently are or not, but this way of thinking will take you to your Medal or very close to it. :)

Is shooting skill something you are born with, or can you learn it? Or both?

I think we all have skills for specific activities that make those activities easy to do. However, if you don’t have perfect skills for the sport, you can still learn them. I believe that what counts is your determination to be the best. Having skills but not practicing will only take you to one level. Having no skills but learning the sport and having the determination to do it makes you a winner!

What are some of your principles of firearms instruction?

I teach without selfishness; I teach all I know.
I transmit my passion for the sport.
I teach how this sport can help you in your everyday life by changing your way of thinking.

My goal is to bring the best out of my students.

What recommendations would you give someone who is skilled at shooting, but wants to take their performance to the next level?

Make sure you have STRONG shooting fundamentals. Shooting is all about repetition. If your technique is not correct, you will be repeating the same mistakes thousands of times. Train as much as you can without compromising the enjoyment of practicing the shooting sports.

What are three things that shooters can do now to improve their performance?

1. Physical training like running, swimming or any cardiovascular activity.

2. Have a healthy diet.

3. Shoot with perfect technique.

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