The Mental Side of Skeet
the mental side of skeet will insure that you are completely ready each
and every time you call for the bird and will help control the pressure
of competition. What it will not do is help you make the shots where
you are not fundamentally sound. If you cannot hit high two, low five,
low six (typically the shots most people have problems with), or whatever
your particular bugaboo is every time in practice, then the best that
mastering the mental game can do for you is to insure that you don’t
miss that particular shot any more often than you do in practice. If
you can only hit low six 50 percent of the time in practice, or 75 percent
of the time, or 90 percent of the time, then that is the best you can
hope for in competition!
On the other
hand, I guarantee you that if you don’t master the mental side, your
problems with a particular shot that you haven’t mastered will only
get worse under the pressure of competition. If you have a problem with
a certain shot, then you need to take a box of shells—or ten boxes or
a thousand boxes of shells—and practice that shot until you have mastered
it. Ask your practice buddies to help you. If all else fails, get expert
help. (Actually, it might not be a bad idea to start with expert help.
You might save yourself 990 of the thousand boxes of ammo and a couple
of years of your time!)
If you are
an A or B shooter in practice, then the only thing mastering the mental
side will do for you in competition is insure that you don’t shot C
or D scores in competition. It won’t make you a AA shooter; however,
it can make a AA shooter a AAA shooter. You have to master the fundamentals
go back and reread that paragraph again to make sure you understand
what I am saying before you go any further. If you have ever watched
any of Todd Bender’s tapes or read any of his articles in “Skeet Shooting
Review”, then you know that he is a strong believer in mental preparation—a
checklist if you will, and visualization. Based on his consistently
being one of the top shooters as well as one of the premier instructors
in the country, he just might know what he is talking about.
If you watch
his tape, he always goes through the same routine before each and every
shot. Also, if you listen to his discussion on the tape, he always visualizes
every shot before he steps up the pad. You have to do this if you are
going to get to the next level. All professional sports teams now use
visualization, as do individual professional athletes in sports like
golf and tennis. Professional sports is about money. They wouldn’t be
doing it if it didn’t work. You need to do it too. I am not going to
tell you what you need to put in your checklist except to give you the
shots, “head on the gun” and “eye on the target” needs to be part of
it. Also, on all long incoming shots, “stay in the gun and keep the
gun moving after the shot” needs to be part of the checklist. Other
than that, you can tailor your checklist to your particular needs.
this, your checklist shouldn’t be longer than seven items. The reason
is beyond this discussion; just trust me on that one. Also, you might
want to have a long checklist (seven items) and a short checklist (two
or three items). Use the short checklist when you are “cruising.” More
on when to use the long checklist later. . .
step in mastering the mental side may sound like a contradiction of
everything I have told you up to now. Just stick with me. Do all your
thinking, your visualization, your checklist, before you call for the
bird. Your last—AND ONLY—thought before you call for the bird should
be “SEE THE BIRD, LOOK AT THE BIRD, FOCUS ON THE BIRD, MOVE WITH THE
BIRD, KEEP LOOKING AT THE BIRD”. Thinking about any thing else will
only screw you up!
subconscious take care of shooting the bird.
CAN SHOOT SKEET BETTER THAT YOU CAN!
you spent all those hours and thousands of rounds in practice learning
how to do it. Your subconscious is now hardwired to shoot the bird.
Let it do its job. It can do it better and faster than you can think.
In competition don’t try to shoot the bird sooner or later than you
normally do. Don’t try to look at it a little longer than normal. Don’t
try to lead it a little more or a little less. Remember, we visualized
what the shot would look like before we stepped up to the pad. Your
subconscious brain will compare that image to what the eye is seeing
and when the two match, it will tell the finger to fire the gun. If
you consciously try to help, you will only screw it up.
We do all
kinds of things every day that happen automatically and faster than
we can think about them without a hitch. This will work for skeet too.
Think about this for a minute. We rarely ever miss on station 8. You
know that there isn’t time for a second look on 8. Station 8 is automatic.
It has to just happen. If your subconscious can handle station 8, surely
you can trust it to handle that long incomer on low 2 or high 6 without
any help from you!
if you have any extraneous thought—let alone a negative thought—before
you call for the bird, STOP and COMPLETELY start over again. I’ve already
told you that your subconscious can do the job, but it can only do the
job if there isn’t any interference.
is easy, but it’s just difficult enough so that you can’t do it successfully
if you are having other thoughts at the same time. Obviously, thinking
“I’m going to miss this one” will screw you up. Thinking “one more bird
and I’m in the shoot off” is equally bad. You are straight in the last
round, or you are on your way to your best HOA ever, when you suddenly
remember that you have to pick up a gallon of milk on your way home.
This will kill you too.
I said that you might want to have a long checklist and a short checklist.
Well, when things get tense or you start having extraneous thoughts,
this is where your long checklist comes in. Your long checklist works
the same way that counting sheep does when you are trying to fall asleep.
It will suppress other thoughts that will interfere with your performance—be
they nerves, negative thoughts, or extraneous thoughts.
long checklist, and again, I’m not going to tell you what to put in
it, what follows are just examples—just don’t exceed seven items, you
need to be very focused. Run it just like a pre-takeoff checklist between
a pilot and copilot.
in the low house window.”
bent and 60 percent of weight on your left leg.”
holding the fore end loosely, wiggle your fingers.”
hold point and eyes looking where you expect to pick up the target.”
you get the point. I guarantee you that really focusing on the checklist
will, the more you practice it, allow you to completely suppress your
nerves and all other thoughts. Todd Bender says that half of all misses
are caused by not keeping you head on the gun. Another famous instructor
says that most misses are caused by not keeping your eye on the target.
If you always remember “head on the gun” and “eye on the target” that
should eliminate the majority of your misses. If you will use the long
checklist, that should eliminate your misses caused by the pressure
of competition and extraneous thoughts.
now you have it. No more excuses for any misses.
remember this, we shoot in competition the way we practice. You can
joke around and have a good time with your buddies while you are practicing,
but when you step up to the pad, you have to be 100 percent focused
and serious. Practice your fundamentals and mental preparation every
any other secret? Well yes, but, as Todd Bender says, if I told you,
then I would have to kill you. Besides, I’m trying my best to stay one
to Skeet - Learn about the sport from Todd Bender.
of Skeet - Learn the history of outdoor target shooting,
from the beginnings of skeet shooting to modern guns and sports.
& Preparing at Skeet Shooting Fields -
how to get out on the skeet field and find out how to start target shooting.
to Pick a Shotgun for Target Shooting - Learn
some basic tips on how to pick a shotgun that's right for your experience
About Skeet Target Shooting Chokes
- Learn how to screw a choke into the muzzle of your shotgun.
articles (accessed by clicking on the links to your left) have been
contributed by some of the finest and most dedicated people I have ever
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