The Mental Game
The biggest obstacle I face in trying to improve my shooting performance is between my ears. My mental and visual focus seem to come and go throughout the round. Any suggestions?
As we gain experience and practice regularly, we feel we have earned the right to see our scores rise and proficiency improve. But technical proficiency alone isn’t sufficient to land us at the top of the scoreboard. A pre-shot process is also a critical element. This pre-shot process has two essential components in sporting clays: a pre-shot planning process and a pre-shot routine.
In the pre-shot planning process, you must observe the targets, devise a target engagement plan and test your plan. Once you’ve developed a plan, you are ready to begin the pre-shot routine phase of your process. Here is where you must transition your mind from the heavily analytical planning process, where the conscious mind is hyperactive, to the heavily subconscious process of executing the shot. Since you can’t put the conscious mind to sleep or render it inactive, you must occupy your conscious mind with thoughts that promote mental and visual focus. These thoughts must be consistent from one pair to the next.
Pre-shot routines have three critical components:
1) Visualization or “out of body rehearsal” — imagining what it will look and feel like to move the gun to your break points and break the shot pair.
2) Deep breathing — to preempt the oxygen deprivation which often occurs as we start to breathe more shallowly in reaction to nervous anticipation.
3) A visual cue — a verbal trigger that we say to ourselves just prior to calling for the targets, which prompts us to focus acutely on the targets. Devising and executing a pre-shot sequence is easier said than done, but recognizing the need for a pre-shot process is half the battle.
Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at www.doncurrie.com.