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Article 4 – 2016

person aiming shotgun at target range

Question: I have enjoyed shooting clay targets for many years, but have never shot in a real competition. I seem to be able to shoot some reasonable scores when I go to the range however whenever our group of friends shoot for a few dollars to add some reward to our practice rounds I tend to suffer from nerves a little and my scores show this. Have you got some advice on how to overcome this?

Todd Macintosh, Berwick VIC


Answer: I am pretty sure you are suffering from what is commonly called the “little man in your head syndrome”. In essence what is happening is that after years of training the essential skills to shoot relatively good scores in practice rounds when you are put in a stressful situation, such as shooting for money, you are introducing another unknown element to the shooting equation. Pressure. Dealing with it is one of the most important elements of the sport. I rate it as important as a good fitting shotgun.

The only difference between just shooting clays for fun as opposed to shooting for money is the result of your shot is being recorded in the latter scenario. Once scores are written down pressure becomes a factor because of pride, reputation and even financial loss or gain. When you are shooting for fun your heart rate will be lower, your swing smoother and in general everything will come together with ease. Once pressure is exerted there becomes a tendency to move away from shooting the targets with your own natural ability and all of a sudden a little voice in your head starts to tell you how to mount the gun, where to look, how tight to hold the gun etc. etc. At first you will think this little voice in your head telling you things is somebody sent from heaven trying to help you achieve your ultimate goal and win the prize, but in actual fact he is nothing short of the devil himself. He is actually trying to distract you from all the technical knowledge your brain has stored after learning from many perfect shots time and time again. This “little man” is trying to make you mechanically shoot the targets through constant instruction so your own natural ability and technique will be distracted.

Many people overcome this instructional voice by distracting this little man with his loud voice. The most common way is by simply hearing a song in your head and concentrating on this so as to let the actual shooting happen naturally. This of course only works if you have a sound technical knowledge and ability built up from constant amounts of quality training. How many times have you heard of people shooting well when they are suffering from a hangover? Why you may ask? It is simply because when you are feeling ill or suffering from the effects of last nights party the little man in your head leaves you alone because you already have the built in excuse why you will shoot badly and all of a sudden because you are shooting simply on your instincts a competitive score is built.

I have often suggested there are two types of successful competitive shooters. Those that are intelligent, but learn how to shoot dumb and those that are just plain dumb and just shoot naturally. Sadly the latter are often the hardest to beat.

There is really no difference between shooting a round of practice at your local club and competing in the Olympic Games. It is only how you perceive the situation.

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