Viewing Change in Your Shooting

When you teach and coach the number of people we do, you begin to see some obvious performance trends, and attitudes in shooters of different abilities. One such trend is how people view change. Several times over the past months, we have seen this phrase used in advertisements and flyers soliciting students for shooting instruction –

“He will work with what you are doing and not change you and make you better.”

Now, let’s look at what was actually said in this statement. This statement implies that regardless of what you are doing, it is correct and you won’t have to change anything to get better. That being the case, what are you paying the instructor for? Seems to us that if everything you are doing is correct, all you need to do is copious amounts of it and you should be winning major tournaments in no time. NOT!

This "no change" thing is an interesting concept to us. Regardless of who we study or study with, the one common denominator that all successful people have, regardless of skill, is their acceptance of change. In fact, they are eager to try new things and are never afraid to fail. Their motto seems to be "if it ain’t broke, break it so you can make it better."

People who shoot sporting can easily be divided into three categories: beginner (58.5 average), intermediate (78.5 average), and advanced (87.5 average). How a person views change can and will totally determine how long they spend in each category. This, in turn, determines how quickly a shooter improves and the level of the shooter's potential.

In the following paragraphs, we will describe each category, how they each view change, and how it affects progress and improvement. The following is not a “writer's interpretation of what he/she thinks goes on.” It is, however, a coach's view of what we see actually happens to actual shooters. Some of our answers may surprise you. But they are actual observations of not only the successes and failures of our students, but the observations of hundreds of frustrated shooters from all over the world.

The beginner is excited about change. The whole concept of shotgunning is fascinating to them. They read everything they can get their hands on. They listen to anyone, especially the ones who can break more clays than they can. (You know, the "guy in the boat that catches the most fish is automatically the expert” theory.) They accept change and they improve. It is important to note that the acceptance of change came from the confusion and frustration caused by the failure of trying to self-coach.

The advanced shooter is also excited about change – at least, the smart ones are. They have become advanced through recognizing a plateau in performance and immediately looked for what needed to change to improve. They realize that change is the natural evolution of improvement. They also realize that great shots are not necessarily the best people to seek advice from. They realize that great shots can certainly show you how they break a certain target, and you might or might not be able to do it the way they do it. The advanced shooter, however, realizes that if they go to someone who deals in change every day –an experienced coach – whatever change is made will optimize their efforts. The change will be based on sound fundamental principles of performance and will take into consideration the shooter's commitment to their long and short-term goals.

Every advanced shooter knows that a coach cannot make them great. It is their attitude and commitment to seek excellence that determines how great they will be. The smart ones know an experienced professional coach can dramatically shorten the amount of time it takes to get to the top and how long they stay there.

Now, let's look at the shooter most reluctant to change - the intermediate shooter. This is the person who shoots an occasional 80 to 82 after he has shot the course four or five times. On tournament day, he typically shoots his average 78.5%. If however, they ever go somewhere else to shoot a tournament or even shoot a major event at their own club, he shoots 68 to 72%. They have gotten this far self-coaching. Surely they can figure out how to get better. Nothing changes for a year. No matter how many videos they watch, how many articles they read, or how much they practice, they have run into an invisible brick wall. They fail to realize that it is the inconsistency of their move that is the problem. Frustration and confusion grow due to the inability to self-coach any improvement.

What do they do?

They buy a fluorescent bead sight to check the preciseness of the lead. That doesn’t work.
They start shooting with the gun mounted because their gun mount is sloppy. That doesn’t work.
They buy faster ammunition so they won't have to see as much lead. That doesn’t work.

They install a moveable cheekpiece and butt plate on their stock so they can make sure their gun fits perfectly. Halfway through this experiment, they realize they know much less about gun fit than they thought, and it costs them an extra $300 just to have a competent person set up the adjustments properly. Once it is adjusted properly, they are shocked to realize that the stock is exactly where it was before they installed the moveable cheekpiece and butt plate.

They fail to realize the principle that a bad habit, regardless of how good it feels, is still a bad habit. They have gotten comfortable with their bad habits and are afraid to change Their ego has overshadowed the fact that when they were confused in the beginning and shooting 50, they went to a coach and with two to three months were in the high 60s, and that's where they have been for one or two years. They want to go take a lesson but don't want to change. They just want a couple of tips to get into the mid-80s consistently doing what they are doing. Little do they know that the reason their scores are what they are is because of what they are doing! The only way to change the result is to change the action. With change comes failure first. And out of failure comes success.

The reason so many people are stuck in the intermediate category is they don’t understand the basic principle of improved performance: No improvement happens without change. For every change, there is a price to pay. The value is in the commitment.