Skill and Repetition
December 8, 2023
We have discovered many things in our years of shooting and coaching, and one of the most startling ones is the direct link between the quality, frequency, and intensity of a shooter’s practice and how well they shoot when it counts.
This discovery comes from our encounters with shooters who are looking for the magic bullet or the pixy dust that top shooters know but the rest of the shooters don’t know. That’s what’s keeping them from being up there with the best shooters in the town, state, region, country, or world. It is deep-seated in the myth that skill is transferable one person to another!
Skill is not transferable. The idea that it is demeans the commitment made by the few shooters out who are willing to put in the time and effort to become really good at sporting clays.
Skill is built through repetition – your own repetition. What someone else sees when they shoot is unique to them, their experiences in shooting and the depth of their sight picture inventory. Coyle brings this up many times in “The Talent Code” regarding the talent hotbeds. The athletes are practicing and learning each part of their game well through repetition, building and myelinating the neural circuits. Then, through chunking, the brain pieces them together and a new level of performance is the result. When athletes are developing a new part of their game through repetition, training and deliberate practice, eventually their games become automatized, and they are able to perform at higher levels with less thought and visual input.
The way this works, as we understand it, is that as the brain becomes more and more accustomed to exactly what you’re asking it to do through deliberate practice, it begins to neurologically suspend from your consciousness anything in the action that is confusing or non-essential to performing the action sequence. When you deliberately practice, you are predicting in detail exactly where and how you want your brain to bring the shot together. Then you must execute your prediction to see if your prediction was correct.
This is where most shooters fail to optimize their practice. As a result, they practice well but when it comes to performing, they don’t have much to draw from. Not because they had not done it, but because they had not done it deliberately, the act never made it to their long-term memory. All of your skill exists in your long-term memory, but the only way the repetitions you make in practice make it into your long-term memory is through prediction and execution based 100% on your prediction to see if your prediction was correct. This is why practicing deliberately is so important.