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Observations on Blocked vs Random Practice

Blocked practice yields a high percentage of success during practice. But on game day it falls apart, the research shows. Random practice, while yielding fewer broken targets as you practice, will hold up more on game day and yield higher scores.

If you want to practice left-to-right crossovers or any other trajectory, shoot the same target from different distances and in different breakpoints 8-10 times each. This requires the brain to figure the timing sequence of the shot each time you change the shot. Incidentally, this is what is required when shooting sporting.

When shooting a regimented game like skeet or trap, where it is easy to isolate a specific target trajectory you’re missing, then blocked practice is how you correct that specific shot. But as you move into a tournament, you should shoot rounds.

It is more important to practice the game, all of its subtleties, and how you want it to come together as you perform.

In sporting clays, we don’t know the trajectory of our targets until we get into the stand. This means your ability to analyze the pair and pick the correct way to shoot it is just as important as your ability to shoot the targets in the pair.

In skeet, High 2 is the same in Frozen Butt, Alaska as it is at Greater Houston Gun Club. And because skeet can be shot using the exact sight pictures, the brain can be trained to recreate those exact sight pictures over and over – regardless of how the shooter perceives them. And you can shoot it with one or both eyes.

Even though you are using the same tools to break skeet targets as we are breaking sporting targets, the two games are worlds apart in the application of the skills used to dominate each game.

Anticipation is a Learned Skill

It’s all about the anticipation of where the target is going to be. That is a learned skill, just like public speaking or hitting a little white ball towards a cup in the ground.

How much you want to do well matters less than how many times you have done it, failed, and done it again and again. This is what builds the circuit and allows you to hone it into what you want it to be so you can depend on it.

Everything you do is a circuit in the brain. The better or more skillful you become at anything, the farther and farther out you can anticipate while being where you are. The farther out you can anticipate, the less fear you will experience, and the better you will be able to perform, regardless of the arena or how you perceive what you are doing.

If you want to perform a skill at a high level, it takes time, practice, dedication, and understanding of how to build the skill first.

How many times you have put yourself in a position to experience the emotions that you will encounter when performing in front of people? We are all 10s when singing in the shower but become 5s when looking in the mirror.

How well you perform is determined by how many times you have done it, failed, learned from it, and moved on. We encourage our shooters to always be looking for a target they cannot hit and master. And we tell them to call for advice if they can’t do it.

They should always put themselves in front of as many people as possible. Have the opportunity to fail and experience the emotions they will experience in a shoot-off or closing on a good score.

When you have practiced correctly, what you do will become a movie in your brain. And when the movie is vivid and easily recalled due to the number of times you have recalled it successfully, performance becomes easy. But until you have done it over and over, it will seem hard.

Confidence and Competence

It is not about whether you know the right lead to hit the target. It’s about how many times you have applied the correct lead and how the lead occurred. It’s about how well the timing of the shot comes together that controls competence and eventually confidence.

You will never be able to be more confident than you are competent. Confidence and competence come from doing and failing and adjusting what you did and doing it again.

Through trying and failing, you begin to fail better and better until you begin to succeed more than you fail.

What we understand now from research on performance and building skill circuits is that failure is a necessary part of learning and creating skill.

Random Practice is Critical

The thing that creates blocked practice is shooters trying to get better without missing. This leads to wanting to hit more targets in practice. In turn, this makes them want to shoot a certain target 50 times. Well, it might take them a few shots to “find it” and after that, they just repeat it and experience a high number of hits. But on game day, you can’t ask the referee to let you shoot the
pair a few times to find it and then shoot it for score.

This is why random practice is so critical to performance. And it’s why blocked practice can be effective in regimented games like skeet and trap when working out a problem target.

However, when you are getting ready to shoot a tournament you must move your practice to performing the game as opposed to the component parts of the game. As you get better at the component parts of the game, then playing the game becomes easier. Your skill at anticipating in front of the moving target becomes better and better, just like your comfort level when performing in front of more and more people.

And this is how you can become a better person by conquering the emotional battles while learning to perform
in this silly game. I mean, really… Shooting a 30-cent bullet at a 40-cent target to try to break it before it breaks when it hits the ground. Really…

But when you begin to realize the same struggles in learning to shoot better are the same struggles we all have in life, then as you conquer them in shooting, the by-product of the struggle conquering them in your own life. This is where we have come in our teaching.

You can’t be more confident than you are competent. And you don’t become competent trying to copy what someone else is doing. You’ve got to do it on your own. The sooner you summon the courage to do it on your own and stop caring about what others think about you, the sooner you will see your game move on to higher and higher levels of competence.