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Article 2 – 2019 (March)

person aiming shotgun at target range

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 2 – 2019 (March)


Question: I am a believer that clay target shooting isn’t technically a very hard sport to learn as opposed to other physical activities like golf or tennis. What I am finding difficult is the mental approach to the game. I find hitting clays far easier in practice than in competition. Any advice in this area would be greatly appreciated.

Michael McKenna Ascot, QLD


Answer: It is a question I have covered before in many different ways and for the most part I tend to agree with your comment. Certainly the technical aspects of golf can be quite complex and the variety of situations a golfer must perfect to be competitive at the highest level outweigh what most elite shotgunners would face. To explain that further consider a round of traditional Skeet broken simply down into eight different stations with targets being released from only two fixed target machines. The amount of different shots required is reasonably defined as under a couple of dozen. In golf the possibilities of different scenarios that may be required in any one round could be endless (particularly where someone like me tends to find their golf ball after a drive off the tee). What is very similar between the two sports is the mental game and this aspect more or less will determine who the winners and losers at the top level may be.

Whether you are standing over a two metre putt to win a tournament or having to hit the last clay target to take home the monthly trophy at your local range you will no doubt be both faced with one particular constant when you are placed under pressure. That constant is the “little man in your head” (maybe it’s a “little woman” for female sportspeople) that will be firing away instructions so you can take home the prize. You think that little voice is there to try and help you become a champion, but in reality it is quite the opposite as that little guy is really the devil and he is only there to destroy you. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The trick to shooting successful is to perfect your technique on the practice range therefore when entering a competition you can simply “just do it’ without having to tell yourself any technical information. This can be a lot harder than you think and as a general rule the bigger the competition and the closer you come to the end of the event and winning then the louder the voice becomes. Until you miss. And lose. Then the little man is silent.

I am always amazed how some competitors can shoot world record scores in practice sessions and not come within ten-percent of that score the very next day in a competition. You must develop a mental preparation before each shot that is simple and repetitious. The more complex you make your pre-shot routine the harder it will be to duplicate when your heart starts to beat at 150 reps per minute at the beginning or the end of your round. No matter what routine you develop it must be void of the mass quantity technical data rushing through your head at the moment you call for the target to be released into the sky. Of course Shooting, as in Golf, requires the technical and mechanical aspects of the sport to be perfected in practice so your brain has the knowledge and confidence to let you perform these tasks under pressure. Your brain is a marvellous piece of equipment and it will work for you under the stress of competition if you let it. That little man yelling at you is simply interfering with your brain and the knowledge it has learnt during some quality training.

See the target, shoot it. When standing over a two-metre putt requires to see the correct line and hit the ball. The more you complicate it the greater your chance is to miss.

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