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Article 1 – 2019 (February)

people posing and smiling with shotguns

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 1 – 2019 (February)


Question: A few different people have coached me over the years and I have found that I am pretty much back to where I started from ten years ago. I shoot a variety of events that I admit may stop me become a master of any, but I do enjoy being able to shoot at a range of clay target venues around Sydney nearly every weekend. My question is simple. Is there one piece of advice that you can give me that may change me? I am realistic. At forty-seven years old I know I wont be going to the next Olympics, but I feel I am just wasting time and money taking generic advice from professional coaches.

Name and address withheld


Answer: As I have no way of knowing who has coached you, what advice you have been given or what skill level you are currently at your question becomes nearly impossible to answer in such a short space.

Ten years may sound a long time, but in competitive shooting terms you have time in front of you to achieve substantial goals in the sport. Forty-seven years of age in clay target shooting isn’t even at the minimum international veterans age so please don’t despair too much.

My simple advice is persistence. I would have no doubt that you would have received some great advice over the past decade, but the trick is sorting out the good advice from the bad. Helpful coaching tips will take time to implement and often you won’t know if a new technique has helped until you are put under a substantial amount of competition pressure. A “never give up” attitude will take you a long way in clay shooting as consistency will always win in the long run.

For many years I travelled the world with the Australian Shooting Squad and in the Skeet Team for nearly two decades was a guy called David Cunningham. When I first met him he was a very capable Sporting Clay competitor, but it would be fair to say David went on to become one of the countries best all round competitors having won National Titles in American Skeet, Sporting Clays and was a runner up in a National DTL title as well.

The lure of competing for Australia at the Olympics was the motivating factor that got David involved with ISSF Skeet in the late 1980’s. It would also be an honest assessment to say that he wasn’t the most gifted natural shooter that I have seen as he had to work and train hard to achieve anything. The one attribute that I rated David Cunningham higher than just about anybody I have ever met was his ability to grind out a competition to the very end. Many times I know his fellow competitors had written him off only to be standing in the crowd at the trophy presentations listening him give an acceptance speech. He ended up becoming a World Cup Finalist and a Silver Medallist as well as a dual Olympian. He went from a Sporting Clay competitor to an Olympian in under a decade and ended up retiring from international competition not long before he was fifty years of age. A great and loyal friend and I miss travelling with him.

I always use David as an example to young shooters because it is this attribute of perseverance that can overcome any other advice you are given in not only your sporting life, but your business and personal life also. It is no surprise that David went on to become a very successful businessman in the agricultural and farming community as well.

You can change your stance, your guns, your ammunition, recoil pad and about five thousand other things, but unless you are prepared to persevere over time and record in a training diary what you have and haven’t tried you may very well just be going around in circles. Set some honest and realistic goals, surround yourself with positive people, take responsibility for your actions and above all persevere under the pressure of competition. I know it may just sound like more psychiatric rhetoric, but it one of the cheapest and most practical pieces of advice you will ever receive.

Good luck in your shooting.

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