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Changing from Learning to Shoot to Learning to Compete

Sooner or later you will learn the value of not setting up so close to the trap and having to chase the bird with the muzzle and when that happens you will find yourself in B or A class ready to move on up. Would you like to know what you will have to do to achieve that? It has a lot to do with how you handle your score. In the beginning as a new competitor you are mystified with how and why it breaks. You’re not competitive heck you don’t even care who wins all you want to do is go shoot and play with your new found ability to hit moving targets with a shotgun. Then you decide to buy a new shotgun, one of those over and udders and then comes the fitting, then the barrel modifications, then the new chokes and the recoil pad and the trigger job then the shooting vest with your name on it and then the clays car and trailer and then the pallet of ammo and before you know it you have exhausted all the avenues of buying your way to being a better shooter and you have to actually practice. When practicing more doesn’t get you to shoot any better than 72 with and occasional 76 then you are faced with the dilemma of going to take lessons from someone in order to learn some new things in order to improve your score.So you start by getting some videos made by some of the top shooters that show you actually “what the shooter sees” when he shoots which makes you concentrate on the gap between the barrel and the bird. Problem is though when you try to do it there are two barrels and which one are you supposed to look at? You try not only what is touted in the video but what you have read in the different articles in the magazine all of which share a common thread, they are all in conflict with each other. Confused you begin to ask your shooting buddies what to do and they all give you $10 worth of free advice some of which helps and some doesn’t. If you are lucky, you seek out an experienced coach that can take your preconceived notions and mold them into a shooting system for you so that you have the same approach on every target and can explain some of the mysteries of the game. Well hopefully you got through all that and you have begun to improve and have won a few class championships and are moving up the ladder. Eventually you will find yourself looking at and worrying about your score and if you do that after you have finished shooting you will survive. If you make the mistake of looking at your score while you are shooting we are afraid that you will make one of the most common mistakes we see, you will begin to shoot not to miss. When this happens you become hesitant and confused and loose your rhythm and feel which is not good if you want to shoot well.Eventually you will discover that having goals will help you not only move along the experience and improvement highway but when the goals you create are correct evaluation becomes discovery. Everyone talks about goals for the year, goals for practice but what about a goal for every competition you shoot? We are talking more than just having fun. We are talking process goals like; focus on every target before you move, eyes to the second target before we move the gun, see the front edge as the target moves into the break point, stay in my routine for every pair, use the correction routine and when we miss learn from it and move on. These are goals that if you stay true to them will improve your mental game as well as your physical game by helping you stay in the present.In the beginning of your competition career you will find that you must first make goals and then you will realize that you must stick to them and that is easier said than done. The first goals you make will typically be score goals and those don’t ever work because of varying course difficulty. Then you will realize that you must begin to make better corrections when you miss. What is ideal? Well let’s just say that there are 12 stations and you miss one on every station. If the misses all occurred on the first pair of each station that would be good because that means that you miss read the target and corrected it and ran the station out. In this instance you are just a few tournaments away from running stations and you gotta run stations to win tournaments. If however the misses are at the end of each station this could mean one of several different things. You could be taking focus for granted, you could be trusting the rhythm you are in to break the target, you could be speeding up through the set, you could be counting the targets which takes you to the future, there are so many things that could be going on causing the misses. Here is where an experienced coach is worth his or her salt. Experienced coaches in just about any arena come to the realization that 60% of everything that is taught applies to everybody and experience teaches you what of the other 40% needs to be introduced to the student when. Knowing when is where the real expertise of an experienced coach pays big dividends for the athlete.In the beginning the shooter must learn to stick to their goals when things go bad but in the end the shooter must learn to stick to their goals when things are going good! That is what learning how to compete is. Being able to stick to your goals and keep doing what works even when things aren’t going your way is the first battle the shooter must overcome. The tendency when things go south is to go immediately to the default goal of “not looking bad” when you are learning to shoot and moving up through the classes. When you get to master class you can shoot and now you must learn to keep it together at the end of the shoot. It is possible to not know you are down 23 but it is impossible to not know you are only down 3 and if you don’t know your friends will let you know! It is there where sticking with your goals and staying process oriented when things are going your way to finish out a good card at a one day shoot and then on day two of a two day shoot and then on day three of a three day shoot. If you are not in master class you might not understand what we are saying but take it from us it is real. We have taught hundreds of master class shooters how to compete and we know what has to be overcome to win and get punches in master class. We don’t write about it much because the master shooter is such a small part of the whole and unless you are in master class you might be able to understand the words but application is impossible if you are still trying to learn how to shoot.Lets look at this another way. Its one thing to be able to shoot 10 straight on an easy high incoming pair that don’t take much lead and that are delivered so that there is no rush between the shots. That is because we have taken all the doubt (pressure) out of the shot because the targets delivered as we described are well within your ability level. The question remains however could you run 10 straight, 10 times in a row on similar pairs or on the same pair for that matter? What would your answer be? Just remember what it was for a few sentences and let’s see if it changes.What would happen if we were to add 50 people watching while you shot the same pair 5 times in a row 10 times? Now what would happen to you if we were to change to 10 easy simple different pair 5 times in a row, remember the people watching? What would that do to your score? Now let’s include one difficult station two medium difficult stations and the other 6 simple easy stations, how would that effect your approach and score without the people watching? How has your thought process changed since we have talked about the original 5 easy high incoming pair? Are you still as confident? Why? What does your lack of confidence make you think about? Do you look at this as an opportunity to show how well you can shoot and do the best you can and learn to become a better shooter? Do you look at this as something you hope you can do without embarrassing yourself and looking like a fool? Well depending on how you answered the last two questions it should be obvious whether you know how to compete or not.When you are learning how to compete you are eager to put yourself into situations like this so you can perform and do the best you can! You are not afraid to fail because you know that regardless of result it is all feed back because you are looking at this and every situation as an opportunity to learn and enjoy the learning process and better yourself. When you look at competition in this way you are in control of whether you win or not because it is all about learning what you do best and what you need to improve on.This basic change in the way you look at competition has more to do with Fear and how you choose to let it control or not control you which is the difference in learning to shoot and learning to compete. As our journey continues it seems that there are a lot of fear based decisions in our game as well as the game of life. It will be how you handle this fear that in great measure determines how good you get at anything you do. We realize that this may be hard for most of you to grasp but then again we are talking to a small majority of you out there who want to really learn to compete in master class. Most who have the fortune to punch into master class just give up and the learning stops as well as improvement and then the funs leaves and their performance goes anywhere but up. All of this because of one four letter word that begins with “F”! Wait till next month cause we’re gonna change Fear from “sunny side up” to “over easy”.

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