Meet Julie Waasted, a woman with an incredible story of perseverance. She's a very active 3-Gun competitor who took up shooting after complications from brain surgery caused her to lose her eyesight in one eye.
We recently got the chance to interview Julie, read on to find out how shooting literally saved her life!
How did you get started shooting competitively?
I had my brain surgeon suggest shooting as rehabilitation, having had no real progress with traditional rehabilitation, I went to a local shooting range purchased a gun and 5000 rounds of ammo.
I started shooting at the indoor range and became very quickly bored. My late husband noticed a huge difference on the first trip to the range that my speech was better. I kept shooting and seeing progress daily. My surgeon then told me about 3-Gun and I was intrigued! Having been blinded in my right eye during surgery, it was a whole new set of learning for me to focus on - I had to go from being a right-handed shooter to a left-handed shooter.
What got you hooked on 3-Gun? What do you like best about it and how has it helped you recover?
The focus it takes to change everything I knew about shooting long guns, from right-handed to left was an amazing benefit to my rehabilitation. I had something that challenged me. Once I shot my first 3-Gun match and the intensity and focus it required, I was hooked!
It forced me to rely on memory and speech, it also helped me to navigate the world without running into walls, people, and cars. Ha, it changed my whole life! Being blind in one eye, you have no depth perception out to 20’. Everything is flat, so I had to conquer ways to figure out the distance between barriers, targets, holds.
What's your favorite gun?
That's a loaded question! Time changes which gun I love for whatever particular reason. This past year has been Shotgun. I took some time off due to my husband's health and passing, so when I decided to get back into shooting for therapy, I decided to focus on shotgun and go to the world IPSC shoot in France.
Do you have a good piece of advice to share that you've learned from another shooter?
Wow, everyone in our shooting community is amazing - everyone from the newer shooters to the seasoned professionals.
I would say Chris Anderson, a 3-Gun Nation Pro Shooter, gave me a key to shooting 3-Gun, “Find the best place in the shooting area and remember your targets”. Most stages will have 2-5 positions you can shoot from that you can hit the most targets from and his words still ring true today. “Remember those places, and the count of targets you are going to shoot there, then shoot the other targets between those places on the way to your next place.”
When this sunk in, I was at the ProAm at Atlanta 3Gun in GA. I found all my “spots” and he was right! There are areas that are better to shoot a target from than others. I would talk out loud to myself, go to the stick shoot 8, go to the table shoot 6, etc...
I was so excited after doing a lengthy walkthrough I had to share with a few of my friends who were also new to the game. We were on the stages with flashlights, I was so excited to share my discovery. LOL
The brand new shooters have always been my weak spot, one shooter told me once that they just “didn’t want to be last”. I use that as my motivation for every match, “Shoot safely and don't be last”. If I accomplish that at a major match, I have won the day. I try and squad with new shooters so I can assist them with questions. I know I will never be the Dianna Muller, or Lena Miculek’s of the world, but I’m going to have fun being the best ambassador to the sport I can be.
What's the best piece of advice you can give someone who wants to start shooting competition but thinks they can’t because of a physical limitation?
Never say never! Always put yourself out there to try - failure is a part of experiencing life.
A really close friend of mine told me after I had really screwed up at the Rockcastle ProAm, “You showed up, you fought through your deficit and self-doubt, you finished! You were not last!” This was also the same day that I was asked to do a live interview on the 3-Gun broadcast at the match. I was so concerned about my speech pauses, I went back to the hotel early just to hide. At that time I think I had “spoken a total of 14 words” that whole match, as another friend had pointed out a few years later. Don't let the world pass you by!
I had a great experience a few years ago - I was volunteering for Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) and they had a range introduction day for war heroes who are amputees. I had an ah-ha moment when I was giving my history of brain surgery, blind in one eye, speech issues, and memory issues - I was looking at these heroes and light bulbs were going off in their heads. I could almost hear them saying to themselves, “wow she can shoot with these deficits, all I have is a missing appendage” or whatever their issues were.
I learned from them and they learned from me. We get stuck in our self-doubt, and "pity me" attitudes, and until you can overcome the self-doubt, life sucks. The world keeps spinning with or without us, and I prefer to be WITH the world!
Can you give us a quick training tip?
Work on remembering the basics, clear your head, and focus on the now!
Each and every day is a different challenge - in the beginning, I needed to teach myself how to shoulder long guns left shoulder. I figured out the best way was repetition, which can get boring with a capital B. I went into the spare bedroom and turned on the TV I had the bed between me and the tv. I placed my rifle on the bed, I would watch a tv show and choose a character on the program that was always going on and off screen. Every time let’s say Sheldon on Big Bang Theory would come on screen I had to pick up the rifle sight in and pull the trigger. I would fight the urge to pick up off the right shoulder. You would be amazed how many time Sheldon comes on screen in a 30 min show. I would do this for hours and would be sweating by the time I was ready to stop.
Now, I get encouragement from watching Michale Voigt videos, I work on grip and stance a lot. I have a tendency to blade my stance and my friend and part-time coach in TX has me working on standing straight towards the target. It’s really all about the basics, no matter where your level is at.\
Meet Jalise and Justine Williams - two incredible young ladies who have taken the competitive shooting world by storm! At just 15 and 16 years old, they are already seasoned competitors with dozens of titles under their belts.