I’m struggling this season. I seem to drop four times as many birds on third and fourth pairs as I do on first and second pairs. Until I fix this I am stuck in the mid-80s, which is much better than a year ago but not as good as I want to be. What do I do?
This is purely a mental game issue. More specifically, it is an issue with your pre-shot routine. In order to achieve consistency, your pre-shot routine must be consistent. Your conscious mind seems to be wandering off during your third and fourth pair at each station. Sporting clays is a unique sport in that the specific task at hand changes with every station. True, our goal is always to break the targets, but how we break the targets changes from station to station. As a result, we must use our conscious mind to analyze the targets and develop a plan for breaking each unique target pair. To put it simply, we are in “analysis mode” during pre-shot planning. Once our plan is developed and we move into the stand, we should be equipped with a rehearsed plan. By “rehearsed” I mean that you should have completed a series of visualizations of the movement you’ll execute to break the target pair.
At this point, your conscious mind should be occupied only with the focal points on each target. It is to these focal points that you apply acute visual focus just prior to and through each break point. Trust your plan and your abilities and perform only one function: Feed the brain the visual information it needs to break the pair.
Let me give you homework. Read the NSCA Level II manual—specifically, “The Mental Game” starting on page 15 (bit.ly/L2Manual). Also read my previously published articles and accompanying videos on The Optimal Process (doncurrie.com/optimal). A couple of books you might find of value are written by Bob Rotella, one of the most well-respected authorities on the mental game in golf. “The Golfer’s Mind” and “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” are both analogous to sporting clays.
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.